‘THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW’ OPENS THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW

And you should go see it. Not because it is remotely plausible – as you can see from the trailer, it is completely over the top – but because, first, I’m told it’s fun to watch, and second, if we are very lucky, it will focus attention on a planetary emergency so real I have bold-faced it and put it in red. Click here to learn more.

The problem with this emergency is that – while completely real and undisputed by any serious scientist (the way the link between smoking and lung cancer was known to be real but disputed for decades by the eminent scientists at the Tobacco Institute) – it is a slo-mo crisis with such a long lead time that the citizenry is easily lulled into complacency.

Yet we are already so far along with this, and it takes so long to change course, that even if we start today, as we should, to reduce CO2 emissions, you can expect a 50% increase in the severity of our storms and a significant rise in sea level, not in the centuries but in the decades to come. Imagine New York’s subway system – and Wall Street’s subterranean communications nexus – flooded with salt water. That could tie things up pretty rotten. Imagine much of the most densely populated portions of Florida submerged. New Orleans? Now there’s a laugh. The West? Think desert. The nation’s breadbasket? Think near desert – or at least highly challenging growing conditions.

The Bush administration has suppressed a dozen studies that would have aroused interest. It has outright rejected the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change which, once you understand the situation, you will realize is absolutely critical to avoiding enormous planetary hardship down the road. It has shut down environmental prosecutions inherited from the previous administration.

Global climate change is a huge deal, and one about which we will be hearing more and more for the rest of our lives.

If we’re smart, we’ll begin to fix the problem. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seems to be leading the way. In his surprise move last week, he breathed new life into the Kyoto Protocols. The planet owes him a huge thank you. President Kerry, while he might tinker around the edges, would likely find a way to add to the momentum.

There is, after all, a tremendous economic opportunity for us here . . . not just to minimize the mega-dislocations that loom long-term, but to exploit technology for the new century that will make us more efficient and prosperous in the very near future.

Did you know that if we could increase the average fuel efficiency of our automotive fleet by something like 7.6 miles to the gallon – which we easily could over a relatively few years – we could stop importing oil from the Persian Gulf? Not only would that make us more secure, it would save us a collective fortune every year. And it would make our air cleaner and our people healthier and our dollar stronger. How can we not be doing this?

Did you know that Ford will finally be bringing out a hybrid car next year, long after Toyota and Honda . . . but that it is licensing the technology from the Japanese? Do you know where the Japanese got this technology? From American scientists who couldn’t interest Detroit.

But here is my favorite, and by far the most encouraging ‘did you know.’ Remember the alarm about the hole in the ozone layer? Like a giant bald spot over the pole (please don’t ask me to try to remember which pole; I’m old, I get confused). (Oh, okay, the South Pole. A hole in the summer bigger than Russia and Canada combined. Click here.) Remember how even the strongest sun screen soon wouldn’t be able to save us from melanomas everywhere our skin was exposed? But do you also remember how that led to a worldwide ban of the spray-can gases – chlorofluorocarbons – that caused the hole? And that somehow we found a different way to make spray cans, and that people’s underarms continued to smell nice?

Well, did you know it worked? The world got together 25 years ago, banned the CFCs, and we now seem to have arrested the growth of, and may in a few decades see the complete repair of, the hole in the ozone layer.

When we are smart, we can do amazing things. When we are dumb, we can poison the future for all the generations to follow.

The Bush Administration has a penchant for doing really dumb things. For example, shutting down the stem cell research – outsourcing an entire industry, really – that could save you or your kids from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or a whole raft of other diseases. And then going to the U.N. to try to shut it down globally. (Fortunately, the U.S. lost that vote, at least for now.)

Last fall, according to an account by Kathryn Schulz, we went to a meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi, Kenya, and . . .

. . . demanded an exemption from a Montreal Protocol requirement to phase out the use of methyl bromide by 2005. Methyl bromide is a deeply toxic pesticide that destroys ozone at 45 times the rate of chlorine, the better-known bad guy in the ozone-hole drama. (Chlorine is the insidious ingredient in chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.’) . . .

It is a really interesting article, and I urge you to read the whole thing.

Did you know that the earth’s atmosphere is so thin it is like the varnish on a globe? That the ice sheet atop the Arctic Ocean is 40% less thick than it was just a few decades ago? That at the rate we are going it could soon melt away entirely each summer? And that as it shrinks, global warming accelerates? That’s because as ice, it reflects 95% of the suns rays back out away from Earth. But as a deep blue pool of water, it would absorb those rays as heat.

Those of you who are scientists surely recognize I have no standing whatever to be making this case. I am just trying to digest what I’ve learned.

But we’d all better try to learn the basics of this stuff, because if we don’t, we won’t care. And if we don’t care, our politicians won’t feel they can make the tough choices required to avert disaster, like changing the way we deodorize our underarms, or driving cars that convert the friction generated when we step on the brake into energy that helps power the car.

As Al Gore recently observed, the trillions in new debt we are now laying on our offspring is nothing compared with the ‘environmental deficit’ we are saddling them with.

These past 40 months could have been so much better.

Tomorrow: Much Briefer, the Other Two Movies

 

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