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   As the world heats up, the public simply goes cold

   If you wanted to question whether global warming is indeed

upon us, last week was not the time to do it. Two weeks before

the official beginning of summer, a heat wave baked the

eastern third of the U.S. and Canada, driving temperatures

high into the 90s and even 100s. At the same time, a flurry of

scientific papers was released that seemed to explain all the

late-spring suffering. In one study, French researchers

reported that heat-trapping greenhouse gases are at their

highest levels in 420,000 years. In another, U.S. scientists

found that 57 species of butterfly may be altering their
migratory patterns in response to changing heat patterns.

   In light of all this, a sweltering public must have been

convinced at last that it's time to do something to cool off the

overheated planet, right? Wrong. Even as the temperature was

climbing, a new survey by the American Geophysical Union

found that Americans are less concerned than ever about

combatting global warming. "The more we talk about warming,"

says the study's director, John Immerwahr, "the [more the]

public's concern goes down."

   Such an environmental disconnect may not be much of a

mystery. Environmentalists complain that over the past two

years industry groups have launched a coordinated advertising

campaign to torpedo the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which requires

industrial nations to reduce greenhouse emissions. More than

$13 million has been spent on ads to block ratification of the

treaty by the U.S. Senate. "The purpose of the ads was to

convince most Americans that there isn't a problem or that

it's too expensive to fix," says National Environmental Trust

spokesman Peter Kelly.
   Environmentalists also criticize President Clinton for what

they believe is his failure to press the issue. Only last week,

Clinton moved for Kyoto treaty changes that environmental

groups see as industry-pleasing loopholes. Says Daniel Weiss,

the   Sierra   Club's   political    director:   "Timid   leaders

communicate     hopelessness."      And   hopelessness    breeds

indifference. If such popular so-whating persists, Immerwahr

warns, the public may begin grasping at phony solutions to

global warming. At the end of last week, some people took

comfort from the report of a vast haze of pollutants that

collects over the Indian Ocean in the winter, but that

researchers only recently studied. Filthy as the cloud is, it

does deflect solar radiation, and that could lead to cooling. But

scientists warn that we cannot simply pollute our way out of

global warming. The soot drops from the hazy atmosphere in

weeks, whereas greenhouse gases remain for centuries.

   The way out of this gridlock, environmentalists say, is to

show it's possible to reduce greenhouse gases without sinking

the economy. Solutions include cleaner cars and better wind-

and solar-power technologies. Says Greg Wetstone, program

director for the Natural Resources Defense Council: "When
these kinds of options become available, people will feel less

hopeless." Of course, it's also possible that only when people

feel less hopeless will they press their leaders to make the

solutions available.

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