BOOK REVIEW/Patrick Mazza
Climate in Crisis
Ross Gelbspan's new book turns up the heat
Our modern conveniences become necessities, but our cars, furnaces and electricity
generators are sending a cloud up into the atmosphere as menacing as the
nuclear mushroom: The energy that powers our lives also is heating up our
The crisis is on us today. On a slippery slope lubricated by fossil fuels,
we are sliding into a kind of hell on earth. We must act now to avert catastrophe.
Those with any doubt should read Ross Gelbspan's new book, The Heat Is
On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth's Threatened Climate (1997, Addison-Wesley).
Not only does this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist detail the overwhelming
weight of new scientific evidence of climate change, which already is apparent
in weird weather, disease outbreaks and ecosystem changes. He also explores
why the biggest story on the planet is not the top story on the evening
news, as he uncovers a relentless and unconscionable disinformation campaign
waged by the world's fossil fuel industries.
Their purposeful obfuscation of the facts resembles nothing so much as the
tobacco industry's long deception, except it is not just the health of customers
at stake, but that of the entire planet.
THOSE WHO IMAGINE we simply face a slow but bearable increase in
heat, like a room in which the thermostat is turned up to an uncomfortable
level, might instead visualize a pan of water coming to a boil. One moment,
the water shows only small bubbles. Next it is in a rolling boil. Gelbspan
notes that recent discoveries in ancient polar ice cores that reveal the
climate, which is extremely complex and very delicately balanced, moves
by sudden jerks and leaps. Dramatic, global shifts can take place in under
a decade. Temperatures are projected to go up in the next 100 years as much
as they did in the last 10,000, forecasting a roiling climate marked by
extreme and unpredictable swings and disturbances.
Last year the Clinton Administration officially acknowledged climate change
is in progress, and embraced a proposed global treaty requiring rapid reductions
in greenhouse gases. After the election, however, the administration backpedaled.
It now endorses more limited reductions to begin only after 2013. All this
despite having an "assistant president," Al Gore, who wrote a
book on the issue.
Gelbspan has a far more drastic solution, but perhaps the only one equal
to the crisis: Phase out fossil fuel burning in 10 years, and replace it
with climate-friendly renewable energy.
That step is well within our means, the author says. And not only could
renewable energy provide all the services we gain today from fossil fuels,
Gelbspan says. It would "create a huge economic boom. In very short
order you would see the renewable energy industry eclipse high tech as the
central driving engine of growth of the global economy."
Patrick Mazza is a Portland, Ore.-based ecological journalist who edits
Cascadia Planet, a Northwest bioregional website at www.tnews.com.
He is also co-chair of the Association of State Green Parties. For more
information, contact the Atmosphere Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-352-1763,
or 2103 Harrison Ave NW #2615, Olympia, WA 98502.
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