Published on April 3rd, 2012 | by Guest Contributor0
David Brin: Our military is convinced that climate change is real – so are insurance companies.
By David Brin
I regularly consult with various branches of our “protector caste”… from the military services and homeland security to several unnamed “agencies.” Naturally, I am encouraged by the fact that some of the most serious-minded men and women on the planet are very interested in well-grounded projections of diverse possible futures – not only mine, but those of several other “science & sci-fi guys.”
I can’t tell you about some of these “future studies.” But I am free to share this one observation:
Absolutely all of the top-elite officers of these services appear to be convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, about Human Generated Climate Change (HGCC). All of those I have met consider it to be both real and one of the greatest challenges of our time.
Ponder this: the US Navy is striving with great intensity to prepare for an Arctic Ocean that is nearly ice-free for large parts of the year. Canada is shifting most of its military budget northward.
The Russians have moved an entire division to the Siberian northern coast. And dig this. The Russian Navy’s top priority? Their pride-and-joy? SIX brand new, double-hulled, nuclear powered icebreakers they recently put in service. (The U.S. has one large, single-hulled, obsolete oil-powered breaker, soon to be retired. The U.S. Coast Guard operates three smaller, conventional ice breakers out of Seattle.)
A year or so ago, the Northwest passage opened so wide that a flood of cargo vessels raced through it from China to Europe. And prospectors are sifting for treasures on the sea floor, where Peary once spent a summer dragging sledges over ice-continents in search of the Pole.
What do all of these groups share in common? They cannot afford to let their view of reality be warped by willful delusion, just-so stories, Beckian rants and dogma, They don’t have the time for denialism. Want another example?
Insurers Confirm Growing Risks, Costs
Stakeholders from the insurance industry met with members of the U.S. Senate to acknowledge the role global warming plays in extreme weather-related losses, and to issue a call for action. “At a Capital Hill a press conference on the cost of climate change, debate was not on the agenda. Pointing to a year of history-making, $1 billion-plus natural disasters, representatives of Tier 1 insurance companies took a definitive stance with members of the U.S. Senate to confirm that costs to taxpayers and businesses from extreme weather will continue to soar because of climate change.
“From our industry’s perspective, the footprints of climate change are around us and the trend of increasing damage to property and threat to lives is clear,” said Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. “We need a national policy related to climate and weather.”
Perhaps no industry better understands the impact of global warming than the insurance industry whose job it is to analyze risk. See the video of the March 1st press conference.
Marsh & McLennan, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, called climate change “one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today.” As Jules Boykoff put it in The Guardian, “Let’s be clear: insurance firms aren’t altruists; they’re capitalists. A rise in extreme weather means a fall in their profits. This is hardball economics based on risk analysis, not save-the-polar-bears stuff.”
Read more in: What Insurance Companies already know about Climate Change.
So, if all the men and women who must combine brains, education and professionalism with harsh practicality can see the desperate need to prepare, how do 40% of the citizens of a great nation enter denial so severe they’ll demean and ignore not only scientists and the insurance industry… but even the U.S. Navy?
Are all of these groups (and a myriad more) absolutely convinced that absolutely every single aspect of current climate theory is absolutely proved in all levels, in all ways? Of course not. There is always room for sincere skepticism that aims at finding flaws and improving our models of the world.
What they can’t afford is prim dogmatism. They have to pragmatically prepare for the world that appears 95% likely (by preponderance of evidence and expert calculations) to be coming.
On the other hand, there is a word for people who refuse to take reasonable precautions, or even negotiate in good faith the cheapest and most efficient just-in-case precautions, demanding instead (at the behest of a couple of coal-billionaire brothers) that climate theory be absolutely proved in all levels, in all ways, before we take prudent, moderate measures to protect ourselves.
That word is: imbeciles.
Consistency: A Litmus of Madness
Here is a distilled essence showing just how bad it’s gotten. How thoroughly Murdoch-Limbaugh-Norquist-Waleed, the four horsemen of America’s collapse, control the Republican Party. Two years ago, 100% of the GOP Senators voted the party line 100% of the time, all votes, for every issue, all year long.
Hell, a single dumb light switch could have done that job. What’s the point in being a “statesman” or delegate of the people to the world’s greatest deliberative body? As Mark Anderson put it: “This is the opposite of informed, rational decision-making. If that’s all they are going to do, why not save a few billion dollars and just put hats in their empty seats, and let them stay home? In other words, Newt’s party discipline has poisoned American politics.
All right, I am almost done with this political blog-trilogy. So let me just add a couple more thoughts.
Many – even most – “red” voters proclaim they are motivated in large part by anger over America’s “moral decline.” Rick Santorum says it is Satan’s work, undermining the moral foundations of the nation that is his biggest obstacle on Earth. But is this assertion subject to any kind of test or comparison with facts?
In a fascinating article, The Economist explores measurable things like divorce rates, abortion, violent crime, high school dropout rates and teen pregnancy… all of which have declined… most of them steeply… in the last couple of decades. (Unmentioned by the article: rates for these things, as well as domestic violence, STDs and teen sex, have all declined much less in purportedly “more moral” Red America than they have in Blue states and cities.)
Teen pregnancy is at its lowest level in 40 years. Shouldn’t that indicate something?
There is one contrary statistic, so read the original article. But this would seem to be yet another case of looking for a mythical reason to rationalize a fuming, volcanic anger that has other, much more psychological causes. The truth is often bitterly inconvenient to dogmatists
(And you lefties… you have some of your own!)
- Here is a quickie interview on my local NPR station in which I did some rapid blather about taxes and pyramids and diamonds and oligarchy and historical perspective. Stuff you’ve all heard from me before, but redolent and relevant this year.
- An interesting piece of film-polemic. Biased but very telling. Asking anti-abortion demonstrators if making it illegal should then send women to jail.
- A fascinating story about re-shoring or in-sourcing of manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. – claimed to be a growing and significant trend.
- Courts ruled that GPS trackers on cars require a warrant. FBI turned off 3000 GPS trackers currently in use, and now has to apply for permission to turn them back on, in order to find them, in order to remove them.
AND FINALLY: More on high frequency trading (HFT). In recent postings I gave five different reasons why they infernal mutation of capitalism threatens to destroy the very same capital markets that brought it into being. Now here’s another:
“Sometimes high-frequency traders don’t even profit from the trade itself. They buy and sell shares at the same price and make money by sending large orders through the exchanges. NYSE, Nasdaq and others want to attract the most traders. So they offer rebates of 20 to 32 cents per 100 shares to traders who send in large orders. On the electronic exchange NYSE Arca, traders who can move 35 million shares pocket a quick $112,000”.
Yeesh. If there were one tax we desperately need, it is this one.
(David Brin is a scientist and best-selling author. His future-oriented novels include Earth and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. The Postman inspired a film by Kevin Costner. Brin is also a leading commentator on technological trends. His non-fiction book, The Transparent Society, explores issues of privacy and accountability. This column originally appeared at Contrary Brin. Photo of Air Force Thunderbirds Some rights reserved by phxwebguy)