No Comment — May 28, 2007, 11:58 am

The Brooding Omnipresence of Global Warming

Four days in Italy and one thing was apparent to me from media coverage. In Europe, global warming is an enormous, worrisome issue. The threat of terrorism is faced by some European countries with much greater immediacy than the United States. Spain and the United Kingdom, for instance, both have a longer and arguably even more traumatic history of engagement with terrorism issues over the last thirty years than the United States. But across this region, global warming is being seen as a vast, potentially crippling problem. And there is widespread frustration over the Bush Administration’s attitude, which appears to waver between head-in-the-sand immobility and the embrace of a new Lysenkoism with ludicrous pseudo-scientific explanations like “dinosaur flatulence.” Mainstream media enable the Bushies in this venture to distract attention from one of our generation’s greatest challenges. A side-by-side comparison of major U.S. and European and East Asian newspapers over the last four days make this clear.

Take the recent confrontation over global warming measures at the G8. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed for clear limitations on hydrocarbon consumption; the new French president Sarkozy has jumped on the global warming bandwagon as well. With Blair on his way out and Abe under a cloud, these may be the closest leaders to Bush in the G8. Yes the U.S. has angrily rebuffed this initiative. This is, correctly, viewed as front-page above-the-fold news in Europe, and this Financial Times treatment is typical. But in the United States the struggle continues to identify the Paris-Hilton-story of the week.

If there’s an exception in the U.S. media these days, then it’s CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He’s been doing a series of reports from Greenland, whose topography is being dramatically transformed by the melting of the glacial ice that Viking explores sought to obscure by giving it a false name. Here’s a taste.

Today, it’s actually losing ice at about 100 billion tons a year. I mean, that’s incredible. One hundred billion tons of ice is disappearing. And, of course, it just doesn’t go up in smoke. The ice melts. Not only do you have to deal with water being lifted up, with the potential sea level going up virtually 20 feet, but also salinity. People aren’t thinking about this problem. What happens when a saltwater environment becomes more fresh lake?

Eight years ago, three U.S. cities were singled out as prospectively unsustainable in the view of rising waters: Houston, Miami and New Orleans. In a move of unprecedented brilliance, the Bush administration became the first in America’s history to actually lose a major city to the deluvian threat: New Orleans. And now how long until Houston and Miami suffer this fate? This seems an alarmist approach to a problem which should be studied and addressed with scientific detachment. But the key is engagement. America used to lead the world in addressing common problems. Now it is worse than a laggard. Under Bush, it has become a greedy, self-destructive force for foolishness.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



October 2015

Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

Cattle Calls

Getting Jobbed

view Table Content


“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today