Jewish World Review June 25, 2002 / 15 Tamuz, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it | On Father's Day, an asteroid the size of a football field came within what for astronomers is a hair's breadth of striking us. Asteroid 2002 MN came within 75,000 miles of Earth, the second closest recorded near miss by any asteroid. Had it struck the earth, it would have had the same impact as a ten megaton nuclear bomb, said astronomers at Britain's National Space Center.

The odds that an asteroid actually will strike the earth are remote, the scientists said. But it's happened. An asteroid a little bit larger than 2002 MN flattened 800 square miles of forest near Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908. A much larger asteroid is thought to have whacked into what is now Mexico 65 million years ago, kicking up dust and debris that covered the entire planet, and triggering a prolonged winter that killed off the dinosaurs.

I offer this up for those of you who enjoy fretting about environmental doom. If one of those big suckers strikes us again - Kaboom! - that's all she wrote for the human race, the elephants, the squirrels, and the furbish lousewort.

Astronomers for the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are trying to map the location and trajectory of large asteroids. If one of these were on a collision course with earth, it is possible to deflect or destroy it with nuclear-tipped ballistic missile interceptors.

Of course, if we deployed an ABM system that could break up asteroids, it would be child's play to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Liberals don't want to do this. So even though the threat of asteroid strike is real (though remote), and there is a technological solution (though expensive), protecting the earth from asteroid Armageddon has never been an environmentalist cause. Greens would rather fret about something that is much less of a problem (if it's a problem at all), and about which we could do next to nothing if it were.

Two days after our close call with Asteroid 2002 MN, the New York Times published yet another scare story about global warming. In Alaska, "the average temperature has risen about seven degrees over the last 30 years," the Times said.

This was news to the scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Center. Their data from 1971 to 2000 showed mean temperature increases ranging from 2.26 degrees Fahrenheit (Anchorage) to 4.16 degrees F (Fairbanks). The EPA report which the Times said was the basis for its story said that warming in Alaska's interior has been only about 3 degrees F in the last 100 years.

In other words, the Times story was a crock, like its August 19, 2000, story that the North Pole was melting. Tourists on an ice breaker saw open water in the midst of polar ice. This was a sight, the Times said, "presumably never before seen by humans." Actually, this was a sight humans could have seen every summer for centuries. Though roughly 90 percent of the high Arctic is covered with ice in summer, about ten percent of it is open water, said Howard Fienberg of Tech Central.

Climate is always changing. In the last 10,000 years, the world has been both warmer and cooler than it is today. Temperatures now are a tad on the cool side, about 2 degrees F below the medieval warm period of 600 AD to 1100 AD, wrote Andrew Kenny in the British magazine, the Spectator. During that period Greenland was actually green, there were vineyards in southern England, and life was better than in the "little ice age" which followed.

A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it, Kenny said.

"One of the real threats to mankind is the danger of a collision with a large asteroid," he said. "It's happened in the past with catastrophic effect, and it will probably happen again. But there are no conferences, resolutions, gatherings protests or newspaper headlines about asteroid impacts. The reason is that you cannot find anyone suitable to blame for them. If you could persuade people that President Bush or the oil companies were responsible for the asteroids, I guarantee there would be a billion dollar campaign to raise awareness about the asteroid danger."

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06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly