It’s Raining, But Not for Long

Irma ThomasWe have had basically no rain this season and it isn’t looking like there will be much rain in the near future. But today, and today only, it is raining!

This is, folks, my biggest worry about global warming. Rising temperatures should cause more rain. And indeed, the models all predict more rain. It is just that it mostly falls over the ocean where it doesn’t really help us. In graduate school, I worked with a guy who did great (really meticulous) work correlating temperature and rainfall for the United States. The results were that the United States is going to become a much drier place. As a result, food production (especially things like wheat and corn) will be pushed north. And if you really think that this couldn’t one day end up in a war between the United States and Canada, then you are naive and probably don’t read this blog anyway.

In general, I don’t talk about this issue to people because what’s happening this year doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But I am definitely worried. And what all this means to the natural environment is totally unknown. Animals can migrate. So can plants, but they do it really slowly—far too slowly to deal with what we have going on. The earth will muddle through the whole thing, but it could still be a catastrophe. Meanwhile, conservatives are unwilling to do any kind of a risk analysis. Two years ago this month, I wrote, A Really Big Problem. I asked a question:

Let’s suppose there is only a one percent chance that global warming is actually happening. If it does happen, it is going to have a profound effect on future generations, and certainly for the next five generations, it is going to be worse for the next than it was for the last. If this has only a 1% chance of happening, isn’t it a good idea to be truly conservative and try to stop it from happening, rather than continuing on as we have for the sake of the fossil fuel industry?

That’s what I just don’t get. Conservatives act like it is absolutely impossible that this is happening. Clearly there is enough evidence that it deserves that we invest some resources into countering it. But actually, there are three stages of global warming denial:

  1. There is no global warming!
  2. There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
  3. Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it!

There are people in all of the categories. I get really annoyed at the people at stage one. These are the people who claim that it is all a hoax. And why is it a hoax? Why would all those scientists lie? Because of all the money! ExxonMobile made $41 billion in 2011, but it is some climate scientist with his $50,000 a year job who is lying because of the money. And note: if a climate scientist found results that countered the prevailing theories, he would not only get a lot of money, he would become famous. That’s how science works!

The people at stage two are making a better argument. The climate system is complicated and correlation is not causation. Of course, the case for anthropogenic global warming is a lot more than that. But mostly people at stage two talk about the sunspot cycle and wave their hands around a lot. The terrible thing is that solar forcing is the first thing that goes into the models. And a complete accounting of solar changes has been included in the models for the last two decades. So these people really have nothing to back up their claims other than their desire to believe.

The stage three people anger me the most. These are the exact same people who claim that we must balance the federal government budget today because we are destroying our children’s future. Well, economically, that turns out not to even be true. But they make that inter-generational argument. However, we can’t do anything to hurt profits today even though it will have negative effects on future generations and it may well have catastrophic effects. It is simply untrue that we can’t do anything about global warming. It is true that doing something about it may be expensive. But that’s very different from having no options. These are the worst kind of people: they don’t give a damn about the kids but they are more than willing to use them to further their political agendas.

But like I said, it is raining today. And I love the rain. So here is one of my favorite singers Irma Thomas singing the hell out of “It’s Raining” by another Louisiana legend Allen Toussaint:

11 thoughts on “It’s Raining, But Not for Long

  1. Old-school conservatives should embrace climate science. "We told you, you were changing too much, too fast." But there are no old-school conservatives remaining. If C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton were alive today, they’d agree totally that we’ve fucked things up with modern technology. Or maybe they wouldn’t. They were, after all, rather jerks. Quite lucid jerks, to be sure.

    You forget in your classification of climate-change apologists category number 4: "It is happening, but technology will find a way for us to do exactly what we do now and make everything OK!" Or, category number 5: "We will adapt, as we always have."

    4 & 5 express, I think, the true belief system of modern "conservatives." Power wins. Power always wins. And power will reward those who serve it.

    I recently saw a link someone sent me about the enduring appeal of British television’s unspeakably cheesy/stupid "Doctor Who." It was not very good (so I won’t share it) but it had a good line: "romance and intellect win over brute force and cynicism."

