Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Be Careful 

Everyone knows man-made global warming is melting the arctic ice packs, right? Then what caused warming 70 million years ago before man was around? Scientists from Oxford University and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research have determined from mud samples taken in the arctic that the surface temperature of the arctic sea was about 59 degrees Fahrenheit 70 million years ago. Scientists don't know why the sea was so warm, but they suspect global warming.

Before you think something else, I believe man-made carbon dioxide has accelerated global warming, even if earth is entering a natural warming cycle. The White House is wrong in its denials. But, we cannot dispatch current global warming as strictly man-made. The earth has warmed and cooled for hundreds of millions of years. We don't know which cycle we are in. That is why I believe that PR practitioners should be careful when mouthing conventional wisdom about science and nature.

The effects of global warming are alarming. The year 2004 will be the fourth hottest on record since recordkeeping started 150 years ago. Natural disasters partly attributed to global warming will cost insurers $35 billion this year. Scientists have warned that "a long-term increase in global temperature of 3.5 degrees could threaten Latin American water supplies, reduce food yields in Asia and result in a rise in extreme weather conditions in the Caribbean."

But when you stop and think about it, huge shifts have swept the world constantly. The Sahara Desert was once fertile grasslands filled with animals, which we know from rock drawings scientists have discovered in the heart of it. When and why it became dry sand is not clear, but it happened in the last 12,000 years.

Even if we controlled carbon dioxide emissions today, could we prevent some disasters that will unfold over the next 50 years? It may be too late. That doesn't mean we should give up, but we should be realistic in how we talk about these things and how we advise clients. The fact is that man will deal with climate changes as they arise. Some peoples will move. Some lands will go out of production and some into it. There will be destruction, and there will be growth. In the end, man will adapt as man always has.

But, it would be nice if humans would use more foresight than hindsight this time.


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