Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Climate Change: How Desperate Can You Be?

The legend of the city of Ys has that it was swallowed by the sea. Many modern islands risk to suffer the same fate as the result of Global Warming (Image source). But their inhabitants tend to deny that, and for good reasons: they are desperate. 

Sometimes, what you read in the news really looks like the stuff legends are made of. So is the phone call that President Trump gave to the mayor of the island of Tangier, who had appeared in TV, worried that his island on the Chesapeake bay risked to disappear into the Ocean. Here is an excerpt from the "Washington Post".

Trump thanked the mayor and the entire island of Tangier, where he received 87 percent of the votes, for their support. Then the conversation turned to the island’s plight.
“He said we shouldn’t worry about rising sea levels,” Eskridge said. “He said that ‘your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”
 Eskridge wasn’t offended. In fact, he agreed that rising sea levels aren’t a problem for Tangier.
“Like the president, I’m not concerned about sea level rise,” he said. “I’m on the water daily, and I just don’t see it.”

Do you realize the eerie lunacy of this exchange? Trump who tells the mayor, "don't worry, your island will be there for hundreds of years" Does he think he is Moses who can command the waters? And the good mayor of Tangier who says, "I'm not concerned about sea level rise, I'm on the water daily and I just don't see it." Ahem... Mr. Mayor, do you really expect to see a sea level rise when you are "on the water"? And then the mayor goes on, saying that despite the fact that the sea is not rising, the islands are sinking. Absolutely fantastic. Is this madness or what? Maybe not or, at least, there is method in it.

In a previous post of mine, I described how the government of the Maldives Islands also denied that sea level rise was a threat I wondered "Is this an epidemics of brain disease? Or do the Gods really drive crazy those whom they want to destroy?" A question that applies also to the inhabitants of Tangier, in the Chesapeake bay.

But no, this is not an epidemics of madness. There is a perfectly rational explanation for what's happening. I wrote in my post,

Imagine that you are part of the elite of the Maldives. And imagine that you are smart enough to understand what's going on with the Earth's climate. As things stand today, it is clear that it is too late to stop a burst of global warming that will push temperatures so high that nothing will save the Maldives islands. Maybe not next year but in a few decades, it is nearly certain. 
So, given the situation, what is the rational thing for you to do? Of course, it is to sell what you can sell as long as you can find a sucker who will buy. Then you can say good riddance to those who remain. 
What we are seeing, therefore, is a game in which someone will be left holding the short end of the dynamite stick. When the elites of the Maldives will have left for higher grounds, the poor will be stuck there. For them, the Seneca Cliff ends underwater.

The same considerations apply to the islands of the Chesapeake bay. Imagine you are mayor Eskridge. Imagine yourself telling Trump over the phone, "Mister President, I believe that you made a big mistake when you decided to leave the Paris Agreement. Insteas, you should promote emission cutting and renewable energy development." Yeah, can you imagine that?

The problem is not so much that Trump wouldn't listen, but that it is just too late for that kind of actions being able to save the Chesapeake islands, just as the Maldives islands. The only hope for the inhabitants of Tangier is that Trump will tell the US army to build a wall around the island. He may; he seems to like walls. But if you want him to do that, you should be nice, very nice, to him. 

The human mind is a curious contraption that has been perfected to what it is today by hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection. The minds that made the wrong choices were ruthlessly eliminated when the bodies they inhabited were eaten by sabertooth tigers or suffered equally bad fates. So, it may well be that in the current climate change drama, people are making the best possible choices in order to save (or try to save) their ass. The rich deny climate change because they plan to save themselves and dump the poors. The poor deny climate change because they hope to court the favor of the elites and be among those who will be saved by them. And so it goes.

So, when you read some absurd form of denial of climate change on the Web, don't think that the people who write are stupid, or evil, or paid by the PTB (Powerst That Be). They may, but they may simply be more desperate than you. 

You can find the same concepts expressed in narrative form in "The True Story of the Fall of Troy"

See also this post by Gaius Publius "Finding the Greater Fool"


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)