Using a variation on a line from a science fiction movie (“Be Worried. Be Very Worried”) TIME Magazine’s cover story is about the reality of the Climate Crisis.
The story is currently on pay-per-view, but maybe the most interesting aspect of it is public : the Time/ABC/Stanford poll which is likely to lead ABC news broadcasts today (Monday.)
It starts out with this interesting little fact: almost 90% of Americans say global warming is probably happening, and nearly 70% say their government ought to be doing something about it. And when it gets down to politics, it demonstrates that the Democrats have a winning issue here, if they’d only wake up to it.
Here are some basic findings of the poll (excerpted, paraphrased and partially quoted, but in blockquote for convenience:)
85% of Americans say global warming is probably happening.
88% believe global warming threatens the future, with 60% agreeing it threatens future generations a great deal.
49% say the issue of global warming is ‘extremely’ or ‘very important’ to them personally, up from 31% in 1998.
When asked about the causes of rise in the world’s temperatures, 49% feel it is a combination of the results of human activity and natural cycles.
68% believe their American government should do more to address global warming.
52% report that weather patterns in the county where they live have grown more unstable in the last three years.
70% thinks weather patterns globally have become more unstable in the last three years.
66% say Bush’s policies did little or nothing to help the environment this years.
75% want Bush and Congress, along with American businesses, to take action to help the environment.
62% believe much can be done to curb global warming.
61% would support government mandates on lowering power plant emissions.
The only finding contrary to mainstream science is that 68% believe scientists disagree on global heating, which essentially they don’t, except on details. But even swallowing this Bush mantra, more than two-thirds believe the government should do more to deal with the Climate Crisis, almost half say the issue is extremely important to them, and almost 90% believe that global heating is a real problem that will affect the future.
Finally, the Democrats have an issue they didn’t know they had. In a 1998 poll, the percentages of Democrat, Republican and Independent voters who were sure global heating is happening were not far apart—all between 30 and 40 percent. Now 46% of Democrats and 45% of Independents are certain, while 26% of Republicans are.
The TIME story follows a week of news prompted by an issue of Science devoted to global heating. It prompted the following headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle last week:
OCEANS RISING FAST
The story began:
Glaciers and ice sheets on opposite ends of the Earth are melting faster than previously thought and could cause sea levels around the world to rise as much as 13 to 20 feet by the end of the century, scientists are reporting today.
If the researchers’ estimates are correct, a rise in ocean waters projected by the new studies not only would drown many of the low-lying inhabited atolls and islands that are already endangered by rising ocean waters, it also would threaten coastal cities and harbors on every continent.
The study, which for the first time combines data from both polar regions, is significant enough. But that headline is the kind seen in science fiction movies:that the camera fixes on, with dramatic music underneath.
But in a science fiction movie the next scene would have all the world leaders gathered to decide what to do about this crisis.
The TIME poll says it plainly: Americans now expect this to happen. They want their leaders to get serious about this.
The Climate Crisis is real, and it’s right now. It’s a complex set of problems. There are some we are facing and will face because of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere in the past and present. We can recognize these manifestations as part of the same phenonmenon, and develop a strategy to deal with them. Or we can be taken by surprise, and try to deal with them one by one, always behind, never getting the benefit of anticipating them or preparing for them.
There are other problems, like the rise in sea levels, that we may be able to limit or forestall if we limit emissions of greenhouse gases seriously and severely.
This will take a national effort and a global effort. It is the test of world civilization. If we rise to the occasion, we perhaps can save life as we know it on this planet. If we don’t, our civilization will not get another chance. It’s that sci-fi simple.