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Climate change, Media

It is not about climate, and it is not change


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Philip Bump worries that Trump does not understand how global warming works. The time for worrying what Trump can or cannot comprehend was four years ago, when Trump started his presidential campaign. Now, when we know, it is not newsworthy.

The title of Bump’s article subtly suggests that only people with the intellectual capabilities of Mr. Trump do not share panicky views about climate change, as represented by Mr. Bump and the editors at the Washington Post. Let us dismiss that veiled insult, and let us not poke President Trump this time, but let us have a serious conversation, because as an informed citizen, I do not agree with Mr. Bump.

Ocean level rising
About 50 years ago, as a teenager in my native Poland, I read somewhere that the North American continent was tilting, the Southeastern part of the United States had been sinking, and the West Coast had been rising. I checked again, it is still going on, but now scientists identified this tilting as the Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA). After glaciers disappeared on the northern side of the continent several thousand years ago, the removed weight of ice has caused the magma to push the land upward. The mantle material under the surrounding regions moves toward the area that has lifted, resulting in the surrounding land sinking. Philip Bump is not writing about this phenomenon; neither does the Washington Post. They write about the ocean level rising due to the human-caused global warming.

This one instance makes me distrust writings about climate change by authors such as Philip Bump. Their alarming reports about the Carolinas sinking imply that we need to do something to protect the properties there. I hear something different: that the federal government should tax me more for building levees or relocating properties that cannot be saved. I knew about the continent tilting 50 years ago; I bet that it was known by the people in the Carolinas as well. If, despite that, they built new or renovated older properties, please give me one reason why I and other taxpayers should pay for getting them out of trouble today? Especially since many houses there are much more expensive than most Americans can afford. For me it is advocating for wealth transfer from the middle class to that privileged 1% of the rich with the political clout.

Also, with science telling us that we might face even more drastic climate changes soon, it is important that those who ignored science in the past would be not rewarded. This way, the strong political message would be sent to all communities that they need to check how the currently observed global warming, which may accelerate, can affect them, and what they can do today to get prepared for it.

Anthropogenic or anthropocentric?
About 125,000 years ago, the climate was much warmer, with temperatures 2 to 4 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than present, and the sea level about 4-6 meters (13-20 feet) above what it is now. Then, a period of climate cooling began. It peaked about 20,000 years ago, when temperatures were 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the present, and sea levels were 120 meters (394 feet) below current levels. Next, a period of rapid warming began, lasting until about 6,000 years ago. That warming process never was steady; it came with bursts of fast changes when temperatures rose rapidly, and sea level rose a few feet per century. The last burst occurred about 8,000 years ago. Since then we have been blessed with a relatively stable climate.

When discussing climate change, basic credibility requires looking at these long-term variations; we cannot look at climate change with a 100-year perspective as the Washington Post does. If they do not know this basic science, it is bad. It is even worse if they know it but do not bring up because it does not fit their political agenda.

People such as Mr. Bump are obsessed with the carbon dioxide increase in the Earth’s atmosphere. It was about 300 particles per million about a century ago; it is now about 400. But the conclusion that this is the cause of climate change is just a hypothesis, questioned by many scientists. The Washington Post addressed these skeptics with a Trump-style response. I do not feel offended by being called an idiot but cannot refrain from noticing that this is the strongest argument that the Washington Post has so far in the scientific debate on this issue.

In another text by Chris Mooney, the Washington Post publishes a picture of bubbling methane released from seep holes at the bottom of Esieh Lake in Alaska. It is presented as the evidence of human-caused climate warming. I am puzzled how the bottom of the Arctic lake got warmed to begin with. Is it caused by the CO2 emitted in cities thousands of miles away? What about famous sinkholes in Siberia, where suddenly the always frozen topsoil pops, opening the hollow space created by methane released from the permafrost below. I am puzzled again how that permafrost below the Earth’s surface got warmed.

Science says that the past climate changes were caused by movement of magma inside Earth. In all the reports about the currently observed climate change, the Washington Post, with writers such as Phil Bump, do not even look at the possibility that this time it could be the same. I did, and found out that the north magnetic pole has been hectic within the last 20 years. In the years before, it moved just a few miles every year; now it dances more than 30 miles every year. According to science it means big movements of a hot molten iron core inside the Earth. Should not we at least ask if there is a correlation with the methane bubbling from the bottom of the Arctic lake, the sinkholes in Siberia and the disappearing glaciers in Greenland?

It looks as though humans have contributed to the rise of the level of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, but it is still to be questioned whether it has any meaningful correlation with the weather abnormalities we have recently observed. People such as Philip Bump and the editors of the Washington Post seem to be preoccupied with a mission that humans should do something to stop climate change. My point is that if climate change is real – by releasing more carbon dioxide, humans might accelerate other naturally occurring processes – there might be nothing we can do to stop it. We need to find a way to deal with it.

