Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mr. Bush, meet global warming: II

The belief that science can be replaced with spin is a religious belief that is more catastrophic in its consequences than one that the world is 6000 years old. Although the latter belief, and similar ones derived from literal faith in Christian scripture, is held onto tightly, with eyes tight shut, by the Republican base, the Republicans in charge, who imagine themselves masters of the world, are no doubt as cynical about such articles of ordinary Republican rank-and-file peon faith as they are about science.

In essence, the religion of the would-be masters of the universe is political power, and the intensity of their own faith is such that they have dispensed with "reality" as being, well, outmoded. They are kind of like the Maoists of years past, who believed that power grows from the barrel of a gun, and who, as a corollary, believed that cultural revolutions and great leaps forward could simply be willed, and made to happen, with brute political force. Republicans have a similar view, it seems, about physical reality.

Physical reality, obviously, has other plans.

Global warming can't be spun away. This hasn't really sunk in for Karl Rove and the neocons, I suspect. They haven't really noticed that their own great leap forward is running up against physical, and logical, constraints. Reality, whether physical or fiscal or military, doesn't actually change if you try to hide it with smoke-and-mirrors. Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger showed that you can pretend to win a war when you aren't winning it for 10 years, but, eventually, reality wins.

An interesting post by Stuart Standiford in the Oildrum blog, has this remarkable graph, based on a study by Webster, et al. in the 9/16/2005 issue of Science.

Although global warming has not increased the frequency of hurricanes, it seems to have increased their intensity, as the Kerry Emanuel paper I mentioned in a previous post shows, and here we see an amazing upward trend in the percentage of category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the past 30 years. This is true worldwide--in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, as well as the Atlantic. The percentage of such storms has doubled in that time period.

Once you realize that global warming is going to have unpleasant, but to a some extent knowable, consequences, you can prepare for that. You have to think in a new way about disaster preparedness, for one thing. You have to harden certain infrastructures like levees. You have to move away from an oil and gas economy, especially when one quarter of our oil and gas comes from the Gulf of Mexico. (There are other reasons for doing that, ultimately more compelling, having to do with peak oil.) The Bush administration is absolutely unwilling to do these things, preferring talking points to science.

Bush and Rove and the the right wing punditocracy who think agitprop and spin can overcome reality will run into the same thing that believers in cargo cults did. Reality doesn't respond to faith-based initiatives. Unfortunately, the damage these people do is about the only tangible thing that will emerge from their delusions.

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