Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Coming Storm

The climate prediction center of the national weather service is expecting a larger than average number of hurricanes this year.

A sense of how much hurricanes cost economically is provided by payouts made by the insurance industry. During last year’s season, which also occasioned a larger than average number of hurricanes, american insurance companies paid claims totalling 22.9 billion dollars for four Florida hurricanes.

The environmental movement was the butt of jokes for many years. Gloomy forecasts of environmental disaster (much like my last week’s post) are off-putting to say the least and almost beg to made fun of, especially because global warming has been so easily confused with an odd assortment of other issues that motivate the caricatural treehugger: like veganism, political correctness and an obscure fascination with the seal hunt. A recent South Park episode “Smug Alert” did an excellent job of lambasting the perceived smugness of the environmental movement. The smell of self-righteousness kept me personally from examining the issue of global warming carefully until only a few years ago. However, available data on global warming has grown substantially and now presents an impressive body of scientific evidence. Perhaps, one day we will look back on resistance to these facts as a quaint expression of the times, much as we now look at cigarette ads from the 1950’s. Perhaps, we will be able to forgive our collective ignorance magnanimously.

At the present moment, though, there is a serious need for public education, not likely to be undertaken by the current Conservative government. And yet another destructive hurricane season has the potential to focus the public mind as no paid publicity ever could. The voters will ask not only about the efficiency of immediate responses to the disaster, but will also want to know about what is being done to address the chronic problem of global warming. Canadians will demand leadership from their political parties -- all of them.

In the fall Stephen Harper’s government will introduce a Clean Air Act. I suspect that the packaging of the bill will be very deceptive, a topic I intend to post about later in the summer. But next week’s post, “A Rude Awakening” will be about a different topic, the military engagement in Afganistan.

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