(By Chris Moore, LibertarianToday.com) -- On more than one occasion during his presidency, Ronald Reagan whimsically pondered whether all of humanity would finally unite if confronted with a catastrophic, otherworldly danger that threatened the very survival of all nations and people.
"I occasionally think how our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world," Reagan once said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly
Today, all of the world may indeed be facing a catastrophic threat, although not one in the extraterrestrial vein of Reagan’s imagination.
On the very day an international panel of climate change scientists announced its findings that man-made emissions are causing dangerous global warming leading to extreme weather patterns, a series of powerful tornadoes pounded central Florida, leaving at least 19 people dead in their wake.
The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists representing 13 countries whose work was cross checked and endorsed by hundreds of representatives from nations around the world, said that it is now "unequivocal" that global warming is a scientific fact, and that there is a 90 percent likelihood that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, is the cause.
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the scientists said.
The panel said that man-made emissions associated with global warming are also likely driving other extreme weather patterns, including drought, heat waves and severe storms. If left unchecked, global warming could lead to a rise in sea levels of up to three feet by the end of the century as polar ice caps continue to melt. Other calamitous weather events as a result of the warming are unpredictable, but there is little doubt they are on the foreseeable horizon.
The group said advances in science and the analysis of comprehensive new data underpin its startling new conclusions.
The summary of the panel’s findings was released on February 2, the very day a battery of storms bearing powerful tornadoes hit central Florida, forcing Gov. Charlie Crist to declare a state of emergency in four counties. The storm took at least 19 lives, including three members of a family and a 7-year-old boy and his father.
The Bush administration responded to the report on global warming by saying it opposed mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The administration says it believes unspecified future technology will solve the global warming crisis. "We are a small contributor [of greenhouse gasses] when you look at the rest of the world," energy secretary Sam Bodman said.
People of good will can disagree about the best means to go about tackling the problem of global warming, and even whether or not the problem will eventually correct itself so long as moderate measures are taken to reduce (or even hold neutral) the amount of greenhouse emissions over time. But in light of the new report, few responsible public policy advocates will conclude that the entire phenomenon can be safely ignored, and America can go about the business of exporting its way of life (and rates of consumption) across the entire globe as has heretofore been the case, which is apparently the Bush administration’s position.
The new reality of global warming completely changes the paradigm of world business, diplomacy, politics and war. No longer is attaining oil and wrenching open new markets -- the growth-at-any-cost strategy that has been relentlessly pursued by the Bush administration -- an option that Americans or the world can afford.
The status-quo advocacy of unfettered (and often forced) world market growth will lead to more and more pollutants as the global masses, wrenched from their minimalist way of life, clamor for multiple cars, boats, SUV’s and other emission-spewing luxuries. The problem will grow worse as pollution-absorbing trees are cut to accommodate the growth and to build the palatial homes, businesses and emission-spewing factories that are a byproduct of extravagant, American-style consumption. Pollutants, and the lack of forests (which act as the earth’s “lungs”) will lead to faster global warming, which, if it continues its exponential growth, could ultimately result in the eclipse of humanity.
While some will still claim that globalization is inevitable and only “losers,” “demagogues,” and “Luddites” rail against it (as syndicated columnist Tom Plate recently argued), the new report makes clear that it is the globalization advocates who have their fingers firmly in their ears and their heads buried deeply in the sand. Despite their selfish, greed-driven illusions, conspicuous consumption on a global scale is not a sustainable way of life.
The tragic experience of the people of New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina offers merely a glimpse of the miserable future in store for our children and grandchildren as the consequences of globalization bear their poisonous fruit -- and points up just how dangerous and callous advocacy of globalization can be.
Hence, forcing America’s way of life on the rest of the world in the name of profits, markets, modernity, and “progress,” which are clearly the objectives of neoconservative and neoliberal globalization advocates (one openly-admitted goal of the Iraq war was to “change the face of the Middle East”) looks less and less appealing by the day.
But are Americans ready to embrace a more benign and less belligerent foreign policy in order to save the earth? Or, given Washington’s lack of regard for the American majority’s will on the question of withdrawal from Iraq, perhaps the question should be: are they ready to force their politicians to do so?
If the results of a new UPI/Zogby International poll are any indication, in the case of Iraq, most Americans have already made the connection between US war making and the pursuit of fossil fuels, a link which belies Washington’s various other official pretexts for invasion and occupation.
“Most Americans think President Bush invaded Iraq at least partly because of its oil -- a war more than half rate him as ‘poor’ in handling and nearly all say has affected the price of gas at the pump,” wrote UPI in a summary of the poll.
Taken Jan. 16-18, the poll “found 32.7 percent considered Iraq's oil supply a ‘major factor’ and 23.7 percent ‘not a factor’ in the decision to invade the country. Another 40.7 percent were split somewhere in between.”
This means that 73 percent of Americans are either convinced that Iraq’s oil was a driving force behind the invasion, or at least suspect as much. That is an amazingly high number, particularly in light of the propaganda that has been emanating from Washington and the corporate media from the run up to the war to this very day -- propaganda professing that Iraq was invaded because the US government earnestly believed it possessed weapons of mass destruction, was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and was a threat to America.
So it is promising that Americans are not as gullible as many across the globe (and apparently in the seats of power in Washington) believed. This means that despite the politicians’ efforts to invent and sell phony rationales for war on behalf of the military-industrial complex and wealthy special interest constituencies that purchase government policy through campaign contributions, sooner or later the American public will catch on to elements of the truth.
This also means that as Americans become more conscious of the global environment and the factors contributing to greenhouse gasses, they will be less tolerant not only of needless war making (which in and of itself is catastrophic to the environment and contributor to the greenhouse effect) but doubly intolerant if they suspect the war is being carried out on behalf of procuring cheaply extracted fossil fuels for multinational oil companies. Compared to combating global climate catastrophe, securing oil company profits -- which rise in proportion with their access to plentiful high grade Middle Eastern crude that can be quickly and inexpensively extracted from the earth -- is hardly a national priority.
Indeed, in light of the fact that unfettered access to such oil means more and more consumers across the world will be burning global warming greenhouse gasses at an ever faster clip, war for Middle East oil not only becomes undesirable, but an existential threat to us all.
The process of global warming may not be the dramatically imminent, world-unifying threat that Reagan once pondered, but the new report makes clear that, at the very least, it is going to force a wholesale reevaluation of our values and priorities -- whether we like it or not.
Chris Moore is publisher of LibertarianToday.com