The Climate-Change Debate’s Sustainability


There is nothing new under the sun.

This is a minor history lesson, on how while some things change, others remain the same.

And it has more to do with how the climate-change debate began for me, than current scientific and political debate on whether man is a significant contributor to the phenomenon.

I was first introduced to the concept of what was mostly referred to as “global warming” when then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) held a sparsely attended news conference in early 1992 to introduce a short film about his new book — “Earth in the Balance” — which spoke not only of the “warming” phenomenon, greenhouse gases and the depletion of the ozone layer, but helped place the environment on the national agenda.

Taking a broader approach, the book focuses on the threats that everyday choices pose to our water, soil, and diversity of plant and animal life.

But, clearly, it was climate change that had caught Gore’s attention

There were maybe five of us there and my main reason for attendance was I was editor of a now-defunct publication known as The Greenhouse Effect Report. I am not sure who the other four in attendance were — or why they were there.

Needless to say the senator was surprised that so few made their presence known and graciously took the time to sit with me personally and explain the dangers that the man who would be vice president thought were ruining the earth.

The naysayers had already begun to raise their heads and the argument on whether man was responsible for changing his surroundings had begun with earnest.


My next direct encounter with the issues surrounding the environment, development and climate control, was later that year when I was sent to Rio de Janeiro to attend the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

Aside from being amazed at the attendance of dignitaries (I walked passed Fidel Castro and his entourage in awe), I was granted special access to many of the speakers as I had connections to then-EPA chief William K. Reilly, who represented the United States in what was also called the Earth Summit.

At that time, Third World countries complained that developed countries had no right to push emissions controls on their growing industries and even the United States was not willing to commit to a timetable for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Global Climate Convention.

UNCED Secretary General Maurice Strong said at a news conference at the time that one of his largest disappointments in the Global Climate Convention was the absence of timetables and specific targets for control of carbon dioxide and other gases.

Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned scientists, told me “It is a question of the glass being half full — but that also makes it half empty.”

So what has changed?

Studies continue; naysayers remain naysayers; some timetables have been set; and President Obama has called for emissions reductions, which also has fomented both financial and political discourse.

I am not here to make a judgment call. I leave that to greater experts than myself. I assume there will be comments, as I have left a significant amount of the debate to others.

However, when I see polar bears on slivers of ice with no where else to go, it is one of several phenomena that make me wonder.

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