Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Matter How You Slice It


A study published last weekend on Nature Climate Change claims to give the lie to the notion that if the world is warming, it’s not our fault.

With the kind of certainty that will send the Heartland Institute reaching for Plan C (“the world should focus on mitigation”), the study, The study, Human-induced global ocean warming on multidecadal timescales, ends with the bald factual statement: “We have identified a human-induced fingerprint in observed estimates of upper-ocean warming on multidecadal timescales”.

Alternatively, as oceanographer Professor Nathan Bindoff of the University of Tasmania put it speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “No matter how you look at it, we did it”.

That creaking sound you hear is the wingnut machine gearing up to find someone else to blame. So much for "personal responsibility," huh?

The capitalist system, at least as espoused in this country, pretends that individual pursuits will create a greater good. And that only works in closed systems, and with heavy (Adam Smith* was quite clear on this point) governmental supervision with the potential for intervention.

(*side note: I'd actually give capitalism a try if we agreed to stick to the rules Smith laid out, by the way, and stop whining that "government is the problem.")

Why should government get involved? Because a person might be smart, but he's short-sighted. People as a body are stupid, but still short-sighted. If anyone doubts this, the lessons of Easter Island make it quite clear. There, an entire civilization cleared every tree off an island, destroyed the entire vegetative ecosystem and then vanished, mostly through exodus but in large part by simply dying off.

They killed themselves off in their greed.

A government that can identify and track a problem is in the best position to find solutions that restore some form of balance to the equation. It's not perfect, mostly because it's human, but it is a damn sight better than warning everyone to stop doing what their doing.

That turns into a global game of Steal The Bacon, where everyone sort of eyes everyone else and says, "You go first." Problems like this that affect everyone demand leadership that everyone will listen to. After all, how many decades have scientists warned Americans...hell, the world, about the dangers of cigarette smoking? Yet it wasn't until the governments of the world rolled up their collective sleeves and started imposing regulations and laws that we saw smoking decline.

"Libertarians" would say that it's an individual decision to smoke or pollute his environment, and I'd say, "Great! If that person can stand living in a bubble completely cut off from the rest of us, fine. He or she can smoke and pollute and litter to his heart's content."

But it's a societal problem that has consequences far beyond the little bubble that person lives in. This is the point "libertarians" don't get. You pay for someone else's mess. This is akin to asking you to wipe someone else's ass.

In this study published in Nature Climate Change, shows that naturally recurring events can only account for about ten percent of global oceanic temperature rise.

Meaning humanity scored an "A" in fucking the planet up!

Global climate change can't be traced to a single people...although the US would have to be at the top of any list of culprits...but it can be attributed to the cumulative effects of arrogance and greed of individuals, coupled with a lack of internal censors and individual responsibilities.

As we've seen, people pretty much suck, full stop, but they suck in particular about problems that are not their immediate concern. Even when you show them the consequences of their actions-- if you're old enough, you remember the pollution commercial from the Seventies where an actor portraying a First Nationer weeps at the damage done to his land-- many choose to ignore those consequences or come to some bizarre Kubler-Ross level of mourning that they get trapped in: usually denial, often anger.

It's going to take that level of presentation, an abrupt disaster broadcast 24/7 across the world that cannot possibly be denied as global oceanic warming or sea level rise, for Americans to come to grips with it. I figure if maybe Pensacola, Florida, or Biloxi, Mississippi were suddenly swallowed up by the sea, never to return, that might do it.

But then I thought that before Katrina hit.