Hot Alaska

Why We Vote
[Note: This essay is one in a continuing series by ICCFA executive director Bob Fells focusing on various issues in our federal government. Although the subjects are political in nature, the approach is bipartisan in outlook, at least so far as that is humanly possible. The goal of each essay is not to persuade the reader to adopt a particular political viewpoint or party, but to illustrate why a knowledge of the system is important to protect our businesses, our homes, and our families.]

Hot Alaska

I recently returned from ten days exploring our 50th state. Most of the time was spent cruising up the “inner passage” route and then three days of land excursions after the cruise was completed. Maureen and I are arriving a bit late at traveling but we had the matter of raising our young, paying for braces, etc., that left little funding for cruises until recently. Now the youngest of our three is 30 and self-sufficient, so before we move into assisted living it seemed like a good idea to see a little more of the world.  

Think of Alaska and we think of freezing cold and snow, lots of snow. But visiting in late May and early June revealed a land with moderate temperatures that got into the 70s and lots of warm sunshine – for about 20 hours each day. We had no complaints with these circumstances because in the winter – and Alaskans have a long one – it’s dark for about 20 hours each day with sub-freezing temperatures. But clearly, Alaskans are not used to being warm. Our tour buses were equipped with air-conditioning but it is rarely used. So infrequently is it switched on that the first bus we were on got very toasty between an air-conditioning system that didn’t work and hermetically-sealed windows that didn’t open. The driver explained that cooling is rarely needed so the systems are rarely checked. Our second bus had a properly functioning air conditioner but the driver wasn’t sure how to switch it on. Some helpful fellow travelers suggested how to regulate the system and eventually all was well inside the bus.

The unexpected heat wave not only prompted the title of this little essay but begged the larger question of global climate change. When our ship cruised up Glacier Bay, which is like entering a gigantic freezer, one of our fellow passengers expressed dismay with the size of the glaciers we were seeing. It seems that she had made this same trip only two years ago and said she was shocked to see how much the ice had retreated since that time. Our earlier visit to the Mendenhall Glacier brought similar observations from the Park Rangers who provided photographic evidence of the retreating ice. This led to my considering the politically knotty question of whether climate change is indeed a dire problem, and assuming that it is, what should we be doing about it.

I am no expert on this issue but as an inhabitant of this planet, at least for the time being, I am a stakeholder. Like you, I am very confused by the clashing opinions that declare either we are in big trouble or that it’s a hoax and is being used to expand the government and make some folks wealthy too. What are we supposed to think? How do we find the truth between the alarmists and the naysayers? And is there a happy medium? 

Here is my attempt to make some politically-nonpartisan sense out of climate change. First, climate change – alternately global cooling and global warming – is a normal process that has been taking place for millions of years. At any point in time, the earth is either cooling or warming. Impassioned pleas that “climate change is real” are silly because that’s not the issue. The real issue is whether global cooling or warming is going much longer than they are supposed to, hence the danger of rising sea levels, floods, and the extinction of various species, possibly including mankind. This is something we should take very seriously.

As if the issue were not already complicated, advocates can’t seem to get their story straight. Remember in the 1990s when the warning went out of a new Ice Age due to global cooling? Then some scientists claimed that we were really in a phase of global warming. Just last week I read that the earth has started cooling again. I have no idea how valid these claims are but the advocates have gotten smart and are now calling the issue “climate change.” Thus, whatever the planet is doing these folks are good to go. 

I have noticed one thing from a political perspective.  The people who are spreading the alarm of disastrous climate change (and they may be correct) all seem to have an economic incentive. That is, if climate change is really such a problem that we must take action on it, then they are positioned to make a few bucks out of the situation. On the other hand I notice that that “deniers” as they have been dubbed (and they may be wrong) won’t make a dime out of their position if they are correct. So where does that leave us?

I wish I could conclude this essay with some conclusion on the issue of climate change. Instead let me leave you with an observation that I find troubling. Since nobody really doubts the question of climate change, then what exactly is the problem? As I understand it, the problem is that advocates claim that if global warming or cooling continues at the present rate, we will suffer dire consequences. There are literally billions of dollars hanging on that little word “if.” We will only know for sure if the present rate continues over the next 30 to 50 years.
If the earth does what it has always done, reverse the warming or cooling before the entire USA is flooded or frozen over, then things will be fine. But the closer, as our sales people call it, is that we can’t wait 30 or 50 years. We need to take action, i.e., spend lots of money, right now. To make the issue worse, when advocates are asked what specific action we should be taking now, most say that they don’t know. This reminds me of the deathless observation that while we are lost, we’re making good time. This may also explain why our Alaskan bus drivers got bigger tips when they turned on the air conditioner.