climate change

“Asteroids and genetic engineering are a more serious threat than climate change” ?

is climate change just “a wedge issue”?

Firefighters battling the King Fire watch as a backfire burns along Highway 50 in Fresh Pond, California September 16, 2014. REUTERS/Noah Berger

My dialogue with a climate-change denier in sheep’s clothing continues.  


On Friday, November 23rd, 2018 the U.S. federal government published the National Climate Assessment, which is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies not normally viewed as tasked with frivolously stirring up the public for the sheer wedgeness of it all.

But first, Scientific Expert, your claim that:

The relative silence [of the media] on [asteroid collisions, genetic engineering] proves that climate change is a political wedge issue —

How on earth does it “prove” anything of the kind? Here’s our fundamental disagreement in a nutshell:

You: The relative silence proves there is an agenda.
Me: The relative silence is because these are not the most important issues / issues that the average person can affect in any way.

Certainly I agree with you that hidden agendas exist, probably more than we will ever know, and I’m not naively suggesting that we should believe everything we read in the papers without questioning it.

And another answer is certainly, “What gets reported is whatever sells.” If that’s the case, surely they’d be reporting on the impending asteroid, were that our fate, in the hope of maximising profits before before we’re all vaporised. Who would choose to push climate change? Climate change is not sexy; Hollywood screenwriters are not tossing about ideas for “Climate Change II: Failure of the Wheat Crops Over a Ten-Year Timespan!”

I do suggest it is a basic principle of reading a situation that, in the rush to interpret its hidden agenda, one does not overlook its most obvious meaning.

For all I or you know, teams of concerned scientists are at this moment creating the missiles to knock out that asteroid; or just perhaps, the asteroid threat is not as immediate and not as amenable to the drastic day-to-day changes of behavior that are required globally to put the brakes on the climate juggernaut we’ve set in motion.

I mean, what can the regular human do about asteroid impacts? I say, leave that to the experts — NASA and Lars von Trier! Or I guess we could all run out and throw medicine balls at each other, to build up muscle strength in our arms so we can, at the crucial moment, just hold the asteroid at bay. A futile gesture, but it passes the time while we wait for extinction.

As for genetic engineering of, say, a biological weapon, that’s a legit concern that falls roundly under the heading of terrorism, which I suppose would be in hand had not the Trump regime emptied the ranks of government of everyone appointed by or supposedly allied with Obama, and neglected to replace them. Oh, my mistake — replaced them with oil industry lobbyists and members of Trump’s family.

Maybe Trump, who states, “climate will probably change back” — now there’s a reassuring statement by a highly-qualified nerd-type guy clearly allied with science and reason and not afraid to show it — should be on your list of existential threats, just above “asteroid.”

And,  I’m sorry, but — you tell us that our Holocene ancestors took cataclysmic change in their stride and survived in their caves? Are you serious? I nearly choked on my GMO’d hamburger patty laughing when I read that. Was that supposed to be reassuring?

Either you’re teasing us, you rascal, or you’ve got one great first-class seat on that get-us-outta-here spaceship that carries the billionaires off to the new Las Vegas they’re building, somewhere in another galaxy that will appreciate them.

But back to that pesky report: The reasons for dumping this on the busiest shopping day of the year are not hard to figure out.

I quote from The Atlantic (and I’ve provided the link below to the full article):

The report is blunt: Climate change is happening now, and humans are causing it. “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” declares its first sentence. “The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”

…The report visits each region of the country, describing the local upheavals wrought by a global transformation. Across the Southeast, massive wildfires — like those seen now in California — could soon become a regular occurrence, smothering Atlanta and other cities in toxic smog, it warns. In New England and the mid-Atlantic, it says, oceanfront barrier islands could erode and narrow. And in the Midwest, it forecasts plunging yields of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice.

You’re correct that there will be time to decide what to do. That time is urgently, irrevocably, existentially now.

Read the story in The Atlantic

You can see the full conversation, if you’re feeling strong, on Medium

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Global warming: Real but “not existential?” Seriously?

Even worse than the deniers? “Experts” who downplay the crisis.


Mexico Beach, Florida, showing destruction by Hurricane Michael
Credit: David Goldman/AP

Dear Scientific Expert:

you have scientific cred like nobody’s business, yet you get all rolly-eyed on climate change. That’s what I don’t get. As far as I understand, and I understand maybe slightly more than the average bear, there is near complete consensus in the relevant scientific community about global warming and the urgent need to address this before it’s later than the too-late it already is.

