We need to stop worrying that the world will end on Jan. 1.

We need to start worrying it won't.

Because if Y2K doesn't get us, global warming will.

Global warming is the scientific name for "It's the middle of December, and my geraniums are still blooming."

Last Sunday I was in New York City, and it was 70 degrees. I'm walking in Central Park and I'm schvitzing like Hillary at an Arafat family reunion. I don't wanna say it's unseasonably warm, but Katie Couric didn't need to light the Christmas tree across from the NBC studios--it spontaneously combusted. I'll bet when the groundhog comes out of his hole, he's wearing a thong. Bada-bing.

The polar ice cap is melting like a wax banana on a steam grate. According to a study printed in This Here Washington Post, sea ice in Arctic waters is shrinking by about 14,000 square miles a year. That's an area larger than Maryland and Delaware combined. It's nearly the size of Al Gore's bald spot. That ice is melting. The water has to go somewhere, boys and girls. How about your basement?

The bad news is that the runoff will cause catastrophic global flooding that will ruin your carpets. The good news is, you'll be able to fish for trout in your living room.

Oh, I know--you're one of those folks who think that even if this is theoretically true, it won't actually happen for 1,000 years. Wise up: An area of solid ice the size of Maryland and Delaware is melting every year. Two states out of 50. Every year. Do the math, Einstein.

I've got two words for you people: Uh-oh.

That's one word, you moron.

Whatever. But don't worry about the polar ice cap melting.

I'm sure those can-do guys at NASA can help.

Maybe they could launch a Polar Ice Cap Lander. (Not that I don't have the utmost confidence in NASA, but maybe they should slap on a few "Dial 10-10-321" stickers, so when it crashes into, um, Argentina, whoever finds it can contact Mission Control. If only they'd done that with the Mars lander, which, unfortunately, is now taking the big dirt nap.)

You saw the photos of our NASA scientists, pained and forlorn, as they waited in vain for the Mars lander to start calling, right? They had a better chance of Jimmy Hoffa calling.

Not a peep.

I could have told them not to use Ford parts.

Basically, we spent $165 million to heave a water balloon at Mars.

At least for that kind of money, Ken Griffey Jr. would hit some home runs.

In their desperation, our scientists were reduced to trying to make contact with the lander using a UHF antenna.

A UHF antenna! Like on a 1968 Philco TV?

Was somebody supposed to go up on the roof and point it?

How about the phone on the lander? Was it a rotary?

We lost the lander. We lost the two basketball-size probes that were supposed to burrow themselves into Martian soil at 400 miles per hour and then send back signals. But that's not the embarrassing part. What's embarrassing is that we can lose all this, and we can't lose Celine Dion.

Hmmm. They have a probe (memo to NASA: Do us all a favor and lose that word) the size of a basketball packed with delicate telecommunications equipment, and they're going to slam it at the ground at 400 miles an hour--and they expect it to still work? I sneeze on my computer and it doesn't work.

As bad as this failure is, it's not as bad as the one in September, when we lost the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter after it crashed because somebody forgot to convert inches to centimeters.

Somebody forgot!

"Oops. Sorry, my bad."

What, have all the competent scientists defected to Uranus.com?

After all these disasters, does it ever occur to the folks at NASA that there is a very simple explanation: The people on Mars are sick of us lobbing metal at them, and they have stripped the equipment and sold the parts. Oh, like we're the only intelligent life in the universe? And the proof of that is what, Judge Judy?

Mercifully, it now appears they've decided to bag the remaining scheduled Mars trips. They were supposed to go in 2001, 2003 and 2005. (In 2002 and 2004, NASA is going to Hilton Head. Stand back when they start launching those Titleists.) There seems to be growing sentiment in Congress to take the hundreds of millions of dollars these trips would cost and ceremonially flush them down a big toilet--or stack them end to end and walk to Mars.

A reasonable person might ask: What are we going to Mars for, anyway? It's not like they've got an Olive Garden up there.

The irony is that we went all the way to Mars to look for signs of life, and those signs were supposed to be contained in water, frozen under the Martian surface.

They went to Mars for ice! What, the 7-Eleven was closed?

I got your ice right here, Science Boy.

But you better hurry. You only have a few years left before global warming melts it all.