There is only one story now. It is the story that is the heartwood of every other story in the news at the moment-from the California wildfires to the migrant crisis at our southern border, to the sudden spread of every epidemic disease from Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to dengue fever in India, to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. It is the story of an existential threat to the survival of the human race, and it was dropped, deliberately, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a day that has been rigged for brainless consumerism.
It is the story of a species suicide that includes the many methods-fire, drowning, drought-by which a species can die. From The New York Times:
But in direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.
“There is a bizarre contrast between this report, which is being released by this administration, and this administration’s own policies,” said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. All told, the report says, climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.
The previous inter-agency report, issued in 2014, speculated on the eventual costs of ignoring the climate crisis. The overall conclusion of this report, which is damning in its specificity, as we shall see, is that the costs of doing nothing-or, as is the case of the current administration*, actively doing the wrong things, over and over again-are already being paid in lives and property and treasure, and that the piper isn't anywhere near finished dunning us, either.
From a second Times dispatch on the report:
More and more of the predicted impacts of global warming are now becoming a reality. For instance, the 2014 assessment forecast that coastal cities would see more flooding in the coming years as sea levels rose. That’s no longer theoretical: Scientists have now documented a record number of “nuisance flooding” events during high tides in cities like Miami and Charleston, S.C.
“High tide flooding is now posing daily risks to businesses, neighborhoods, infrastructure, transportation, and ecosystems in the Southeast,” the report says.
As the oceans have warmed, disruptions in United States fisheries, long predicted, are now underway. In 2012, record ocean temperatures caused lobster catches in Maine to peak a month earlier than usual, and the distribution chain was unprepared.
It is the big story that includes all the other big stories, more and more of them, and most of them getting bigger, and worse. Infrastructure? Glad you asked.
The report suggests a different approach to assessing the effects of climate change, by considering how various impacts-on food supplies, water and electricity generation, for example-interact with each other. “It is not possible to fully understand the implications of climate change on the United States without considering the interactions among sectors and their consequences,” the report says.
It gives several examples, including recent droughts in California and elsewhere that, in combination with population changes, affect demand for water and energy. The report also cites Superstorm Sandy, six years ago, which caused cascading impacts on interconnected systems in the New York area, some of which had not been anticipated. Flooding of subway and highway tunnels, for example, made it more difficult to repair the electrical system, which suffered widespread damage...
But outside of a few places in Louisiana and Alaska, few coastal communities are rethinking their development patterns in order to avoid the impacts from rising seas and severe weather that the report says are surely coming. The report warns that the country is particularly unprepared for the upheavals that will come as rising sea levels swamp coastal cities: “The potential need for millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure to be relocated in the future creates challenging legal, financial, and equity issues that have not yet been addressed.”
National defense? War and peace?
The United States military has long taken climate change seriously, both for its potential impacts on troops and infrastructure around the world and for its potential to cause political instability in other countries.
Climate change is already affecting American companies’ overseas operations and supply chains, it says, and as these impacts worsen it will take a toll on trade and the economy.
Global warming and natural disasters are also affecting development in less affluent countries. That, the report says, puts additional burdens on the United States for humanitarian assistance and disaster aid.
Our species is dying of multifactorial suicide, and the one symptom that remains unspoken is the fact that none of our institutions of self-government are prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
One half of our political biosphere isn't prepared to admit that the crisis exists at all. That's why the report was dumped on the public on Black Friday. The president*, who knows nothing about anything and is unconscionably proud of it, thinks you wash coal to make it clean and beautiful. (Perhaps he's confusing coal with oil-soaked pelicans. Who the fck knows?) The elite political media is utterly hopeless, seeing this as just another issue on which there are two sides of equal weight, rather than an issue on which one side is mired in impotent gibberish.
To wit: Sunday's installment of Meet The Press, which featured Senator Mike Lee, the konztitooshunal skolar from Utah, who apparently feels very badly that the Earth is dying, and who is willing to fight the ongoing crisis with a solid wall of banality.
And all the proposals I've seen so far that would address any of these issues would devastate the U.S. economy and have little or no benefit that is demonstrable from our standpoint. And so I have yet to see a proposal that would bring this about. I think if we're going to move away from fossil fuels, it's got to be done through innovation. And innovation can be choked out through excessive government regulation. We can't let that happen.
To which host Chuck Todd replied:
All right, Senator Mike Lee, we had a busy morning. We got to a lot today. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on and I hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend.
I, too, hope Senator Lee had a great holiday weekend. In Utah. Which, by the by, is running out of water.
Then, along came the Meet The Press panel, which included, for reasons known only to God, one of Chuck Todd's favorite pundits, conservative Iran obsessive and overall monger of war Danielle Pletka, who prefaced her remarks this way:
So from the standpoint of those who have doubts about this, and I don't think we can have any doubts that there is climate change, whether it's anthropogenic, I don't know, I'm not a scientist.
OK, then, sit down, shut up, and dream about the days when Ahmed Chalabi was the great hope of Middle Eastern democracy. This is a crisis that must be understood through the empirical processes engaged in by people who actually are scientists. Instead of Pletka's being removed from the set by a giant hook extended from stage left, she was allowed to continue.
I look at this as a citizen and I see it so I understand it. On the other hand, we need to also recognize that we just had two of the coldest years, the biggest drop in global temperatures that we've had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years. We don't talk about that because it's not part of the agenda. The United States has been dropping in C02 emissions since we pulled out of Paris. There are actually good things that are happening. We are not using dirty coal anymore. It's the Europeans who are using dirty coal. There actually is some corporate leadership on this. Yes, we need to deal with these problems, yes we need to mitigate the things we see. But we shouldn't be hysterical.
Actually, California's just burned down, so I think we can be a little hysterical about things. But I'm not a scientist, either. At which point, thanks to Ms. Pletka, the discussion dissolved into utter babble.
PLETKA: This is why education of the citizenry is essential. In the end, the citizenry has the power. And it's like it was a movement. There was an environmental movement, but it has to be upped up now. And every young person has to realize that they're fighting. But old people are fighting for the young people too now. I care about them. We all care about those kids. You're so right.
TODD: We need better civics.
PLETKA: We have a responsibility, better civics.
TODD: And better grammar, by the way.
PLETKA: Better movements. Better grammar.
To summarize-we need a mass popular movement that does not disturb Ms. Pletka with untoward outbursts of hysteria, and which can explain the three branches of government without dangling any participles overhead. And did I mention that California's just burned down?
Meanwhile, over on CNN, against all possible odds, former senator Rick Santorum-and have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?-was even worse than Pletka. After praising the president* for burying the release of the report, Santorum opined:
Well, no, I think the point that Donald Trump made is true which is, look, if there was no climate change we would have a lot of scientists looking for work.
The reality is that a lot of these scientists are driven by the money that they receive, and of course, they don’t receive money from corporations and Exxon and the like, and why, because they’re not allowed to, because it’s tainted, but they can receive it from people who support their agenda and that, I believe, is what’s really going on here.
At which point, as a service to the planet, the chair under Rick Santorum's lying ass should have fallen away and he should have been dropped into a pit full of Komodo dragons, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about a Green New Deal-which would be precisely the "innovation" that Mike Lee called for-and all these dolts can talk about is her shoes.
So, no, our politics are no more ready to confront the reality described in the report than the institutions of our government are. Instead, the report stands there on its own, a stark warning, the Ghost of Tragedies Yet To Come, if you want to get all seasonal about it. This report is a pre-emptive coroner's report about how a species dies of self-neglect. It is an autopsy as a work in progress.
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