Opinion » Bill Cope

Global Hot Air

A fictional expert takes a fictional stand


Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to announce (just in time for Earth Day, lest you forgot) that 100-percent of the demographic I call SPOTSADTRWIWTHJFABies (Smart People Opposed To Saying Any Damn Thing Right Wing Idiots Want To Hear Just For A Buck) now agree that global warming is the real deal, that it is likely being accelerated because of modern man's insatiable lust for acquiring stuff, and that in the coming years millions and millions of people will starve to death, freeze to death, drown to death, be swept away (along with their stuff) in increasingly powerful hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, or otherwise come to an unpleasant end as a result of the Earth's changing climate.

Um, OK ... maybe "happy" isn't the word I'm looking for.

I'm "satisfied" that the question of global warming is no longer in question, that much is true. And I'm "pleased" that entities ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to influential religious leaders and the Pentagon have recognized it as an enormous threat. And I am "proud" that leading scientists (i.e., NASA's formidable James Hansen) are speaking out not only on the desperate situation, but exposing the Bush administration's slimy efforts to censor the truth in such a way that nothing might inhibit their corporate pals from profiting at the expense of life as we know it. And I am darn near "elated" that those Simple Simons who still maintain the whole thing was cooked up by enviro-kooks are, with each passing glacier, looking more and more like the fools they are.

But to say I'm "happy" about what might be an irreversible curse on the Earth ... well, that would be a poor choice of word. And if you or your descendants are among those millions who will come to an unpleasant end in the decades ahead ... gosh, I certainly didn't mean to imply I believe that to be a good thing, OK?

Hopefully, in the time we have left, we will have opportunity to examine why some people continue to argue that global warming is nothing more than a false alarm plotted by a cabal of visionary preservationists, prominent scientists, and what few courageous political leaders there are. And by "in the time we have left," I mean before accustomed seasons become unrecognizable scourges, before populations shift as tidal waves of refugees migrate from zone to zone in search of arable land and tolerable temperatures, before vicious wars erupt over the most basic necessities like food and water, and before everything humanity has accomplished in 4,000 years comes to naught.

Then again, maybe "hopeful" isn't a word that belongs in this discussion, either. Like "happy," "hopeful" implies there may yet be a chance to come out of this global warming thing OK. And I don't consider it my job to be Little Miss Sunshine.

Nor do I have time to address all of those individuals I call SPWSADTRWIWTHJFABies (Smart People Who Will Say Any Damn Thing Right Wing Idiots Want To Hear Just For A Buck), most of whom deny the reality of global warming for no good reason other than to keep the hydrocarbons flowing and the Hummers humming.

But there is one SPWSADTRWIWTHJFABie whose very presence, let alone his prominence, in the global warming debate is so ludicrous, I have to say something. It has to do with Michael Crichton, a writer with many best-selling books under his belt (if not, what you would call, "literary acclaim"), and what I have to say to him is this: "Who asked you for your opinion on global warming, Crichton? And was it because they couldn't find any real scientists to back them up?"

Crichton is to science what Tom Clancy is to war. That is, they both keep their ears open for what the authentic professionals are up to, then they turn what they hear into tall tales. Crichton, for instance, didn't come up with the possibility of dinosaur DNA trapped in amber. He just managed to convert it into a ba-skillion-dollar book. And simply because he wrote The Andromeda Strain doesn't make him the world's pre-eminate authority on extraterrestrial microbiology.

In fact, Crichton's training was in medicine, and given the number of novels and movie scripts he has completed in the last 40 years, I would suspect even his doctor chops aren't exactly up to code. Yet when he began shilling the position that global warming was a fraud--conveniently accompanied by his potboiler State of Fear, which fictionally uncovers a fictional scheme to fictionally disrupt the world by fictional eco-terrorists--he was embraced by RWIs (Right Wing Idiots) like a long-lost family dog. A list of those who gave State of Fear glowing reviews (i.e., The Wall Street Journal, George Will, The National Review) should indicate what they admired so much in a book that not-so-glowing reviews described as barely readable.

So, it's obvious why RWIs would elevate Crichton to the status of expert in a field he knows little about. (His central argument against global warming is that scientists have been wrong about stuff in the past, so they must be wrong now ... brilliant!) It is in the nature of RWIs to grasp at the weakest of straws. (Two words: George Bush. I rest my case.)

But why would Crichton--a man whose intelligence is beyond doubt and whose artistic accomplishments are, uh ... he ain't Shakespeare, let me put it that way, but he's done well for himself, in a commercial sort of way--allow himself to become the pet environmental spokesman for haters of environmentalism? How could he--Doc Crichton, who even George Will would have to think twice about before allowing to do a prostate exam--have the nerve to stand against the overwhelming consensus of scientists whose fields of expertise are actually in the subject on which they're speaking? Surely, it can't be just the extra sales he's made by expanding his fan base to include adoring RWIs--who will buy any scribble, no matter how weak, if it supports their weak-ass world view. (Two words: Bill O'Reilly. I rest my case.)

No, I suspect there is more. I suspect that Crichton, after years of being recognized for being a barely-adequate writer, has come to yearn for something else. Something beyond mere commercial success. Something like ... well, like respect. Respect. And since it's unlikely he will ever get it either from real writers or real scientists, he's happy just to have scaled that lowest of heights: Right Wing Intellectual--a beast every bit as unlikely in the real world as a resurrected T. rex.