Stormy Weather and a Bracing Dose of Reality
Weird weather we're having, huh? Snow finally showed up in the Great Lakes and New England, and out West, Malibu saw the descent of a strange sort of soft hail called graupel. Over in Europe, much of the continent seemed just about ready to blow away, after a pounding of epic gale-force winds, lashing rains, and surging seas.
Used to be, talk about the weather was just that. Nowadays, though, things have gotten so strange it's almost inevitably just a grim prelude to dark maunderings about global warming or, as the more politically correct among us like to call it, "climate change." There's no doubt that human behavior is having some significant impact on our weather. But neither is there any doubt that some Chicken Littles have grabbed at every warm winter day and bald Alpine ski run to intone ominously about the perils of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Good for them. But better still, perhaps, that despite all the breathless sky-is-falling business, the folks who can really do something about the things that are making the planet warmer finally seem ready to do so. It's always risky predicting what will and won't happen in the nation's capital. But this new 110th Congress has heard more about global warmingahem, climate changein its opening days than any in history, and some of the already proposed legislation is almost certain to become law. More striking than the maneuvering on Capitol Hill, however, is something that suggests a real tipping point may finally have been reached. Ten major companiesindustrial powerhouses like DuPont, General Electric, and Alcoaare joining forces with leading environmental groups to urge a major nationwide cutback in carbon-dioxide emissions. This is big. Not only is most of the public light-years ahead of our politicians in addressing the planet's overheating; now Big Business is, too.
In his State of the Union address this week, President Bush may tell us whether, like the weather, he is prepared to changeor whether it will take more tempests and record temperatures to force him to.
This story appears in the January 29, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.