Global-warming doubters and the long hot summer

Poet's Notebook: Peter Meinke feels the temperatures rising.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

July in the 1960s could get very hot in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I was teaching at Hamline University. We didn't have air conditioning and after the kids were tucked in bed, Jim Carlson (who lived upstairs), Jeanne and I would pop three beers, go outside and sit in the circular inflated kiddie pool, not much bigger than a truck tire, and philosophize as long as the mosquitoes would let us. Could it ever get hotter than this? we'd ask ourselves rhetorically.

Well, yes, it could. Like now.

Although our planet survived the May 21st Doomsday prediction, we seem to be living in a time of perpetual rapture, or pre-rapture: that time of natural disasters before the Chosen will be gathered up while the rest of us fry or drown as the moon turns blood-red and we fall under the hooves of the four horses carrying war, pestilence, famine and death. (According to Christian radio forecaster Harold Camping's GPS, the real date's Oct. 21. Recalculating!)

Here are a few of the signs: St. Paul, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and many more cities are suffering from record heat waves; 4 million Chinese are losing their water supply as the Yangtze dries up; drought is ruining the wheat crops in France. Murderous flooding in the Philippines and the Balkans, earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in Mississippi and North Dakota, cyclones in the Mediterranean, wildfires in Colorado, mudslides in Peru, volcanic eruptions in Iceland, typhoons in Taiwan, giant sandstorms in Phoenix: the list is endless, and multiplying geometrically.

Dear Readers, there may be horses involved somewhere, but what we're going through is global warming.

This might seem too obvious, but millions of Americans, listening to the Tea Party, don't believe in it. Omaha, Tulsa or Tallahassee are their globes, and they got chilly there. Hey, whaddaya mean, global warming? We nearly froze to death last December!

I guess it could have been called climate change, but what is it about global warming that's hard to understand? Overall, the world is getting warmer. The increasing frequency of our "natural" disasters is a direct consequence, as the world's scientific community has warned for decades.

In the long run, the most disastrous thing about the Republicans may not be their support of the Iraq war or the crazy gun laws of the NRA, or even their opposition to universal health care, but their constant resistance to global warming and their subversion of laws necessary to handle the pollution that's causing it — most recently fighting Obama's push to raise mileage standards. We're already at least two decades behind other countries — Scandinavia, Germany, France, Switzerland, Cuba, China — all, and many others, "greener" than we are, or heading that way.

You may remember that Bill Clinton had to fight the Republicans to get some environmental laws passed. He did better than President Obama's doing now. It's clear that Obama understands the problem, but is temporizing temporarily until after next year's election, which may be politically savvy, but not very brave.

Republicans, as always, are following the money — their ties to the gas and oil companies. Or else they figure that, given the world's population growth, we're doomed in any case, and just want to fiddle while our future burns. So they protest — Government control! Communism! — while enough people listen to damage our chances of survival in the long run.

With these do-or-die choices, Obama remains our best hope — if he can win reelection. If not, remember the end of Yeats's prophetic poem:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

—Both quotes from "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)