Okay, by now we need some comic relief. Satirist John Byrne Barry gives us this report of his interview with a conspiracy theorist par excellence, Mr. William Simmer of the Invisible Hand Think Tank. If Mr. Simmer is correct, there are whole new vistas opening up for climate-oriented citizen diplomats.
While Mr. Simmer’s case is extreme, he seems to confirm the propaganda potential of climate change issues that was discussed in the interview with Walter Truett Anderson and Don Michael. We thank humor writer John Byrne Barry for unwittingly creating such a fitting exemplar of their views.
For those of you who came in late, we repeat: This is not a true story. At least, we hope not.
"Global warming is a communist plot. The Soviet Union, with help from its Eastern Bloc allies and China, is deliberately accelerating the greenhouse effect and radically altering world temperatures." So says veteran cold warrior William Simmer of the Invisible Hand Think Tank.
Mr. Simmer is happy to grant me an interview, even though I tell him I am an environmental reporter, and I bicycle over to his refrigerated office in a bunker underneath the Washington, DC, Beltway. I figure my host will be happy that my mode of transportation is not adding any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
He is not. "Americans have a God-given right to drive. We shouldn’t be changing our lifestyle for this greenhouse effect. That’s playing right into the communists’ strategy."
He is on a roll before I can get my notebook out. As he talks, he swills coffee from a styrofoam cup and devours a couple of hamburgers. (No doubt made with beef imported from some country that razed rainforests for cattle grazing.)
"We’ve been foolish not to suspect them from the beginning. The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China together burn half the world’s coal, the fossil fuel that emits the most carbon dioxide. That in itself is enough to arouse suspicion, but when you look at what parts of the world might benefit from warmer temperatures, Siberia – today mostly a frigid wasteland – is at the top of the list. Before we know it, those snakes will be growing wheat up there. We can’t just sit back and let that happen."
The Invisible Hand Think Tank claims they have obtained documents, smuggled out of the Soviet Union last year by a defecting hockey player, which prove that this plan to step up the greenhouse effect was hatched during the Khrushchev era, as retaliation for losing the showdown at the Bay of Pigs.
"While we were still playing at Cold War, the communists were firing up the Hot War. They replaced their arsenal of heat-seeking missiles with an arsenal of coal-burning power plants shooting heat-absorbing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, our atmosphere."
"But why would-"
I start to say, "Why would any country ever want to use as a weapon something so dangerous for the entire planet?" But noting the walls crowded with photos of B-1 bombers and MX missiles, I decide to just listen.
"In the last two decades," he continues, "while the West has become more energy efficient, getting 30 to 50% more work out of every unit of energy, the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies have been getting less and less efficient. We blamed that, of course, on communism and its malaise, but we underestimated how crafty they are. They could have kept pace with our efficiency technology, by stealing it just like they always have, but they cunningly concluded that generating electricity inefficiently (and burning more coal) was in their national interest and part of their world domination scenario."
Global warming, caused by the greenhouse effect, results from a buildup in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which trap the heat of the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, in the same way that a car window traps heat inside the car on a sunny day.
A rise in sea level is one of the most devastating possible effect of global warming.
"Take a look at those areas most likely to be submerged," says Simmer. "Florida and much of the eastern seaboard of the United States. And what about the Soviet Union? That’s right, they have no coastal cities at all, except in the far north. Not only will the rising of the seas not hurt them in the least, the warmer weather will melt the southern reaches of Arctic ice, giving the Soviet Union what it has always lusted for, and fought wars for – a warm-water port, ice-free year round."
"I know what you’re thinking," he continues, "What about Canada? Won’t they also benefit from global warming? Aren’t they our ally? Hah! Take a look at an atlas, and tell me what color Canada is. Pink. That’s what color it is in my atlas. That’s no coincidence. "
"Didn’t your Invisible Hand group once claim that CFCs were part of this plot?"
He is momentarily defensive. "OK, I’ll admit that we’ve abandoned our earlier suspicion about CFCs. They’re thousands of times more heat-absorbing than carbon dioxide, so we immediately assumed they were part of the communists’ strategy. Once we found out how much dinero DuPont has vacuumed up over the years making and selling these CFCs, of course, we knew it couldn’t be. The Commies may be crafty, but they couldn’t figure out how to make a profit if the revolution depended on it."
"The U.S. has to take immediate action," Simmer states, "starting with a crash nuclear plant buildup."
"Hold on," I interject. "If there’s a conspiracy going on, it’s the nuclear industry that’s behind it, looking for a last-ditch chance to hoodwink the public into going for this high-tech fix of nukes and overlooking their safety and economic problems."
"If the communists were so insistent on emitting carbon dioxide," I add, "they wouldn’t have built up their problem-riddled nuclear industry so much, and they would have put more refrigerators in people’s homes and cars on the streets. The average American-made car, driven 10,000 miles a year, emits its own weight in carbon dioxide every year."
"Nonsense, nonsense," counters Simmer. "The nuclear power industry in the Soviet Union is just a smokescreen to produce plutonium for hydrogen bombs -"
"Just like ours is?"
"Right, I mean, no, no, but just like you pinko, slow-growth, windmill-loving, petition-signing, peace terrorists wrongly accuse our nuclear industry of being."
"Besides," he goes on, "once the Soviets had the Hot War on the front burner, and they comprehended that nuclear plants weren’t contributing to the greenhouse gas buildup, they had to find a way to stop their nuclear program, and so they orchestrated the accident at Chernobyl. As usual, the Soviets didn’t let poisoning their own people get in the way of achieving world hegemony."
"But isn’t this just another attempt to find a scapegoat and avoid taking personal responsibility for our planet," I say. "Instead of blaming the Soviets, we should put the pressure on U.S. companies and force them to change their environmentally destructive practices. And we are. For example, next week, my affinity group, the Green Goddesses, is doing a civil disobedience at our community bank. We’re protesting their continuing investment in coal-fired power plants by lying down all night in front of their 24-hour automatic tellers."
"Hah!" he says. "This small is beautiful, sit-in stuff won’t save us. We’ve got to think big – like Star Wars. We can redirect Star Wars research from the missile shield to a heat shield. We can put a dome over the entire country – like a giant Astrodome – with year-round temperature controls, a sprinkler system, and luxury sky boxes. And you windmill-lovers won’t get tickets – you can sit outside the dome and broil."
I sweat more on my bike ride home. It suddenly seems much hotter.