Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Doing their best to prove me wrong

I've argued at times that climate adaptation will be easier to push through denialist resistance than climate mitigation, because:

1. It's not asking denialists to give up the bad things they do.
2. It doesn't blame the denialists for bad things that are happening, except in an indirect way.  At least it doesn't focus primarily on whether their/our lifestyle is causing problems for other people.
3. It's saving their own bacon (or maybe their community's bacon) rather than helping/not harming other people far away.  Folks that would confidently deny climate change might be much less confident in arguing against preparing for climate change.

I've also argued that preparing for the possibility of climate change will encourage people to accept its reality, a kind of backwards way of reasoning but one that still gets to the best policy outcome.  Hopefully people will then realize that mitigation reduces the need for adaptation.  None of this works though unless climate adaptation is an easier sell than climate reality overall.

North Carolina and Virginia legislatures are testing my hope that adaptation is an easier sell.  People in both states have noticed that coastlines sure seem flooded a lot, and both states have lots of low-elevation land.  Legislatures want to plan how to respond to this but have come down with hives at the mention of, or express adaptation for, climate change.

Still, North Carolina has backed away somewhat from its widely-mocked effort to limit projecting sea level rise to no more than the historical record.  Now they say accelerated sea level rise could be considered if derived from good science, kind of.  It has problems but it doesn't stop planning for some level of climate adaptation.

Virginia also has problems, with the city of Norfolk spending $6m annually to keep roads and homes clear of coastal flooding.  Their bill dances around the issue of climate change, dropping the words entirely in favor of "recurrent flooding".

On one level this is equal parts laughable and sad.  It reminds me of the controversy over BBC America's Frozen Planet series and the initial effort to drop the discussion of climate change that was shown in the original British version (they did show it in the end).  No surprise that Americans are in climate denial when their leaders and media hide the truth from them.

But even if they're not using the "CC" words in Virginia and North Carolina, it's not that hard to read between the lines.  Someday people will ask why taxpayers should be paying for this out of income and sales taxes, instead of polluters paying for it along with the emissions that cause the problem.

UPDATE:  Anonymous has a great art project idea in the comments.  I'd put it at 7 meters above sea level though instead of 20 - we still have time to save the Antarctic ice sheets.


Steve Bloom said...

I think prophylactic adaptation gets pretty much the same resistance as mitigation. Adaptation after the fact, no problem (relatively, anyway, as the shabby response to Katrina may indicate).

To the extent that NC or VA drag their heels too much with regard to SLR, they'll run into an insurance problem. Unfortunately, push probably won't come to shove on that until well after the culprits are out of the picture, although I have some hope that another major storm surge event will change that outlook. (That said, it'll be interesting to see what adjustment the insurance industry makes to the just-ended historic flood in north Florida, which was tropical moisture but a regular storm.)

As you know, here in the SF Bay Area, by contrast, we have much foot dragging but little overt denial of the problem, although developers try to low-ball the problem to build as much as they can as cheaply as they can (so what's new) while existing property owners look to stick the public with the cost of adaptation on the theory that government approved the low-lying development.

Anonymous said...

The lack of will to get this problem in any control is making it hard to decide where the future levies and harbours should be WRT +ASL. If it can be resolved that there are somewhat stable sea levels these would be natural selections that could be the lines of defense... at least the decisions should be made to remove the critical infrastructures such as railways, power plants and electricity transformers above these lines. The biggest troubles are of course the harbours on low-lying coasts that must relocated after +2-5m of rise.

I've been thinking of an art project of building a short pier at +20 ASL with some crash test dummies with fishing equipment standing on it, it might be on the right spot by 2500AD. If one hanged a fibre glass rowing boat with the tap removed to it, all one would have to do then would be to plug the boat, take the fishing gear from the dummies and go fishing. The idea may be freely copied, though I suspect the rods will be stolen before the pier becomes usable.

Steve Bloom said...

I had had similar thoughts, anon, although mine was more focused on the political theater of getting the permit, then doing some sort of educational outreach to the potential inundation areas.

Here (Oakland, CA), though, it may be that the larger threat, at least in the short term, is from what are called "ark storms." These are a result of the confluence of a large Bering Sea storm with a "tropical tap," a monsoon-like flow from the tropics that can deliver even more moisture. They have occurred historically, most famously when Leland Stanford had to be rowed to his inauguration in (IIRC) 1862, and are expected to become larger and more frequent with warming.

