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What "proves" what?

Climate Denial

Climate Change/Chaos/Denial -- Larry Wines

  • Three shark attacks on North Carolina beaches, two of them just an hour and a few miles apart.
  • An entire zoo of animals running wild — including lions and tigers and hippos — after unprecedented floods in the capital city of the nation of Georgia (Eastern Europe) wrecked the zoo and much of Tblisi. Most of these animals, though innocent in what's happening, will likely be killed by overwhelmed authorities who do not have safe places to put them or anything appropriate to feed them.
  • Record floods for weeks in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and — wait for it — record tornadoes on the way (again) in the Great Plains states.
  • Record drought in several Western states, with water rationing for cities and agriculture — and ancient natural environments stressed beyond the point of what's sustainable, including many indigenous species' geographical ranges shrinking after hundreds of thousands of years, and their numbers declining so much that for some, extinctions will loom.
  • Tornado funnel clouds in Southern California, where they are unheard of.
  • Add your own, because the list keeps growing.

Now: Which of these is "proof" of global climate change?

Not one of them; but... no changing system on the scale of the earth's atmosphere, with the necessarily cyclical weather patterns it produces, with its rainy seasons, dry seasons, planting seasons, flowering seasons, growing seasons, nesting seasons, mating seasons, calving seasons, fledging seasons, grazing seasons, prevailing winds, moisture-laden cloud patterns at specific times of year, ability to support migrating birds and butterflies and other pollinators at just the right times, ability to sustain local bee populations and everything else that naturally lives in any given "somewhere" to fill the natural niches and comprise a functioning and self-sustaining web of life in an ecosystem, all dependent on repetitive patterns in global and physiographically regional climate?

In science, the burden of proof is always on whomever suggests a change in conventional wisdom, or the absence of wisdom that accompanies entrenched assumptions.

You shouldn't expect one thing to prove a new pattern. Yet one broken link in a food chain or in a web of life in an especially fragile and delicately balanced environment, like a desert, can change everything and cause the collapse of a natural system. Insufficient rain means insufficient or absent food, absence of the right natural materials for nest-building, or inability for some species to stockpile adequate food in a burrow for the hot, dry summer or the cold, freezing winter.

You shouldn't be backed against a wall and asked to "prove something" on the basis of one of those listed examples of climate chaos with which we began this. Yet, in science, the burden of proof is always on whomever suggests a change in conventional wisdom, or the absence of wisdom that accompanies entrenched assumptions.

Climate change deniers happily twist and manipulate that basic fact of scientific methodology. But those deniers are at the end of the road. Because it isn't simply the preponderance of evidence that screams at us that human actions continue to produce climate chaos. Weather phenomena have become consistently inconsistent, reliably unreliable, predictably unpredictable, increasingly chaotic, overpoweringly powerful, devastatingly debilitating.

It's insane that every Republican Presidential candidate is a climate-change denier. Of course, they're all competing for nearly a billion dollars in the Koch brothers GOP presidential nominee sweepstakes, and a requirement to qualify for the cash? You must be a climate-change denier.

It's insane, the action of the governor of the first state that will go underwater as the rise of sea levels accelerates. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has prohibited his state's employees from using the phrases "climate change" and "global warming." Pay no attention to that 500-pound gorilla behind the curtain (even if he escaped from the zoo destroyed by record floods) — if you ignore him, he'll go away.

Except he won't go away. Just like the billion-dollar political campaign war chest for climate-change deniers won't go away.

The things that will go away?

Start with your lawn. In the West, it'll wither beneath the hot, dry sun. In Louisiana and Southeast Texas, it'll wash into the Gulf, past all the vanishing wetlands, where it will join the pool of oily goo on the Gulf's sea floor.

And much of your affordable food supply will go away as water for farmers' fields costs too much to pump from ever-deeper wells and as natural sources and imported irrigation canals run dry. And you're in trouble with your hamburger as livestock gets butchered too early because high water costs mean ever-higher feed costs, and ranchers throw in the towel.

And a whole lot of what we take for granted as our beautiful natural world will go away.

Entire forests of tall pines are dying where they stand — where those trees have stood for hundreds of years, where their species have stood since the end of the last ice age.

Also because of the drought, California's trademark Mojave Desert joshua trees are dying as their relentlessly dry habitat just becomes too dry.

