The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, June 02, 2019


Protecting our environment, reducing the number of chemical pollutants spewed into the atmosphere, slowly deemphasizing the use of the internal combustion engine as a primary driver for transportation, working hard to create sources of clean water, and a laundry list of other environmentally sound goals should be the primary driver for those politicians who keep telling use the want to "save the planet." Instead, those same politicians who fly private jets (one of the most polluting forms of transport) keep telling us that climate change is the primary threat.

What the politicians rarely (if ever) discuss is our ability to adapt to changes in our environment. Warnings about climate change (itself, scientifically controversial) assumes that technology will be static and that once noticeable changes occur (if they occur) our collective response will be passive. In reality, humans adapt to changes in their environment quite well. In fact, adaptation is one of our strengths.

This past week, the news media trumpeted a "scientific report" that projected that rising ocean levels would result in 187 million people being flooded out by the end of this century. Bjorn Lomborg comments:
You’ve probably seen the latest alarming headlines: Rising sea levels from climate change could flood 187 million people out of their homes. Don’t believe it. That figure is unrealistic—and it isn’t even new. It appears in a new scholarly paper, whose authors plucked it from a paper published in 2011. What the earlier paper actually found was that 187 million could be forced to move in the unlikely event that, in the next 80 years, no one does anything to adapt to dramatic rises in sea level.

In real life, the 2011 paper explained, humans “adapt proactively,” and “such adaptation can greatly reduce the possible impacts.” That means “the problem of environmental refugees almost disappears.” Realistic assumptions reduce the number to between 41,000 and 305,000—at most, less than 1/600th of the figure in those headlines.

Sober findings get less attention than alarming and far-fetched speculation. The United Nations’ climate-panel scenarios all show that the world will be far richer and more resilient by the end of the century. That means we’ll be better able to tackle challenges like flooding—as much poorer societies have done for centuries. We have more know-how and technology than ever to build dikes, surge barriers and dams, expand beaches and construct dunes, make ecosystem-based barriers like mangrove buffers, improve building codes and construction techniques, and use land planning and hazard mapping to minimize flooding.
It's also worth noting that 100-year projections into the future are notoriously inaccurate, that existing climate models cannot be validated in any meaningful way, that those same models do not accurately predict our current climate, sea levels, and other environmental phenomenon when fed 100 year old climate data. Yet, rather than waiting until climate trends become more clear, we are asked to make significant changes to our economy based on relatively weak assumptions and unverified predictions.

As someone whose carbon footprint is significantly lower than average, who uses sunlight for 40 percent of his home's power needs, who has two zero-emission automobiles, I think its fair to say that I'm trying to do my part. And as someone whose house is approximate 4 feet above sea level, you'd think I'd be the first to panic over the hysterical headlines of flooding that seem to be a staple in the media every few months. But I'm not running out to buy a row boat because: (1) the predictions must be viewed with a heaping dose of skepticism; (2) the data and the models used to drive the predictions are open to significant criticism, and (3) there is little if any consideration of adaptive technologies and responses that would obviate the problems, even if the predictions are correct.

Climate does change, but so does our ability to adapt to that change. Hysteria has no place in the decisions that are made as a consequence.