Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Denying science leads to denying reality: Florida

with 12 comments

Florida has long been a powerhouse of conservative politics and climate-change denial. Now the chickens are starting to come home to roost.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2012 at 2:48 pm

12 Responses

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  1. I must say that the Floridian peninsula being subject to sea-based flooding is about as obvious as gulf coast states being subject to hurricanes that find their way into the Gulf of Mexico.

    And it’s not as if accepting AGW would change anything about this study.

    Roger C.

    14 March 2012 at 2:53 pm

  2. I also would think it obvious, but then I think AGW is even more obvious. Given the strong feeling against the latter in the state, I wasn’t sure how much of reality they’re willing to recognize.

    Quite agree with you: much too late now to do anything about AGW. I fear that ship has sailed. We can no longer slow down fast enough to make a difference. 20 years ago? Maybe a massive effort on a global scale. But now I believe it’s too late—and we’re not exactly swinging into action, are we?


    14 March 2012 at 5:57 pm

  3. I believe that the climate changes, but until I see a model predict the past, I don’t give them much credulity. After all, we did have both the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age before the Industrial Revolution took off with burning coal.

    At any rate, every “solution” I’ve seen for AGW involves such drastic reductions in energy use that the consequences would be horrible. I can’t endorse going without mechanized agriculture, advances in sanitation, or regressing to near-subsistence levels of lifestyle for the world over.

    And also, you’ve got to admire the hypocrisy of the 1% telling the rest of us to watch our carbon footprints while they fly private jets, air condition enormous houses, and keep their drivers idling for them. One pundit I read says, “I’ll start acting like it’s an emergency when they start acting like it’s an emergency.”

    Roger C.

    14 March 2012 at 6:16 pm

  4. Your reading differs from mine. And the fact that 99% of climatologists accept the studies is convincing to me: any one of them knows more about the subject than you and I combined, I imagine, though I do admire the self-initiative shown by a determination to learn enough science and do enough studies to be able to read the studies with actual understanding and insight. I simply lack the time, and so depend on the professionals.

    I’m not part of the 1% and I also think people should be aware of their impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The concern over the future of the planet is more widespread than you perhaps believe.

    What you perceive as solutions (no mechanized agriculture, stopping sanitation, and regressing to near-subsistence levels of lifestyle) I have not previously seen proposed. Do you have a link for these recommendations (from a serious source, of course)?

    At any rate, a few consecutive years of massive crop failures due to changing climate will have, I think, a serious impact of its own.


    14 March 2012 at 6:48 pm

  5. BTW, were I on a panel evaluating proposals on how to reduce AGW, I assure you that those suggesting worse sanitation as a solution would get a very critical eye indeed.


    14 March 2012 at 8:38 pm

  6. I get relying on the professionals. It’s completely understandable. But just like a huge balloon can be popped with a small pin, until some things are explained, I can’t bring myself to panic over it. Specifically, until “they” come up with a model that is accurate to at least a 5 year moving average since the beginning of modern widespread temperature measurements (since the 1920s or so), I’m not going to do much about it.

    As far as the agriculture, sanitation, and subsistence farming, those are mostly second-level effects, and some of them would be limited to underdeveloped nations. For instance, a reduction in fossil fuel use in agriculture would drive more farms to no-till methods that use fewer passes over the fields with tractors, but increased use of pesticides and herbicides. The price increases (whether through taxes or other means) for fuel would make it impossible for farmers in places like Africa and Southeast Asia to mechanize.

    I don’t know just how much energy is required to do water purification, distribution, and then sewage collection and treatment, but it can’t be small. As energy costs increase, the barriers to entry climb higher than they are already, and so the systems won’t be developed.

    I’m assuming that prices will be artificially increased by taxes for the most part. Of course, that hasn’t stopped people smoking, but as it becomes vastly cheaper to turn your backyard to a mini-farm rather than rely on the produce section of the store, more time will be devoted to that rather than other pursuits, for no real economic gain.

    As far as the crop failures go, I think there’s enough redundancy in the system to account for changes in climate. What happens to Florida doesn’t usually happen to the Rio Grande Valley. As things get warmer, citrus crops will move north, England might become known for wines instead of beers, grain production and settlement move north (read: toward the poles). The opposite happens when things get colder. Rain patterns shift, irrigation moves, and so on. The things that worry me about crop failures aren’t climate related, but otherwise. New strains of corn smut and wheat rust, fungi on rice, and locust devastation, though mostly regional, are what worry me because they can spread and generally take out large regions in a single year.

    Roger C.

    16 March 2012 at 9:03 am

  7. But don’t you find it interesting that scientists in the field—who understand the issues and the science and the data—are so convinced, even without the test that you suggest?

    As we watch the northern forests succumb to a wave of beetles and other insects and blights heretofore stopped by the climate, I think we can see quite clearly the direction this is going. Certainly changes wil be regional, but they are happening simultaneously over the entire globe. Being calm and searching out the little yet-to-be-explained bits and clinging to those could be another mode of denial.

    I’ve been reading a variety of science publications for years. I don’t see a solution that humans will embrace.


