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Sierra magazine
Smile | If You Think Saving the Planet's Funny

Some Like It Hot

By Joe Queenan

"Global Warming: A Sunnier Perspective" was the theme of this year's Environmental Skeptics convention, held at the Soon-to-Be-Oceanfront Hilton in Denver. Many of the presentations focused on the underappreciated positive fallout from environmental catastrophes.

If not for that giant asteroid, for instance, dinosaurs would have reproduced endlessly, devouring Lucy and our other forebears millions of years ago. And had they not disappeared from the Great Plains, those brutish bison would now be drifting across the nation's highways like so many rabbits and squirrels, costing transportation agencies billions in road-kill cleanup.

The conference's most interesting event pitted Lars Bjornberg, the world's most respected global-warming cheerleader, against a panel of professional global-warming obfuscators. A representative from China theorized that Himalayan glaciers are melting not because of humankind's insatiable appetite for coal and oil, but because too many Tibetans are using illegal yak-dung-fueled space heaters. One expert blamed Dominican cigars, which burn longer than Havanas. Another hypothesized that milk cows are deliberately expelling planet-threatening levels of methane gas because they're fed up with their owners' incessant groping.

The most extravagant theory posited that global-warming hysterics like Al Gore have hired unemployed actors to dress up as polar bears and pretend to be marooned on drifting ice floes to scare the public. "I swear I saw Joey Lawrence under one of those masks," said Tad Hesse, author of Chill Pill: A Global Warming Denier Who Doesn't Seriously Expect Anyone to Like Him. "And maybe the teacher from Saved by the Bell."

Arrayed against them was Bjornberg, widely known as "the thinking man's nut job," who argued that rising temperatures should be embraced for their positive effects.

"Sure, it's possible that creatures on the other side of the solar system are heating up Earth by using gigantic mirrors to redirect the sun's rays toward us," Bjornberg said. "But I don't care what's causing it. What's important is to start appreciating the innumerable benefits global climate disruption will bring."

When pressed for details, Bjornberg noted that "rising water levels on the Great Lakes and the Hudson will inundate some of the worst slums in America. That means cities won't have to finance urban renewal; the sun will do it for them." But, he said, the impact will really be felt at the micro level. "Senior citizens in Syracuse won't get coronaries shoveling their driveways, because there won't be any more snow. Plus there will be far fewer deaths on icy roads. Also, Canadians will save enough on earmuffs and mukluks to balance their national budget. And when Saskatchewan is semitropical, as it will be by the year 2030, Central American tourists will come flocking, allowing the United States to stop obsessing about illegal immigrants."

That's not all.

"As Michigan becomes like Florida, 'swamp bird' retirees will flock to Detroit," he said. "Tourism will make up for all those jobs lost in closed Hummer factories."

Bjornberg conceded that global warming wouldn't be all win-win: "Yeah, the igloo industry may face a downturn." But he stressed that humans ultimately benefit from the unforeseen consequences of "environmental oopsies."

"If all those trees in Ohio hadn't been chopped down by pioneers, Cleveland would never have been built, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wouldn't have opened. So I ask you, which is more important: trees or public access to Mick Jagger's tights? I think I know your answer."

Joe Queenan is a freelance writer based in Tarrytown, New York.

Illustration by Tim Bower



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