Remember, you heard it here first:
Global warming raises your blood pressure. I say this with confidence, having spent the past three weeks reading e-mails from scores of Design News readers who saw a column of mine about global warming (DN 4.9.07). The common thread among most of the respondents was anger. A few wrote to agree with me and then proceeded to vent about the politics behind the subject. Many more, though, e-mailed to tell me I was wrong in a multitude of ways. Those readers insisted global warming is no longer a debatable subject and told me I was horribly out of touch for believing otherwise. Even my friend, colleague and chief editor, John Dodge, chided me. In his blog, John wrote, “Where I disagree (with Chuck) is with the suggestion that global warming is a media invention, which he all but says.”
So what did I say to cause this uproar? In the column, I referenced a reader poll on our website showing 38 percent of our readers consider global warming a serious threat to life on earth. I compared that to a separate media survey showing 74 percent of Americans consider global warming a serious or somewhat serious problem. Looking at the numbers, I suggested engineers might be thinking differently about global warming than the rest of the country. Then, I entertained the idea many newspaper and magazine articles might be premature in suggesting the debate is over.
That, evidently, is where I got myself in trouble. And that's what I find shocking.
Let's be honest here — I wrote a column that verged on being boring. Instead of taking sides, I urged readers to carefully consider the issue. Keep the politics out, I said. It was about as wishy-washy as an opinion piece can be.
And what was the reader response? A collective yawn? No. It was rage.
Many letter writers on both sides were appalled I would even consider the other side. Those who don't believe in global warming wrote to explain the “obvious” thermodynamic and earth science-related issues I apparently didn't comprehend. Never mind the scores of scientific societies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and countless university professors who've written about it; they're all political. Ignore them, they said.
On the other hand, global warming's true believers told me I was completely out of touch for even suggesting the debate should continue. Worse, I suggested media outlets, such as USA Today and Newsweek, were getting carried away with such declarations as “the earth is spinning toward many points of no return.” Judging by my e-mail, this was my ultimate form of heresy.
So be it. I suppose I'm a heretic. But this heretic happens to recall a similar outcry over nuclear power 30 years ago. Remember that? Now, we're talking about using nuclear power as a solution to global warming. I also recall Dr. Paul Ehrlich's famous “population bomb” of the 1960s — the one that was supposed to starve hundreds of millions of Americans to death. But I'm not tripping over carcasses in the street yet. So, I suppose I take those dire warnings about “spinning toward points of no return” a little less seriously than I should.
Moreover, I'm going to continue to feed my doubts by viewing contrarian documentaries, as well as websites from respected atmospheric physicists who say the debate is far from over.
I'm willing to listen to both sides, but I'm not convinced we're on the brink of extinction just yet.
Weigh in with your opinion by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.