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And California's old oak forests and chaparral communities will burn, catastrophically, devastatingly, and expensively, as everyone pays to save a few rich people's homes they should never have been allowed to build with their hilltop views in the first place. And the animals who live in those hills? They'll be done. They will go away.

Same result for the unique web of life in Florida's Everglades. Unless somebody as wealthy as the Koch brothers wants to build Holland-style dikes around them to hold back the sea and pump rain runoff uphill into the ocean. Who knows? The lengths oil people will go to, just to preserve and protect the economic primacy of, and the global addiction to, oil.

Koch brother David sits on the governing board of both the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum in D.C. and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Esteemed science institutions, one of which produced the only prominent scientist who suggests that climate change is a hoax, and who was subsequently found to have been wallowing in payola. Even as Koch brother David funds the "Nova" science series on PBS. Even as the brothers' Koch Industries funds an ever-growing stable of political news and public affairs tv shows which, curiously enough, have taken topics of climate change off their on-air agendas.

Al Gore called all of it "An Inconvenient Truth" and pointed out rich economic interests that campaign and propagandize to deny that climate change is happening, and moreover, that it is driven by human actions.

The more science learns, the more evidence we can access that the need to change things is not simply inconvenient in terms of timing or economics. It's desperately urgent. And the push-back makes it all the more so.

It's more a ship of fools. It's an excruciatingly inscrutable self-delusional denial on the part of the irreconcilibly greedy who want more for themselves no matter what. It's the intentionally stupid. It's inclusive of a righteously religious element who think it sinful to open the door, even a crack, to facts. And it's driven by the rich and powerful manipulators to preserve a status quo they think they understand — in terms of money — and believe they can continue to control for their own illusion of mastery over the dominion of the Earth, for their own self-aggrandizement.

Maybe we should call the ship of fools the SS Climate Kochsucker. But wait. Better look at who's on board.

Even as the ship sinks. Because the ship is the one with all of us on board. Doesn't matter if you've been handing-out life vests and seasick pills and yelling at the bridge to change course or down into the engine room to slow down. We're all on the same big, leaking ship where the bands play and the booze flows and the legalized marijuana helps keep enough people from noticing what's happening and that it's all unsustainable.

The lower decks are filled with the poor. The cargo hold is full of food, but its hatches are quietly being chained. The ship is the real Noah's Ark with everything from polar bears to penguins to African elephants to black rhinos to exotic birds to unique snails to undiscovered plants with potential medicinal properties to species of flora and fauna still unknown to science. All are on board our big, shared, ship. And it's in trouble.

The lights and the fresh air supply and the plumbing and the pumps on those lower-class and cargo decks are all failing because pumps and lights don't work on a ship that fails to maintain its infrastructure and see to the needs of the least of its passengers.

We were already in trouble because we insisted on putting all other life forms on some kind of "cargo" decks, as if all was, is, and always will be, subservient to the spaces we elevate for oppulent revelry and comfort.

As always, things don't trickle down from the decks above, they engulf you in the flood that starts somewhere beneath you and that just keeps rising around you. Claiming the children because they're short and haven't had time to learn to be innovative and devise a way out. Claiming the old and infirm because they just can't get away from calamity. Claiming the handicapped because, hey, if there's no saving infrastructure for you, why should there be for them?

As the waters rise, we're apalled but not surprised that they're oil-soaked waters — the reeking, toxic product of a ship too long fueled and powered by a paradigm we bitched and moaned about because its manipulators routinely ripped us off for it, and that we therefore knew we should have abandoned before it was too late. But we didn't, because "we" are the poor many and "they" are the controlling few. But we were always the poor many, and here we are, with the putrid waters rising and the fresh water gone.

And the rich are on the top deck with their gourmet kitchen and celebrity chefs and jacketed waiters and armed security and private food supply and flowing champagne and decadent entertainment of huge fountains of sparkling water frivilously and uselessly arching off into the sea alongside the fireworks show, behind the dancing girls and the plate-spinners — and their audience is aloof and detached, unconcerned because they're on the deck with all the lifeboats. Which they control.

Except we're too far now from a balmy shore, lined with coconut palms and trees filled with guava and mangos. Those islands went underwater as the seas rose. Any bountiful shore is too far now for the range of those lifeboats. Besides, the climate chaos that the lifeboat owners deny will likely shatter the self-rescue scheme of their elite occupants as they're engulfed in a hurricane.

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And nobody, but nobody, is coming to rescue any of us if we let the ship sink.

Larry Wines