20 June 2007: Terror & Global Warming

It’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all your fear

On June 21 @ 12:07 MDT, Earth comes to a screeching halt in her tilt. Now that winter has finally broken its grip up here, the days will grow shorter hereon in the inexorable march to next winter. Somewhere there’s a metaphor in that.

Recently, John Andrews, columnist for the Denver Post, set forth a point that has stirred strong debate: Terrorism is a greater threat to America than global warming.

The historically unparalleled climate change resulting in global warming has been relentless and well documented. This past winter was fairly brutal in Clear Creek; nevertheless, 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Further, a March 2007 NOAA report states, “During boreal winter (December 2006 through February 2007), temperatures were above average across the entire globe, [and] warmer than average SSTs (sea-surface temperature) were observed across all oceans.”

What we experience locally compared to national and global reality is the difference between weather and climate. That same model—that what we experience locally compared to non-local events—can help us understand better the terrorism issue. The great ocean barriers have been a two-edged sword in a sense for America. Historically they have isolated and shielded us from major invasions.

On the other hand, that isolation has given us an unrealistic worldview. Isolationism breeds myopia and that in turn breeds fear. George Bush’s shortsightedness in preparing for and continuing his calamitous misadventure in Iraq has one certain outcome: the ongoing creation of fanatics who use terror as their main tool. Still, despite Bush’s best efforts to enhance America’s peril, global warming may outdo him.

The NY Times wrote on April 15 that the National Security and the Threat of Climate Change Report “said issues usually associated with the environment — like rising ocean levels, droughts and violent weather caused by global warming— were also national security concerns.” In the report, retired United States Navy vice admiral and former NASA administrator Richard J. Truly said, “Unlike the problems that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable.”

The Times continued: “The effects of global warming could lead to large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water. All could lead to direct involvement by the United States military. The report recommends that climate change be integrated into the nation’s security strategies and says the United States ‘should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.’”

To determine which may be the greater threat to American security depends on whether one operates from a perspective of fear as Andrews does rather than reason. Acts of terror remain a challenge demanding constant vigilance, but climate change is creating the conditions for even greater challenges not only for America but also for the entire global community. As Admiral Truly suggests, the danger will come “slowly, grinding and inexorable” much as the march to the next winter in Clear Creek.

Both climate change and acts of terror are threats to our way of life, but happily we can prevent exacerbating and even diminish both by changing our habits, attitudes, and belief structures. We simply need to move past our fears based on irrational mythologies that contribute to the warming of the atmosphere and to the creating of more terrorists. It all starts with rational thought. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the reason why we stay up here: Happy Summer Solstice!

Trust but verify: Governor Bill Ritter and CDOT Director Russ George have certainly said the right things regarding rail as an option for I-70, as Randy Wheelock eloquently points out in the June 6 Courant. But words without action are only words. The proof will be in the pudding. Labor learned the hard way about Mr. Ritter when he broke his word about allowing for fair organizing practices.

We knew where former Governor Owens stood on the I-70 Corridor issue: asphalt from mountaintop to mountaintop. But where does Ritter stand? Other than the transportation task force and an occasional statement, he has kept his options open, his bets hedged. I-70 Corridor leaders need to remain vigilant and to keep the pressure on.

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