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.
Ross Carroll is professor emeritus of communication at Oregon Institute of Technology. He has lived in Tucson for