Red and Blue: Global Harming

Replying to Brian’s post about taking adaptive measures to global warming. This was too long for a comment.

Let’s say that, for some reason, you find the editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette to be a more credible source than ninety-odd percent of climate researchers, and you decide that the best political course of action is to do nothing until the crisis is obvious. I’ll stipulate that at such time, we’ll have much more evidence than we do now, so it’s therefore likely that we will have a better set of possible solutions at that future date than we do today.

That leaves three problems.

1) I hope you’ll agree with me that there is some level of human suffering caused by climate change today. (Such as the inhabited island that is no longer above sea level.) Your argument can be rephrased as, “there is not enough suffering yet to call this problem a crisis, therefore we Americans (who will be among the last to suffer) will wait until the suffering and death has increased.” Do you have benchmark total in mind for how much suffering and death is required before we agree it’s crisis time?

2) You further presume that there is a linear progression into crisis; unfortunately, climate science tends to disagree with you on this point. You have tipping points, chaotic effects, and runaway processes, such that there are potential effects that outstrip our ability to respond, even presuming continued technological progress. How well would America and Europe respond if the impact is a Dust Bowl cutting off the food supply? Or if England gets dropped into a Siberian temperature zone? Or Boston and Seattle?

3) Finally, note that the same country that you expect to become levee-building ubermenschen is the one that built the levees in New Orleans. At what point do you expect our government to be blessed with such wonderful foresight, and how many cities do you expect to lose in the process?

On the bright side, it will probably be much more scenic to take a boat to Manhattan than the subways, and you’ll be able to get off right at the 34th floor, saving much elevator time.

One thought on “Red and Blue: Global Harming

  1. Sigh…where to begin:

    a) The editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette was disagreeing with a panel of journalists, who were discussing the media’s coverage of the Global Warming issue, not a group of scientists. The scientists’ job is to prove that global warming is happening. When scientists start discussing the geosocial and geopolitical ramifications of what is happening, they are, quite frankly, talking out of their asses. To be fair: I haven’t seen too many scientists do this. But discrediting a journalist’s opinion of the latter by comparing it to the widely held scientific view of the former is just logical three-card monte.

    1) The article you linked to says that two islands have disappeared over a period of eight years (and that’s just the eight years they were studying them – I’m sure the actual disappearance took much, much longer). It throws out a figure of 70,000 affected, but doesn’t give a timeline for that. This was not a surprise, by any stretch of the imagination. And I know it’s not politically correct to say so, but if those 10,000 people lived in Miami, or DC, or New York, the resources dedicated to keeping them afloat would have been far greater than what occurred here. That may not be fair, but it’s true.

    2) I’ve never seen a single prediction claiming that we’d wake up one morning and find that the midwest is suddenly a Dustbowl, or that Boston is suddenly in the artic circle. In fact, everything I’ve read suggests just the opposite. 1-2 degree changes in temperature each year, 1-2 inches on the water level each year, etc. Back in the mid-90’s, everyone was claiming El Nino was going to destroy life as we knew it in California. Turns out, Enron did that, not El Nino. Go figure…

    3) Find the word “government” in my post. It’s not there. Much like the Y2K crisis, people will solve this when there’s money available for, and profit to be made by, solving it. New corporations that specialize in levee building will spring up, and they’ll compete for who makes the best levees at the cheapest price. And I will likely invest in one or more of them – both because they’ll be doing important work and because I’ll likely make a ton of money as their profits soar. Again, this may not be politically correct, but it’s true. Also, I’m sure that when it happens, the Gore camp will claim that America “finally woke up & listened to them.” So winners all around…

    Oh, and as to the question about how many cities we’ll lose in the process: zero. Note that we haven’t lost New Orleans either. Despite the large poor population, New Orleans has (had) a thriving economy – huge tourism revenue, and a major seaport. The people who run New Orleans could have been taxing the hell out of these revenue sources to build the best levees the world has ever seen decades ago. Instead, they chose to ignore the problem just like the Federal Government and the ACOE did. And now that the city is a mess, they seem to be putting much more effort into complaining about the lack of help they’re getting than actually solving the problem themselves (again, I’m talking about the government here – the local residents and businesses are doing absolutely heroic things to bring the city back).

    New Orleans will be back, and it’ll be in spite of the short attention span of the American people and their various levels of governments. And then another major storm will come through and the (unfixed) levees will fail again, and we’ll blame whoever’s in the Oval Office at the time, and the viscious cycle will repeat. In any case, all of it will be 90% due to politics short attention spans, and 10% due to global warming…

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