Like the mythical phoenix rising out of the ashes of its own flames, the global warming story has risen out of the pile of clichés and denials into which it had collapsed or perhaps been pushed.
Pushed by whom? The allegations include everyone from intimidated or befuddled journalists to profit-hungry oil and coal companies. What's happening now? The makings of a change in the zeitgeist -- a new cultural map delineating the risk to humanity as the planet gets warmer.
- "Too Hot NOT to Handle," on HBO, a half hour of clear and passionate explanations by world-class scientists, followed by solidly grounded ideas for solutions to help prevent global catastrophe.
- "An Inconvenient Truth," which has Al Gore describing what he calls a planetary emergency, opens in movie theaters around the world in late May.
- Discovery Channel and others also have their own Earth Day series on global warming.
Already you may have caught:
- "Hot Zone: The Reality and Risk of Global Warming," a two-day series on ABC News programs and outlets, including this Web site, where it will be updated continually, since this is, unfortunately, a story with a future.
- Time magazine's special issue last week with "Be worried, be very worried" on the cover.
- Vanity Fair's first "green issue" with a cover sporting Al Gore, Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
There was even a two-hour "Global Warming Comedy Special" on TBS, which reaffirmed what the great Stanley Kubrick proved with "Dr. Strangelove," his classic dark comedy about nuclear war. Some threats are too grim to be absorbed except with a strong dose of denial-defeating humor.
The difference between nuclear holocaust and global warming is that the former hasn't happened. The latter (according to all but a tiny handful of scientists) is well under way and is caused either substantially or solely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Hollywood producer Laurie David is a driving force behind three of the above projects (the HBO program, the Gore movie and the TBS comedy special), but global warming is no longer the province of "Hollywood liberals" or Democrats.
At a screening of the HBO hour in Washington, I spoke not only with former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, who reports there's a new bipartisan surge to fight global warming, but I also heard about the urgency of emissions regulations from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of a growing number in his party now openly worried about global warming.
As people of all political stripes now say in one way or another, there are no Republican or Democrat children.
But why have editors and the public taken so long to catch up to the reality about which the world's scientists have for 10 years agreed? An unusual scientific agreement arrived slowly after three decades of rigorous skeptical debate. Natural psychological denial alone cannot explain it.
Were some parties trying to keep us confused as long as possible?
And if so, to what end?
And why would they do this, given the seriousness of the matter? Global warming has long been understood to have catastrophic consequences for civilization that will happen sooner or later and possibly within this century if greenhouse gas emitters continue with business as usual.