Friday, January 16, 2004

New Rule

In the spirit of the first new episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher" that I just watched (thank you TiVo), let me present a New Rule.

Politicians are no longer allowed to talk about science.

First there was the president's stupid moonbase idea, but this one really pissed me off.

During this episode's shouting match (side note: What did Bill Maher expect with guests so polarized?) Bill tried to point out that a newspaper article about the high level of pollutants that are found in the food supply of the Innuit people should be read by our famously isolated President. California representative Darrell Issa then commented on the Kyoto Treaty, an attempt to reduce global warming that was famously dumped by President Bush.

Issa: Kyoto is specifically regarding emissions in the air which happen to lead to global warming but are in fact exactly what's polluting the blubber [that the Innuit eat].

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases like methane, carbon dioxide, and chloroflorocarbons, AKA CFCs (which also destroy the ozone layer, but that's another issue.) These are gases. G-A-S-E-S. Methane becomes liquid at about 300 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). Carbon dioxide and CFCs both turn into a gas unless kept at high pressures. I don't think whale blubber is 300 degrees below zero or highly pressurized. Also, I've never seen blubber myself, but I don't think it's all fizzy with gases.

In fact, the pollutants the article specifically mentions are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are completely man made, DDT, a pesticide, and mercury, one of the deadliest poisons known to man. None of these deadly chemicals are greenhouse gases, and none of them, as far as I could tell from half-assedly scanning the text of the Kyoto Protocol were in danger of being banned by this treaty.

So no, Darrell Issa, these chemicals are not what's polluting the blubber. Taking measures to prevent global warming will in no way make the breastmilk of Innuit mothers contain less PBCs, or their blood less mercury. (Read that article, it's really heartbreaking.)

It may seem like a small mix-up, but it's really indicative of a larger pattern of ignorace. If you can't figure out what's causing the problem in the first place (environmental or otherwise...I think politicians often fail to understand the science of sociology, anthropology, and economics as often as the science of the environment), how are you supposed to fix it. And these people are in charge of fixing problems!

Let me append this by stating that all of the science in this post I got from my own feeble knowledge and some googling. So if any of it is blatantly wrong, please let me know. (Yes, I know it's ironic to say that in a post stating that politicians shouldn't talk about science unless they know what they're talking about...but there you go.)

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