Monday, January 29, 2007

A sea change in opinion

It's interesting to see the way the Canadian press and politicians have swung in recent weeks on the whole global warming issue.
The general drift of press coverage has turned from sceptical in the extreme just short months ago, to an implicit or explicit assumption that here is a potentially major problem that needs to be addressed.
Hell, even Margaret Wente has mellowed, although I'm sure she would never admit it. Her article in this weekend's Globe and Mail, while still at first glance sceptical in the extreme and while still presenting sweeping and unsubstantiated statements as facts, admits to many more doubts and uses much more subdued rhetoric than ever before.
Then, almost the next day, she brings out a second column suggesting that we should hike up the price of gas and oil to unprecendented heights in order to reduce our consumption to much lower European levels. I think she may have been intending to be facetious, but I couldn't agree more with her (I never thought I would say that) and, from the letters the next day, neither could many others.
Then, when leaked highlights from the upcoming IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the UN body charged with getting to the bottom of the mysteries of global warming) review appeared in the press, with its damning statistics and predictions, the media attention started to appear almost rabid.
In political circles (even outside the Green Party and the NDP who have always been more on the ball), it is finally an issue, rather than a non-issue to be swept under the carpet. I don't so much mean Our Glorious Leader, Stephen Harper, who will bend whichever way the political wind blows him and his advisors, and knows and cares very little on the matter.
But I feel like I am no longer in a tiny minority out on the fringes, baying at the moon. Indeed, the Globe's multi-page coverage this weekend indicates a huge acceptance of the reality by the general public, even if their understanding of the issues is often hazy, and, just as importantly, an increasing willingness to suffer some hardships in order to tackle the problem. And, finally, the politicians and the spin doctors are taking notice.
Frankly, I don't think there is any realization yet of just how great those hardships will need to be, nor that we are just seeing the proverbial tip of the iceberg as regards the true effects of what we have done to date. But this still represents a sea change in popular opinion, and has restored to some extent my faith in human (and Canadian) nature.

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