Reason for a New Age

About Climate Change – Part 3

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/06


In the previous two posts, I discussed why fears that climate science–at least in the US–are biased and unreliable is a needless worry. There’s as much push to disprove global warming as to prove it and measures in place to deal with falsified and unreliable data.

Now I could continue to talk about the science or further reasons to trust/distrust it, but I’d rather move on to the practicalities of it all. If you’re interested in the science, as you’ll see from my previous blog, you can trust the EPA in regards to this issue. Here is their site which goes through it all. They can go over it more effectively than I can.

In this post, what I would like to discuss is why you shouldn’t care at all about climate change. But note that there is a “Part 4” to come, where I will discuss why you should still approve all or most of the measures being proposed to deal with global warming.

To discuss why we shouldn’t care, though, we need to first look at what is actually meant to occur if warming continues.

When I was in college, a friend said to me that he had heard that the Empire State Building was built such that you could get in a plane and crash right into it, and the building would remain standing. But, he said, if you were to fly an airplane into a modern skyscraper, it would collapse.

I’m not sure of the veracity of the first part of his statement, but the latter was of course proven a few years later on September 11th. But the point that he was making was in pointing out how, as technology and understanding improves, the margin of error that goes into construction falls. They know exactly what they want to achieve, and they know exactly how to build to just that standard, without excess. The Empire State Building, in this example, has been built to be excessively durable. It simply doesn’t need to be that strong to deal with all of the calamities that the builder would reasonably foresee (of which, getting hit with a plane wasn’t one of them.)

Buildings in California are naturally going to be more earthquake proof than buildings in Montreal, while as buildings in Montreal are going to be much more resistant to cold and bad weather. But, buildings in California are still only proof up to some level of earthquake. A 9 point earthquake would likely level a city there just as much as it would any city anywhere. Given the option, humans build up to the limit of probable need, not the limit of capability.

So now when you ask, what exactly does it matter if there the planet is warmer by one or two degrees? The answer isn’t that polar bears will lose their territory, rather it’s that we will get to find out where we wished we would have built things a bit better. With the oceans raising in temperature, wind speeds and overall condensation will increase, causing more magnificent storms. With that energy swooping away faster, it might create greater pockets of cool in its absence. Basically, for any sort of weather condition you might view an area as being prone to, you should expect that it will become heightened.

And yes, the ocean will rise, but at the moment the best estimates are that over the next century it will only rise about 1.5 to 3 feet. This may be of concern to specific low regions, but is not a general worry for most people. Continents aren’t going to sink.

The region in which particular things are grown will also migrate. Plants are adapted to a particular climate and simply don’t fare well outside of it. Areas that are currently abundant with fruit might become poor for general farming, while as areas that are currently poor might become ideal. Adapting and migrating along with this change could be costly.

But, like I said, you really shouldn’t care.

The US can afford to adapt to change. We aren’t an impoverished nation, and for as bad as things might get, it’s not going to turn the US into a wasteland. Our buildings aren’t poorly built shacks, so even though they might be insufficient to coming needs, they will probably simply get more battered than the owner would really prefer. Katrina style incidents are probably not going to be commonplace, and for as bad as that was, frankly it only killed ~1,800 people, which isn’t really all that large a number, and probably most of whom were the terribly poor and ill and would likely have been more of a drag on society than a gain if there had been no disaster at all. Apologies for my pragmatism.

Simply put, yes there will be greater deaths and disasters in the US, but nothing to an extent that it would even be statistically significant compared to wars, driving drunk, poverty, crime, or any other sort of thing that we live with day-to-day and yet still manage to live merrily watching TV and browsing the internet. 99.999% of people will not be affected and tales of bad things happening due to climate change will be bad things that happened to some other people elsewhere in the nation and “Oh my, isn’t that sad?”

Now there almost certainly are regions of the world where the occurrence of climate change will signal disaster. Africa, Indonesia, regions of South America, pretty much anyplace where the majority of the populace is poor, starved, living in shacks, and has no immediate hope of ever having a government that will give a damn.

But if you want to stop global warming to save poor impoverished African children, then personally I would say that you’re missing the forest for the trees. Children in Africa are already starving. They’re already just as likely to die of some epidemic, war, ethnic cleansing, or lion attack. Adding one more epidemic on top of all that really doesn’t worsen the situation by all that much. And the base problem behind that all is that they have poor economies and bad government. By dealing with that, you are going to save far more lives than you could ever get by solving climate change. Fixing climate change would have a negligible effect in all reality. Their life is going to be pretty dismal regardless.

At some point in the future I hope to examine some possible ideas for the future of Africa (and other poor areas of the world) that would ideally be practical, popular (for both them and us), and possibly even lucrative.

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