PBS’s “Hot Politics”

On Tuesday, April 24, I went to a screening of a PBS Frontline episode on global warming at Goldcrest Post Screening Room. The title of the show was “Hot Politics,” and the show examined why the US government has failed to take appropriate measures to combat the issue of global warming.

Many of the film’s producers and reporters were there, such as News Correspondent and Host Deborah Amos, Producer Peter Bull, and Reporter and Editorial Consultant Mark Hertsgaard. Also present was Jim Hansen, Ph.D., Director of the NASA Goddard Institute. Dr. Hansen introduced the film by discussing the gap in understanding between the scientific community and the public policymakers. He also noted that the levels at which carbon dioxide is dangerous are lower than we had previously realized.

The movie outlines a timeline of the science and politics of global warming, starting with 1998, the hottest year on record in the history of record keeping. Placing bipartisan blame on the past three administrations, the film highlights the empty promises of both Democrats (like the Kyoto Protocol that Clinton and Gore never submitted to Congress for ratification) and Republicans (like George W. Bush 2000 campaign promise to cap CO2 emissions that he later reversed).

In part, because the Bush administration ordered the removal of the EPA National Assessment of Climate Change from its website, Hansen speculated that throughout his career he had never seen such a lack of communication between the scientific community and the public as he has in recent years.

The faint silver lining is that, in light of Hurricane Katrina, American attitudes towards climate and weather have changed. Polls indicate that Americans now see global warming as something that can affect them, and not just their children and children’s children. Additionally, state leaders like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have grown impatient with the Federal government’s hesitations, have aggressively passed local anti-warming legislation. Even large corporations, such as those involved in the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), have appealed to Congress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, based on IPCC’s Fourth Assessment in 2007, evidence continues to emerge that ties worrisome ecological changes to human-caused warming while the Federal government continues to dawdle.

The film ends with an eye towards the 2008 election, the winner of which has “a huge obligation and tremendous opportunity to change the future of the world.”