Is all this strange weather a warning of some kind?

Published 1:47 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Al Gore held his big concert — Live Earth: A Concert for a Climate in Crisis — this past weekend to try to raise awareness about global warming, and I think he missed an opportunity in the process.

However, all the strange weather going on around us might be something that ought to raise our awareness of global warming. There is heavy flooding in some areas and searing drought in others.

The odd part is that the flooding is occurring in areas that normally are relatively dry, such as North Texas, Oklahoma and the Southern Plains, and the drought is occurring in areas that normally are relatively wet such as Florida and the Southeastern United States.

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Add to that the soaring heat in the desert. Yes, I know the desert normally is hot. I spent part of my time in the Marine Corps at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. and as a National Guardsman, I made a couple of trips to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The heat in those locations is not to be ignored, even when temperatures are with in “normal” ranges for those desert areas.

Still, the temperatures in those desert areas seem a little abnormally hot this year, according to some news reports.

You may recall that some observers of Hurricane Katrina said the massive size of that storm was probably due to global warming.

I have heard only minor discussion about the unusual weather being related to global warming, but personally, I think it may be. That doesn’t mean that we will have year after year of such events, I think that they will just become increasingly more frequent because of the warming.

In light of that, all the suggestions that were made during Live Earth were quite good. We have already changed nearly every bulb in the house to the small fluorescents. They work. Our electric bill proved that.

We also have changed out our windows to double-paned windows and added some insulation to the house. We will make more changes as we can afford them.

There in lies the opportunity that I think was missed by Gore and the Live Earth musicians and backers. Besides raising awareness about the problem, I think he should have used the concert to begin raising money to help those who can’t afford to insulate and tighten up their homes in order to use less energy such as electricity. Where it is feasible they even could have been helped to add solar water heating.

He might have been able to fund a charity based on the model of Habitat for Humanity that would be dedicated to improving existing substandard housing to make it more livable by closing off drafts, insulated ceilings and walls and putting in the energy-saving double-paned windows.

Those little fluorescent bulbs he and others were pushing during the concert are expensive, and yes, they save you money in the long run. Some folks, though, may be faced with the choice of replacing a burned-out bulb with a cheap incandescent and having enough money left to meet other essential needs such as food or medicine or replacing it with a fluorescent and not being able to purchase those essentials, or at least not being able to purchase some of them.

Money raised during that concert could have been used to purchase the bulbs and distribute them to people on low or fixed incomes that face tough choices about what to do with their available money.

Not only would all this help reduce the production of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, it would help those living on low or fixed incomes to have more money that could be used for those other essentials of food and medicine.

Gore also may have used some of the money raised by the concert to fund research into other ways, little and relatively inexpensive ways, to cut energy use and maybe ways to make a living out of the world’s remaining rain forests without having to cut them down. Those forests absorb carbon dioxide and use it to produce new growth. Their destruction is a major contributor to the carbon dioxide problem.

Raising awareness about the problem is a wonderful thing but won’t come close to solving the problem. Further, some of those who need to have their awareness raised, such as President George W. Bush, the Chinese leadership and other leaders in the third world countries already know about the problem but refuse to do anything to help curb the production of carbon dioxide.

Not using the concert to raise money to be used to attack the problem in practical ways I think was a big mistake on Gore’s part.

However, I enjoyed the concert, the part I got to see, and did learn a thing or two I may be able to use to help further reduce the production of carbon dioxide.