Ed Driscoll

I Blame The Frisbee Ion

“Young Skeptics? Generation X unconcerned about climate change,” a Website called Science Codex notes:

As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change—uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers.

“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said Jon D. Miller, author of “The Generation X Report.”

The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.

“We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change,” Miller said. “In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so.”

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers—those born between 1961 and 1981, and now between 32 and 52 years of age.

Only about 5 percent of those surveyed in 2011 were alarmed about climate change, and another 18 percent said they were concerned about it. But 66 percent said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening, and about 10 percent said they don’t believe global warming is actually happening.

“This is an interesting and unexpected profile,” Miller said. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluralistic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists—on either side—than I would have expected.”

And because of that, global warming zealots are becoming increasingly irrational sounding. This recent meltdown in the Huffington Post is a classic of the genre, beginning with its Chicken Little-style headline: “This is What the Beginning of the End of the Planet Feels Like:”

We saw what happened when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, a city with a majority black population. As sea levels rise and hurricanes become more severe, it almost goes without saying that black folks will be hit hardest by that aspect of global warming as well.

This is just the beginning. Some of the effects that scientists expect to happen (or are already happening) as a result of climate change include rising average global temperature, melting glaciers and sea ice, rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns, an increasing number of heat waves, increasing severity of hurricanes and much more. If we continue at our current pace, experts also predict expect that air pollution will increase and certain infectious diseases will spread.

If you’re not convinced climate change is real and already affecting your everyday life, you aren’t alone. Despite the far-reaching and wide-ranging coverage of the wildfires in Colorado and the almost perpetual record-setting temperatures across the country and around the world, major news organizations have all but refused to finger climate change as the culprit. In fact, Media Matters, a progressive organization that monitors the media for misinformation, found that from April 1 to June 30, outlets like CNN, Reuters, ABC and others neglected to mention long-term climate change or global warming.

“The major television and print outlets largely ignored climate change in their coverage of wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states,” the report found. “All together, only 3 percent of the reports mentioned climate change, including 1.6 percent of television segments and 6 percent of text articles.”

That translated to four out of 258 segments on TV that mentioned climate change and eight out of 135 articles in print.

The reason for this lack of coverage is that despite overwhelming evidence, somehow there is a debate about whether climate change is real and manmade. The simple truth is that the people who remain unconvinced are as foolhardy and misinformed as the people who remained unconvinced that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer in the 1990s. The science is in, the case is closed and the jury has left the building.

While the racial element that the Huffington Post author adds is new, the tone isn’t. It brings to mind a question that an earnest young college student asked when told that the world would be ecologically doomed by 2000, in Tom Wolfe’s 1976 essay, “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide To America.”  That section of the essay carried the subhead “The Frisbee Ion,” after Wolfe observed a college lecturer telling his audience — apparently with a straight face — that aerosol spray use was causing an ion to disappear from the atmosphere that would cause our bones to evaporate. After painting a portrait of once jaunty Manhattanites reduced to boneless globules by the year 2000, Wolfe wrote:

I was so dazed, I was no longer wondering what the assembled students thought of all this. But just at that moment one of them raised his hand. He was a tall boy with a lot of curly hair and a Fu Manchu mustache.“Yes?” said the ecologist.

“There’s one thing I can’t understand,” said the boy.

“What’s that?” said the ecologist.

“Well,” said the boy. “I’m a senior, and for four years we’ve been told by people like yourself and the other gentlemen that everything’s in terrible shape, and it’s all going to hell, and I’m willing to take your word for it, because you’re all experts in your fields. But around here, at this school, for the past four years, the biggest problem, as far as I can see, has been finding a parking place near the campus.”

Dead silence. The panelists looked at this poor turkey to try to size him up. Was he trying to be funny? Or was this the native bray of the heartland? The ecologist struck a note of forbearance as he said: “I’m sure that’s true, and that illustrates one of the biggest difficulties we have in making realistic assessments. A university like this, after all, is a middle-class institution, and middle-class life is calculated precisely to create a screen—”

“I understand all that,” said the boy. “What I want to know is—how old are you, usually, when it all hits you?”

And suddenly the situation became clear. The kid was no wiseacre! He was genuinely perplexed! … For four years he had been squinting at the horizon … looking for the grim horrors which he knew—on faith—to be all around him … and had been utterly unable to find them … and now he was afraid they might descend on him all at once when he least expected it. He might be walking down the street in Omaha one day, minding his own business, when—whop! whop! whop! whop!—War! Fascism! Repression! Corruption!—they’d squash him like bowling balls rolling off a roof!

Who was that lost lad? What was his name? Without knowing it, he was playing the xylophone in a boneyard. He was the unique new creature of the 1970’s. He was Candide in reverse. Candide and Miss Cunégonde, one will recall, are taught by an all-knowing savant, Dr. Pangloss. He keeps assuring them that this is “the best of all possible worlds,” and they believe him implicitly—even though their lives are one catastrophe after another. Now something much weirder was happening. The Jocks & Buds & Freaks of the heartland have their all-knowing savants of O’Hare, who keep warning them that this is “the worst of all possible worlds,” and they know it must be true—and yet life keeps getting easier, sunnier, happier … Frisbee!

How can such things be?

And as PJM’s own Zombie noted in January, the Global Warming Wars (or more precisely, the global warming moral equivalent of war wars) have a certain sense of ’70s-era deja vu about them:

I just finished reading a terrifying new book about climate change. I learned this:

• Climate change is happening faster than we realize and it will have catastrophic consequences for mankind.
• There’s very little we can do to stop it at this late stage, but we might be able to save ourselves if we immediately take these necessary and drastic steps:

– Increase our reliance on alternative energy sources and stop using so much oil and other carbon-based fuels;
– Adopt energy-efficient practices in all aspects of our lives, however inconvenient;
– Impose punitive taxes on inefficient or polluting activities to discourage them;
– Funnel large sums of money from developed nations like the U.S. to Third World nations;
– In general embrace all environmental causes.

You of course recognize these as the solutions most often recommended to ameliorate the looming crisis of Global Warming. But there’s a little glitch in my narrative. Because although the book I read was indeed about climate change, it wasn’t about Global Warming at all; it was instead about “The Coming of the New Ice Age,” and it isn’t exactly “new” — it was published in 1977.

So perhaps that’s why Generation X has tuned out this debate — they’ve heard it all before in the 1970s, either directly or from their parents or older brothers — and they know it’s a broken record. (Or MP3 stuck a permanent loop, or some other phrase since so few people own records anymore…) And the more shrill the global warming proponents sound, without changing their own lifestyles before hectoring others, the more they’ll be tuned out.

Besides, we now know that the Global Warming arguments were merely a prelude to Obama’s crony corporatism anyhow.

So what will be the next argument for the left to control the masses? The answer is as close as your nearest fork.