Collins: The man with the snow job

Collins: The man with the snow job

February 6th, 2011 Gail Collins/New York Times News Service in Opinion Columns

Our question for today is: Who is to blame for this weather?

This past week, 70 percent of the country was looking at snow. Florida is the only state that has not seen snow this winter. But Florida has gotten icicles in the orange groves plus a new governor whose claim to fame was running a corporation that cheated the federal government out of enormous amounts of money. Florida's not feeling all that superior.

Chicago's snowfall was so huge that the news media ran out of things to attach to "snow" - thundersnow! snowpocalypse! snowmageddon!

The storm beat the world-famous blizzard of 1979. Really, if you're going to be cold and miserable and inconvenienced, you might as well be setting a record.

The blizzard of 1979 is world famous because Chicago's snow removal efforts went badly, causing everyone to turn on then-mayor Michael Bilandic, who was kicked out of office six weeks later in the Democratic primary. Coincidentally, there's a Democratic primary coming up this month, and candidates have been shoveling snow off cars and sidewalks all around the city.

Not content with snow removal photo-ops, Rahm (I Live Here!) Emanuel, a Chicago mayoral candidate, also wasted no time in sending off a storm-related e-mail, offering "a few helpful tips" on how to weather the weather. They included: "Don't make any unnecessary trips outside."

And: "If you must go outside, wear several layers of warm, dry clothing. Keep your extremities covered. Wear hats, gloves, winter boots and warm socks."

People, if someone was preparing to walk off into 2 feet of snow without socks and boots, do you think an e-mail from Rahm Emanuel would make that person think twice? Let's see a show of hands.

But I digress. We are sick of bad weather and looking for a dumping place for all our bad vibrations.

Ideally, we would like to blame one specific person -- like the evil queen in the movie "Red Sonja" who used a magic orb to destroy entire civilizations with terrible storms until she was vanquished by Red Sonja and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But that was a long time ago when Schwarzenegger was still saying things like, "If you yield only to a conqueror, then prepare to be conquered, Little Sonja." Now, he is more likely to say, "Let's fix the pension problem," and California has been

having terrible weather.

Nevertheless, I don't think we can pin this on Arnold.

Al Gore, on the phone between plane flights last Wednesday, of course, pointed to global warming. "Here's a basic fact," he said. "There is about 4 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere today than there was in 1970." That extra water, he said, is because of warmer oceans and warmer air, and is returning to earth as extra-heavy rain and snow.

Remind me again why we aren't fighting global warming? It's win-win. Even if all the hordes of scientists are wrong in believing that human beings are causing climate change, the remedies would still be good for the environment and for energy independence.

We could always blame George W. Bush - that never gets old. But Gore declined to be helpful when it came to fixing blame. "I'm sorely tempted to throw out three or four names, but it wouldn't be right," he said, showing a depressing level of prudence for someone who was spending the day trying to get cross-country by airplane.

We could blame President Barack Obama for doing health care reform instead of global warming, but Congress is even more afraid of the energy lobby than the insurance companies. The president seems to be planning to do what he can by regulation. That prospect makes Republicans so angry that they're introducing legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using its powers under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously, there is nothing more nefarious than having the agency in charge of protecting the environment use the clean air law to keep harmful gases out of the atmosphere.

The Senate sponsor is James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who recently claimed that the super-cold winter proves that theories about global warming are "an intellectual fraud." We could blame Inhofe, but he really isn't all that satisfactory a villain. It'd sort of be like blaming nuclear proliferation on gophers.

Another opponent of EPA action, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, used to be aligned with the environmentalists - until he left his moderate House district to run in a Republican Senate primary and abruptly switched positions. Defending himself in a recent interview with Greenwire, Kirk claimed that there was no longer real support for a climate change bill because of "the personal and political collapse of Vice President Gore."

In other words, environmental warrior Al Gore is responsible for the weather, as well as the pathetic wimpiness of Mark Kirk.

Let's just think of it as the Sen. Kirk snowpocalypse.