Yes, agreed, climate is not inherently stable in that it undergoes macro-level shifts over time. I get that. And yes, those who, as Noam Chomsky pointed out, have an independent income and/or the chops to spend their entire lives uncovering the truth, should question what we read in the papers. Good luck with that one. (Though I do seem to recall that the New York Times, more relevant to me than Canada’s The Globe and Mail — I like my news first-hand — has been pretty clear on the consensus that we’re in big trouble. I don’t recall much hesitation along those lines.)

Notwithstanding all that, I don’t share your jolly optimism about how we averted a scheduled programming, ice-age catastrophe by creating a we-interrupt-your-scheduled-programming polar ice-cap melting catastrophe. Your comment reminds me of a Trumpism — and I’m sorry, I don’t mean that to be quite as insulting as it inevitably turns out to be because of it being, you know, Trump — along the lines of “gee, it’s pretty darn cold today, so much for the fake global warming hysteria promulgated by Democrats!” Or friends I hear saying, “Thank god for global warming, now I get to wear my Speedos in Toronto in February.” Or Reagan’s “If you’ve seen one giant sequoia, you’ve seen ’em all.” You get my drift: The pin-headed, narcissistic benefit or one’s agreeably devil-may-care attitude to life does not outweigh or negate the reality of the actual disaster.

The pin-headed, narcissistic benefit [from climate change] or one’s agreeably devil-may-care attitude to life does not outweigh or negate the reality of the actual disaster.

If the conservative spectrum would stop, yes, denying the fact of anthropogenic global warming due to the hothouse effects of greenhouse gases, largely produced since the industrial revolution and now in overdrive, then it wouldn’t have to be “politicized.” (It’s analogous to “identity politics.” Stop discriminating against me on the basis of my identity, and we won’t need the identity politics. Kind of thing?). Like, not just questioning the data. Destroying the data, reams of data. Denying as in “this is not happening, it’s a hoax.” That very word, “hoax.” Do YOU think global warming is a hoax? Clearly not. How can that NOT become politicized, and who’s politicizing it?

Your reasoning leaves me rolling MY eyes. (Maybe we should get an act together? No, I guess not.) Yes, in theory there is triage to be done. There are indeed umpteen worrisome things, from nanobots setting up training camps in our blood vessels to whether pin-headed narcissist Elon Musk will crash his spaceship into a nuclear facility, but that doesn’t change the fact that seas are going to be rising and the situation is projected to look pretty dire by about 2050. I’ll be ninety-five then, though I won’t look it, and I’d like to visit Fort Lauderdale in my bath chair, attended by disco-boys wearing silver hot pants and not much else, before it turns into the underwater theme park of Disney’s dreams, or the final scene of “A.I.”.

The thing about not knowing, forgive me for reminding you, is that you don’t know. Also, you don’t know what you don’t know. I can imagine any number of scenarios arising from higher sea levels that are pretty darn existential. You see, I somehow feel that mass migrations of hundreds of thousands of hysterical, hungry, homeless Americans, and Canadians for that matter, from the coasts when the giant tide rolls in, or the fallback from Category 6 hurricanes— yes, 6, they don’t quite exist yet, but they’re projected for next September; these are mega-hurricanes that will level everything in their path like a smart bomb — I suspect this will not be a little thing in a country with crumbling infrastructure, no real health care, a whole lot of guns and a FEMA that is barely functional. How many troops will you have to call out then, and where will the wall be and will the cyber attack on the internet be far behind? I don’t believe that you can’t imagine this just as easily as I can.

I guess, in the end, two things. Your scientific cred plus your dismissive attitude makes the word “agenda” pop up in my mind like a scary clown out of a scary clown box; and secondly, your dismissal of the dire situation we are in, existential or no, is irresponsible, in that it is likely to be condensed in those politicized minds to, “See? A science guy and he says it’s not important. Let’s get the second Hummer.” Yet another voice added to the “hoaxers” and the deniers, whether you intended that or not; and more obfuscation of those very people you are already so impatient with who just don’t get it, and more confusion added to all those media outlets who fail to explain so that average joes can understand the way you understand.

And every qualified voice like, I assume, yours, that adds to that negative drag on this task we needed to have begun twenty years ago weighs about one tonne more than any given voice added to the scientific consensus that we must begin. 

It all adds up to some pretty politicized pooh-poohing, if you ask me.