Friday, July 13, 2007


It's one of the worst feelings around.

I recently was a captive audience for someone who was absolutely, completely sure of himself, and absolutely, completely wrong.

Here's the situation: I was recently getting a haircut when the barber's friend showed up; the two of them were apparently going to do something together once the day's haircuts were done. For some reason, the visitor launched into a discussion on global warming.

When he said something like "I don't know anyone who thinks global warming is actually taking place," I meekly raised my hand. I pointed out that the warmest years of the last several decades had happened in the past years. While I was unwilling to make conclusions on the causes, something, I said, was clearly happening.

Our pal was having none of it. It was a beautiful day today, he said. What's one extra degree going to do to it? And the raising of sea levels? Garbage. When ice in a soft drink melts, does the level in the glass go up? Of course not. So the seas aren't rising.

Before this, he argued, we used to hear alarms about the population explosion. Or the ozone layer. Weren't we talking about global cooling about 30 years ago? Now all's we hear is about is global warming. Nonsense. Everything will be fine.

And if pollution is a problem, why is China building all these coal-powered energy plants?

The ignorance was pretty much breath-taking. And I had to remember that I was sitting in a barber's chair, with the guy's good friend snipping around my ears, neck and eyes. Danger! Danger!

I was more or less unprepared to launch into a vigorous debate on the subject, but I did think about how many things he was wrong about. Global warming is indeed raising sea levels, in part because glaciers on land are melting. Been to Glacier National Park lately? I have, and it may need a new name soon. Melting icebergs may not affect water levels, but melting glaciers do. And it won't take much to make New Orleans an island in the Gulf of Mexico, according to National Geographic.

Growing seasons are changing as we speak, species are dying out, the Antarctic landscape is changing. But everything is fine, according to my new pal.

Meanwhile, skin cancer rates in the Southern Hemisphere are quite high, to the point where you don't go outside for very long without sun lotion. And Beijing is closing some of its industrial plants during the upcoming Olympics to improve the breathing conditions for the athletes.

I should be headed for oral surgery soon. It's what happens when you bite your tongue for 15 minutes at a time.