It’s getting hot in here

One hell of a heat wave is coming.

The seas will rise, destroying the homes of 100 million people. Species will die out to extinction. Glaciers will disappear, threatening the drinking water of 40 percent of the world. Oceans, heated by the sun’s unrelenting radiation, will spur powerful hurricanes and tornadoes the likes of which we have never experienced. And despite powerful storms and flooding, the heat will bake the soil and create droughts and starvation.

Former Vice President Al Gore paints a terrible picture with his new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The film, based on a slide show he has been presenting to audiences for decades, shows that global warming is no theory, but a reality we are experiencing right now.

Naysayers will quibble that statistics, such as the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the past 14 years, mean the planet is only going through a natural cycle of warming.

But Gore’s graphs of the explosion of carbon dioxide to levels far above those ever measured in human history and photographs of the complete vanishing of millennia-old ice packs are damning evidence.

We are facing a global meltdown that will affect not just our children and our children’s children, but us – you, me and our gas-guzzling SUVs.

As individuals, we can make our own contributions to solving the problem. Buy hybrid cars. Install energy-efficient light bulbs. Take public transportation. Turn down the thermostat.

Kent State has made changes too. In response to environmental and financial concerns, the university switched from filthy coal-burning plants to ones that use natural gas, according to Campus Environment and Operations Director Michael McDonald. Control systems automatically shut off heat and air conditioning at night, and motion detectors turn out lights when class is not in session.

But still, we’re talking small potatoes in a country where our lives revolve around our cars, and we don’t mind paying $3.25 a gallon to drive our Hummers two blocks to the grocery store.

President George W. Bush finally acknowledged that oil is America’s addiction this year. It’s an addiction for which we never feel withdrawal pains – when we’re jonesing, our dealers wait on every corner.

What we need is petroleum methadone.

In Bush’s State of the Union address this year, he proposed a 22 percent increase in funding for clean-energy initiatives. Since 2001, our government has spent $10 billion on such programs. His proposal means a miserable $440 million per year in additional funding.

By contrast, Bush has blown through an astounding $297 billion on the war in Iraq in less than four years. His mission in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime? Create democracy in the Mideast and make America safer.

But one action would increase our country’s safety far greater than a democratic Iraq – ending our reliance on the constant stream of gasoline fixes coming from our Persian Gulf dealers.

Ohio researchers are developing pollution-free fuel cells. Cleveland’s first wind turbine was recently installed in the North Coast Harbor. Farmers are growing acres of corn to be turned into car-powering ethanol, and restaurants, including Kent State’s Dining Services, are recycling food oil, which can be turned into fuel for vehicles.

Despite the good intentions, the impact is minimal at best. The needed money is simply not there. And none of these is yet the whiz-bang idea that will save us from the impending worldwide furnace.

Just imagine the progress we could make if we stopped looking for battles to fight around the world and poured $75 billion a year into a solution for clean, renewable, cheap energy. What we need is a Manhattan Project for power – and a Betty Ford program for our dependence.

The truth is no longer inconvenient, or inconclusive, or incomprehensible, or insignificant. Global warming is indisputable. And our government’s response is inexcusable.

It’s time we held our leaders’ feet to the oil fire. Our continued indifference is indefensible.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.