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George W. Bush's "Wager"
By Robert J. Freedland


September 19, 2005

Blaise Pascal defended the belief in God something like this: "Pascal argues that it is always a better "bet" to believe in God, because the expected value to be gained from believing in God is always greater than the expected value resulting from non-belief." This has become known as "Pascal's wager".

President Bush doesn't really believe in Global Warming. On June 11, 2001, he stated from the White House, "Yet, the Academy's report tells us that we do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming. We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it."

And yet the actions of this Administration have been to interfere with the investigation of global warming, to suppress international dissemination of information about this, and to work with Big Oil to suppress science.

In 2002, Exxon-Mobil successfully pressured the White House (Natural Resources Defense Council website) to undermine support for Dr. Robert Watson, who was then the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1996.

And it was just a few months ago that it was revealed (6/16/05 London Times Online) how Philip Cooney, the former chief of staff to President Bush's Council on Environmental Quality, was let go after it was revealed that he had deleted and watered down references to global warming. Just days later, it was announced he had been hired by Exxon Mobil. You just can't make up this stuff!

More recently, it was reported (Christian Science Monitor 6/20/05) that the United States exerted pressure to tone down references to global warming in the G-8 statement on climate change. The paper noted: "The documents show that Washington officials: Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a 'serious threat to human health and to ecosystems'; Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started; Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change. Among the sentences removed was the following: "Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans."

And now we have Katrina, a hurricane that has devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. And expers are reporting that the recent increase in violent hurricanes is not a coincidence. As reported in USA Today (9/15/05), about an article published in the magazine "Science": "Co-author Judity Curry of Georgia Tech said the team is confident that the measured increase in sea surface temperatures is associated with global warming, adding that the increase in category 4 and 5 storms "certainly has an element that global warming is contributing to.""

Kerry Emanuel, professor at MIT's Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences also thinks there is a link between serious hurricanes and global warming. He published on this subject in "Nature" last month. On the "Living on Earth" television show, he stated: "We think we're seeing a signal that the intensity of hurricanes is going up owing to global warming, and their duration is increasing, as well. And this has us worried. In terms of the influence of this on the rest of the world, I think it can't be stressed enough that in the United States we have been enormously successful in reducing the loss of life. As horrible as Katrina has been - and it is horrible, sort of a worst-case scenario - so our problem is economic. That's our big problem. But in the rest of the world, in the developing world, the problem is loss of life."

And meanwhile the Arctic ice is melting, likely to lead to elevation of the levels of the oceans and further climate change. As reported
( "A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years. They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating."

But in the face of all of the evidence what do the conservatives do? Just deny it. Say it isn't so. Stick their heads in the sand and tell all the liberals and environmentalists to go away. As Charles Krauthammer has just written (Dallas News 9/13/05): "This kind of stupidity merits no attention whatsoever, but I'll give it a paragraph. There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.

But can we really be surprised? Global Warming threatens our nation and our world. This President just doesn't get it. This is an Administration that denies science, advocating "Intelligent Design" over Darwin, Abstinence over Sex Education, and Dogma over Scientific Testimony in approving medications such as Plan B, the emergency contraceptive.

I am not ready to join President Bush on this "wager". The risk of being wrong is the death of mankind on this planet. Not just risking a soul, but all souls.

Robert J. Freedland, M.D.
La Crosse, Wisconsin - USA



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