As someone who has been covering the global warming debate, I listened closely to the "Live Earth" concerts on Saturday, broadcast by the BBC from London, Washington, New Jersey and several other locations around the world.

The music was inspired. The BBC's commentary was informative, witty and balanced.  But  the overall message -- that climate change is a serious issue -- was overwhelmed by the dominance of the celebrities.


A series of rock concerts, bringing young people together to take action on global warming, could have drawn large crowds simply by showcasing top young bands. But to have so much focus on Al Gore and Madonna gives fuel to critics who want portray global warming as a conspiracy cooked up by Democrats and Hollywood elites.  In reality, global warming is not about Al Gore.  It's a scientific consensus of thousands of climatologists from dozens of countries. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that global warming is real and caused by humans.  Putting Gore at center stage allows Republicans to dismiss this is a Democratic publicity stunt, perhaps tied into Gore's presidential ambitions.  Giving the microphone to Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio allows ExxonMobil lobbyists to characterize an environmental movement as a vehicle of millionaire liberal celebrities.

More effective would have been the same concert, with young rock bands .... but no-name announcers.

As an example, here is the reaction this morning from Frank Maisano, a power industry spokesman with the lobbying firm Bracewell Giuliani LLC, who distributes an emailed newsletter.  Frank writes: "I hope everybody enjoyed the seemingly endless "Live Earth" coverage.  Nothing like a bunch of multi-millionaire rock stars telling us what to do – and expressing it in song…By the way, somebody should tell Jon Bon Jovi the increases in energy costs required to meet global warming restrictions will have a disproportionate impact on "Tommy and Gina."  I guess they can continue "Livin' on a Prayer" though."

The presence of all the celebrities allowed Frank's power industry clients to portray themselves -- and average citizens -- as the victims of a conspiracy by millionarie liberals.

Reuters news service, like other news organizations, focused so much on Al Gore that it made it seem as though he invented global warming.   Frank Scheck's account for Reuters began: "The New Jersey edition of the seven-continent Live Earth concert series, designed to publicize the issue of climate change, was a little like Al Gore, the man who helped conceive it. Smartly organized, highly efficient and with its heart in the right place, it was also just a little bit dull."

A Washington Post article began like this:  "If you want to save the planet, I want you to start jumping up and down!" Thus Madonna revealed her plan to combat global warming. Clad in a black satin leotard, she gyrated with dancers and simulated sex with an amplifier and a guitar."

Does anyone think this is going to help the movement to reduce greenhouse gases? Has America become so celebrity-obsessed that we can't even discuss a serious political subject without borrowing a page from People magazine?

READER T.J. HARRIS sent in this reply: "Is it really a "serious political subject"? Or is it maybe that the issue is beyond politics now? That Frank and his power people are now simply the old farts who bemoan those kids today and their loud music?

I think that the global warming consensus has made the issue more cultural than political anymore -- and cultural change is where the big carbon savings are going to be.  Complain all you want, but People magazine reaches a lot more people than power industry newsletters."

MY RESPONSE: T.J. is absolutely right about the last point.  Pop culture, as expressed in People magazine, has a lot of power.  It's still to be seen, however, whether a volunteer effort by average folks will get anywhere -- given the continually rising appetite of the American people for energy and electronic gadgets.  To control that appetite, government regulation may be needed.  And in that arena, on Capitol Hill, the power industry (and lobbyists like Frank) have a lot of clout.

AN ANONYMOUS READER posted this reaction:

I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the concerts, but heard a snippet of a live interview on a radio station with Randy Jackson (American Idol) who was at the show at Giants Stadium. He was talking some nonsense about how people should use paper bags at the grocery store instead of plastic bags. I thought everyone knew that we should be using REUSABLE bags and not plastic OR paper, which each have their own negative environmental impacts. It was a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but made me wonder about the sincerity and the knowledge (and personal efforts) of the participating celebrities. I mean, it's now the celeb cause du jour, (kinda like Tibet a few years ago) and I think that honestly, it does turn some people off to caring about the actual messsage to see all these ill-informed "stars" preaching to the masses. I mean, I wonder how many bottles of water were consumed at the concerts? And were they recycled? Hmmm....

MY RESPONSE: I had a very similar reaction.  Why did the organizers of this event even want Hollywood types up on stage preaching?  Why not have climate change advocates, or public health professionals on stage between the rock bands?

It was a politically ineffective mechanism to have glitterati like Madonna telling people what to do -- and politically tone-deaf to much of "red state" America that connects liberalism, in general, to wealth.


In terms of the debate over paper-or-plastic bags, I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Anonymous there.  Some would argue that paper bags are marginally better than plastic bags, and so why not urge people to follow a path that allows more recycling?  Sure, bringing your own bags and reusing them would be ever better.  But if people aren't in a position to do this (for example, big families buying 25 bags of groceries) why not nudge them toward paper?