The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
I had an interesting conversation with a man in the airport terminal in Philadelphia as my wife and I made our way home from our vacation in Nova Scotia. He was about my age and a retired geologist who had worked in the oil industry.
As we were talking, out of nowhere he made a comment about global warming being a myth. I didn’t let it pass, giving my somewhat prepared response: “I’m not a medical doctor, but if I go to 98 doctors and they all tell me I have stomach cancer, I know I have stomach cancer.”
He said he didn’t know a single geologist who believed in global warming, and we’d have to agree to disagree. Then he got up and left.
I was troubled by what he said, thinking about the fact that he was a geologist in the oil industry, so I asked my phone, “What do geologists believe about global warming?”
I ended up reading an interesting synopsis about how geologists have traced global warming over millions of years, with carbon dioxide historically a major cause, and the alarming conclusion that if emissions continue at their current rate, the polar ice caps will completely disappear in between 150 and 300 years.
To a geologist, this obviously represents a tiny sliver of time; to the rest of us, it is further proof that global warming is real, human-caused, and an enormous threat to all life as we know it.
I wanted to show the article to my acquaintance but he had already left. I wanted to point out to him that David Koch, who had just died, and his brother made their billion-dollar fortunes in the oil industry and had at first single-handedly financed and spread the lie that human-caused global warming was a myth.
I wanted to tell him he needed to read outside of his comfort zone and maybe have a talk with some university geologists instead of staying in his tight little circle of oil-industry geologists.
But he had already left. I know he will continue to make offhand comments about the myth of global warming and tell people he has never met a single geologist who believes in it.
He’s the guy with stomach cancer who has visited two doctors who tell him he’s perfectly healthy. He’ll never have a consultation with the other 98 doctors who will tell him he has just a short time to live if he doesn’t take aggressive steps right now — the kind of aggressive steps we need to take to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.