    Modern "conservatives" believe in nothing but brute force and cynicism. Why this is, I have no idea. The old-school conservatives they cite, the Lewises and Chestertons and Lockes and Humes and Smiths or, ad nauseum, roll out the list, were not believers in brute force and cynicism. They were not idealists; they did not think attempts to empower the poor would end up in anything but disaster. They also did not worship the cruel and the powerful for the sake of loving cruelty and power. Modern "conservatives" do. I don’t know why that is, except that totalitarianism might be the end result of every attempt at democracy. There’s a good argument to be made for that.

    This is a bleak time. But, hey. We’re looking at the future and seeing doom. Occasionally, people in much worse present situations than simply being doomstruck over the future have made important changes. Does it happen often? No. Would I bet on it happening? No. But it’s not impossible.

  2. It’s been pouring rain here most of the day. Can’t complain about the warmer temp, even though I know it means that we’re all doomed.

  3. @JMF – I think that stages 4 and 5 are exactly the same. And I think they both really are the same as stage 3, or they are alternatives. What they all claim is that global warming is real but that nothing should (or could) be done. Saying we will adapt (via technology or not) is just saying that nothing can be done but it will all be fine. It is the typical conservative thinking: problem -> a miracle happens -> no problem.

    I take exception with some of your list of conservatives. For example, the modern American caricature of Adam Smith is as a conservative, but he was a moral philosopher and really quite liberal. I would say the same of Hume. It is easy for conservatives to claim thinkers of the past as their own, because, for example, modern conservatives no longer believe in slavery. Glenn Beck even tried to claim that Thomas Paine was conservative, when it would be hard to find a man in history who is so much the opposite of Glenn Beck.

    I know that eventually we will deal with global warming. But at that time, all the conservatives will forget all about what they said before. Meanwhile, there will be new problems, which they will deny. The problem is that they never learn. After they learned that slavery was wrong, they still believed that "separate but equal" was fine. They are like students who can memorize a new formula, but not the theory behind it and therefore not how to use the formula.

    Think for a moment about the average [i]Fox News[/i] viewer who believes the big racism problem is black on white. If they had not had the idea that slavery is wrong drummed into their heads, they would still believe it was right. One simply cannot look out at modern America and think that whites are an oppressed people. Especially white males!

  4. Try not to take too much exception. I look back on the old conservatives (and Smith was not exactly a liberal in his day) with a great deal of wistful affection. If we had their like today, we’d be in better shape. Of course we do have their like today, but they are not given massive media publicity. Apologists for brute force and cynicism are, in omnipresent droves; some liberals get published by some sites/magazines few people read. Conservatism, old-school conservatism, is long since dead and buried. Maybe when liberalism died it took conservatism with it.

  5. @JMF – Oh, I don’t take much exception. But Smith really did worry about how resources were distributed. Modern conservatives really have become focused on social Darwinism. Even their best minds are lost in a theoretical abyss. No one in the movement is interested in practical matters. And that’s why the movement is dead. They think that the rich are rich because it is not only right, it is [i]natural[/i]. They see society as nothing but a game where there are winners and losers. (This is very much what the Nazis thought.) They really should be ashamed of talking in that way. Life is not a game. How rich you are is determined more than anything else on how rich you were born. And the top 50% of income earners live 6 years longer than the bottom 50% of income earners. This is a matter of life and death and conservatives don’t take it seriously. Even Burke took such things seriously. Hell, even Buckley took it seriously compared to these modern assholes.

  6. "Cannibalize all assets for current consumption. Borrow money that can never be repaid, and loot the pension fund. When it all blows up, I’ll be gone, You’ll be gone." It’s not just the Bain playbook anymore. It’s energy and environmental policy.
    So why don’t people vote? Short of violence, it’s the only thing we have.

  7. @Lawrence – For a couple of years now, I have been of the opinion that the only thing that really matters in politics is getting as many people to vote as possible. The truth is Democracy works. When people vote, we win.

    I see signs that people are starting to wake up to this. But it hasn’t gotten quite bad enough. Of course, one good thing about being unemployed is that you can wait in line all day to vote.

    I certainly hope it never comes to violence, but if I were rich, I would be worried about that.

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