Trying to justify big government expenses intended to stop climate change, individuals such as Philip Bump and the editors at the Washington Post try to bend the science to prove that climate change is anthropogenic. As a result, their approach is not scientific, it is anthropocentric.

Political objectives
Katharine Hayhoe is a professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She is a lead author of Volumes 1 and 2 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. In her text in the Washington Post she avoids the real issues: She does not explain how the climate change is caused by human actions, comparing it to all previous climate changes, or whether it is possible to stop it. After all, a man can trigger an avalanche, but no human power can stop it. The report she co-authored offers a lot of useful information about how changes in climate can affect us.

The scientific jargon of the report makes it boring, but the political indoctrination trickling through almost every other line makes it worth reading. One can find out that there is no catastrophe coming, and for some people, global warming might even be beneficial. But “Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality.” In other words, the real problem is that we have too many improperly maintained bridges, water pipes, sewers and power grids, which might falter more often and in greater degree if the global warming accelerates. Also, “People who are already vulnerable, (…) are expected to experience greater impacts.” Again, the real problem is that we have too many poor among us.

For the authors and editors at the Washington Post the logical conclusion is that the government needs to make some major investments in preparing our infrastructure for the upcoming climate change, and to assist the most vulnerable among us in dealing with it. Whatever the federal government wants to do, it needs money, taking in taxes from me and other Americans. My preferred solution is that the federal government does nothing except encouraging local communities to do whatever they see fits them best. When it comes to assisting the most vulnerable, the most that the federal government should do is to create legal and economic conditions that enable more people to enrich themselves above the poverty level. Then, they will be able to deal on their own with the global warming.

I see this approach as adhering to the fundamental American maxim that people should be free to pursue their happiness in the way it fits them best. The study co-authored by Prof. Hayhoe implies that in the case of climate change it is a job of the government to have all the problems resolved for Americans. The crux of my disagreement with Prof. Hayhoe relates to what kind of political actions the government should take in this matter. With all due respect, this is not the area of expertise of Prof. Hayhoe and other experts authoring the report. Being realistic, we know well that, in this politically divided nation, even experts would not agree on this matter. Debates about global warming are so frustrating because, in fact, they are not about climate change, they are about the role of the government. Statistics, and election results, show us that on this issue Americans are split almost half-and-half.

Following the money
In her article, Prof. Hayhoe refutes accusations that all the publicity about global warming is driven by money. I believe that Prof. Hayhoe is not getting rich from her work on the subject; nevertheless, big money is in play.

Responding to the alarmist climate reports, a group of Democrats arrived with the Green New Deal idea, which by their own estimate would cost about $10 trillion in the next 10 years. Dismissing opponents claiming that it could be 10 times more expensive, the Washington Post missed the point that regardless whether it is $10 trillion or $100 trillion, or just a few trillion in the stripped-down version presented recently by moderate Democrats, we do not have this money. It would be on credit.

In January of 2019, the debt of the United States federal government reached $22 trillion. The interest on this debt was $263 billion in 2017, it is estimated to be $383 billion in 2019 and it is expected to be $462 billion next year. In other words, right now, every day more than $1 billion is paid in interest on the federal government’s debt.

According to the current estimates, in 2025 the interest on the U.S. government debt will reach $2 billion per day. If supporters of the Green New Deal are correct in their estimates, that daily interest will be closer to $3 billion. If opponents are right, it could be even double that. The interest paid on national debt goes to many institutions and through many hands but, at the end of the day, some people take it home. I did not find in the Washington Post even one article trying to find out the names of people who individually collect the lion’s share of this interest. If there is any undue money influence on the climate change issue, this is the only place it could be. At stake is that additional $1 billion, or even more than that, collected every day. This kind of money can easily manipulate science and confuse writers and editors to the point that, by their own volition, they spread fearmongering, as is done on the pages of the Washington Post.

Let us notice that the Washington Post is diverting our attention, claiming that some public-relations money spent by oil industry giants such as ExxonMobil and Shell, reaching back as far as the 1980s, confused the public. With all due respect for some of the largest American corporations, they are in a minor league compared to people ready to lend the government of the United States at least $10 trillion to fight climate change. Whatever skepticism Americans have on the climate change issue, it is their instinctive fear that the extensive spending of money we do not have will choke our economy, making all of us poorer and the very few much richer.

The global warming scare is propagated by many. I focused on the Washington Post because, I needed to challenge someone by name; to their misfortune, their writings got my attention. I ask them to spell out why I am wrong in my conclusion that global warming is not about climate change, it is about money. And, it is not change.

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