Boston Globe
August 31, 2005


By Ross Gelbspan

BOSTON The hurricane that struck Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday
was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name
is global warming.

When the year began with a 2-foot snowfall in Los Angeles, the cause
was global warming.

When winds of 124 miles an hour shut down nuclear plants in
Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in
Ireland and Britain, the driver was global warming.

When a severe drought in the Midwest dropped water levels in the
Missouri River to their lowest on record earlier this summer, the
reason was global warming.

In July, when the worst drought on record triggered wildfires in Spain
and Portugal and left water levels in France at their lowest in 30
years, the explanation was global warming.

When a lethal heat wave in Arizona killed more than 20 people in one
week, the culprit was global warming.

And when the Indian city of Mumbai received 37 inches of rain in one
day -- killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million
others -- the villain was global warming.

As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more intense
downpours, more frequent heat waves, and more severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced
off southern Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity
by the high sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, few people in America know the real name of Hurricane
Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of
dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires
humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of
course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial
enterprises in history.

In 1995, public utility hearings in Minnesota found that the coal
industry had paid more than $1 million to four scientists who were
public dissenters on global warming. And ExxonMobil has spent more
than $13 million since 1998 on an anti-global warming public relations
and lobbying campaign.

In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory
yet when George W. Bush was elected president -- and subsequently took
suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we
have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.

Against this background, the ignorance of the American public about
global warming stands out as an indictment of the U.S. news media.

When the American press has bothered to cover global warming, it has
focused almost exclusively on its political and diplomatic aspects and
not on what the warming is doing to agriculture, water supplies, plant
and animal life, public health and weather.

For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the news media to
accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it
accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the
United Nations.

Today, with the science having become even more robust -- and the
impacts as visible as the megastorm that covered much of the Gulf of
Mexico -- the press bears a share of the guilt for our self-induced
destruction with the oil and coal industries.

Where I live, in Boston, I am afraid that the coming winter will -
like last winter -- be unusually short and devastatingly severe. In
early 2005, a storm knocked out power to thousands and dropped a
record-setting 42.2 inches of snow on Boston.

The conventional name of the month was January. Its real name is
global warming.

Ross Gelbspan is the author of "The Heat Is On" and "Boiling