    16 March 2012 at 9:17 am

  8. You mentioned that price increases due to taxation have not stopped people from smoking. I present these data:

    Columns are: year, cigarettes sold (billions), cigarettes per capita, and percent change in cigarettes per capita:

    1973 589.7 4,148 + 2.6
    1974 599.0 4,141 – 0.2
    1975 607.2 4,122 – 0.5
    1976 613.5 4,091 – 0.8
    1977 617.0 4,043 – 1.2
    1978 616.0 3,970 – 1.8
    1979 621.5 3,861 – 2.7
    1980 631.5 3,849 – 0.3
    1981 640.0 3,836 – 0.3
    1982 634.0 3,739 – 2.5
    1983 600.0 3,488 – 6.7
    1984 600.4 3,446 – 1.2
    1985 594.0 3,370 – 2.2
    1986 583.8 3,274 – 2.8
    1987 575.0 3,197 – 2.4
    1988 562.5 3,096 – 3.2
    1989 540.0 2,926 – 5.5
    1990 525.0 2,834 – 3.1
    1991 510.0 2,727 – 3.8
    1992 500.0 2,647 – 2.9
    1993 485.0 2,543 – 3.9
    1994 486.0 2,524 – 0.7
    1995 487.0 2,474 – 2.0
    1996 487.0 2,445 – 1.2
    1997 480.0 2,422 – 0.9
    1998 465.0 2,275 – 6.1
    1999 435.0 2,101 – 7.6
    2000 430.0 2,049 – 2.5
    2001 425.0 2,051 – 0.1
    2002 415.0 1,982 – 3.4
    2003 400.0 1,890 – 4.6
    2004 388.0 1,814 – 4.0
    2005 381.3 1,716 – 5.4
    2006 380.0 1,619 – 1.5

    The price increases (and information on the health effects of smoking) did not stop people smoking, but it does seem to have had an impact: monotonic decrease year by year for every year since 1973 (assuming that the trend continued in 2006-2011).


    16 March 2012 at 9:27 am

  9. True, but it doesn’t necessarily hold for the individual smoker. Tales are everywhere of many “I’ll quit when they charge a quarter a pack” people keeping right on going through five dollars. Let’s see, from this report from the American Lung Association, from 1974 to 2006, the number of smokers dropped from 48.9M to 46.6M, but taken as a percentage of population, that was 213,853,928 in 1974 to 298,593,000 in 2006, means a 22.9% smoking rate in 1974 to a 15.6% rate in 2006. Using the number of cigarettes per smoker, that works out to 12249 smokes or 612 packs per smoker per year in 1974 and then 8155 smokes or 408 packs per smoker per year in 2006. Well, there goes my theory. From 1 2/3 pack a day to 1 1/9 pack a day. One more mathematical hoop: That’s a 33% drop in smoking per smoker over that span of time.

    I enjoy talking with you. Love the shaving stuff, but your politics just drive me nuts! I know it’s confirmation bias–we all like to favor things that confirm what we already believe in–but a lot of the givens in conservatism and the ones in liberalism are often diametric opposites. So with things where we disagree (like climate change), we end up at intractable loggerheads, even looking at the same data. It’s because we have different ideas of how things work.

    Roger C.

    16 March 2012 at 4:24 pm

  10. Certainly Roger Fisher and William Ury (and Stephen Covey, for that matter): the facts generally are not at the root of the disagreement, since the facts are the same for each.

    I am not sure I followed your argument re: the smoking. If I read it rightly, you just more or less established mathematically what the table points out in summary: per-capita consumption of cigarettes has dropped steadily every year since 1973. That seems to me to indicate that the price increases plus information availability has indeed had an impact. Of course, new smokers and arise and some smokers probably increase their smoking, but that seems irrelevant (unless your position was such that every smoker everywhere must smoke less, individually—but I do not believe that is your position because that would make no sense in terms of reality as we know it, which always operates with at least a thin crust of exceptions).

    I don’t think climate change is in doubt—certainly not on the basis of observations (2 new high records for every 1 new low record, for example, not to mention the extreme weather conditions, vanishing of Arctic ice, etc.). The conservative position, as I understand, is to bet everything — everything — that human activity is not a cause. If they’re wrong, of course we are pretty much screwed (except in some hopeful scenarios such as yours—climatologists who have studied and know this stuff have much grimmer scenarios); on my position, if I’m wrong, we get greater energy innovation and efficiency and do a global Manhattan Project effort to find solutions that can make things better. But my way ain’t gonna happen: it’s much easier to stop initiatives than to create them (cf. Congress).

    Have you accounted for the impact of ocean acidification, for example? Here’s on brief note; Google something like “mass extinction ocean acidification” for more.


    16 March 2012 at 4:57 pm

  11. As far as the smoking goes, I was wondering if cigarette consumption per smoker, not per capita in the general population, was actually declining. Turns out it is. I thought the decline would be a much less than a 33% drop in the number of cigs consumed per smoker.

    And it’s the second level effects of what happens if you get your way that worry me. Massive debt explosions like Solyndra, less energy available per capita, so on and so forth. Of course, if it turns out that the “deniers” are right, and that climate change is 99.9% natural, and the 0.1% that mankind adds to it isn’t the tipping point, then we’re all screwed anyway. But being a Christian, apocalypticism comes with the territory:

    The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

    Revelation 8:8-11 NASB

    Roger C.

    16 March 2012 at 5:25 pm

  12. Interesting you should mention that. I’ve just been reading *highly* favorable reviews of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, by Elaine Pagels. Certainly her book on the Gnostic gospels was an eye-opener, as I’m sure you’ll agree. This one looks to be excellent. I already have a hold on it at the library.


    16 March 2012 at 8:54 pm

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