In any case, I'm pretty sure Oakland's flood control system will be overwhelmed. We have a lot of creeks that have been culverted, and it won't be pretty when those back up and overflow on a large scale.

Here's a brief article on the Florida flood and its costs. I don't know if $150M is really enough to get the insurance companies' attention by itself, so likely their assessment of recurrence will be key.

dbostrom said...

More or less and mostly more we're all heavy polluters, at least if we're not Amish or living a very basic existence in the hunter-gatherer mode or just a bit more regimented.

"Free" work done by hydrocarbon servants needs replacing and for a period of time we're going to need to pay for getting substitution up and running as well as simultaneously feeding the hydrocarbon slaves.

Back in the old days, residents of London still needed their crap (literally) hauled away while they were building their sewers. The people who hauled the crap away didn't foot the bill for the whole sewer deal, though they still were paid for tipping everybody's filth into the Thames.

Not a perfect analogy, admittedly, but the theme seems familiar.

One way or another we all need to pay, and one way or another we will. We can pay nice, or we can pay bad. Getting to "nice" is the tricky bit.

I bet there's not a single original thought in what I just wrote. I wonder how kWh/day are being used repeating ourselves? How many tons of C02 emitted?? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Mitigation tomorrow is no different from adaptation, and is effectively indiscernible from painting over rust... or from closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, mated with the neighbour's wormy nag, wandered into a gypsy camp and been painted white and sold as a unicorn to a travelling circus.

Mitigation today is still painting over rust, but at least there's less rust, and at least there's a chance of catching the horse's tail as the barn door is closed.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why they call me "Hey Stoopid".

All cybnics would say, at the end of the day, the only impact on the denialati mindset, is via the wallet.

The unfortunate denialati, whose sole mononeuron has been brainwashed into thinking their narrow imaginary implanted world view is the only true view. That being said,they only have two small weakness or chinks in their armor of brainwashed stoopidity against adapting to any change of circumstances. The key is improving the spending power of the money, held in their wallet or purse.

Wildpoldsried, Southern Bavaria, a very conservative farming community, of 2500 souls, shows how effective the carrot can always beat the stick.

Such is life.

Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why the call me "Hey Stoopid".

PS Cybnics= Cyber Cynics

Hank Roberts said...

That's Ark storm -- like the big one:

"It has happened before. Consider the winter of 1861-1862 -- it rained for 45 consecutive days...."

J Bowers said...

"“Science should be based on real hard data,” Rouzer said, according to the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Kirk Ross. “Just because there is a group of folks that project the sea-level rise does not mean the sea will rise. There was consensus years and years and years ago that the earth was flat; turned out to be round.”"

Hoisted by his own petard. What a load of old cobblers. The world has been known to be round since the ancient Greeks. It became an insult to someone's intelligence to say they believed the Earth was flat.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Adaptation just means that Someone Else pays for carbon's externalities instead of the plutocrats. It's just gibberish.

Pakistan has lost almost all of its agricultural production the last two years. How do you "adapt" to that? Two years ago, Russia and Australia lost huge amounts of their production to drought and heat. (If you do baseball stats it's as if Russia, Pakistan, and Australia collectively batted .106 two years ago.) Pakistan and Russia both have nukes and violent Islamist factions. The Arab Spring movement erupted over the spike in food prices. So, how do you "adapt" to that?

At some point, denialists just have to grow up and realize that the world is independent of their will and that actions have complex results not accounted for in catchy maxims. (Straight line alert.)

BTW, I'm not a robot but 9 out of 10 times it's anyone's guess what the heavily scrunched captcha words might be. It's almost as fair as asking me what it's got in its pockets.

Brian said...

"Adaptation just means that Someone Else pays for carbon's externalities instead of the plutocrats."

Yes, although it ain't just the plutocrats who are emitting. Still, carbon footprints are far from equal, even within developed countries.

"It's just gibberish."

No. Adaptation isn't easy, if that's what you mean, but it has to be done. The real question is whether Steve's right, that adapting/preparing in advance for climate change is just as hard as reducing emissions, or I'm right and that it's easier to do.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Davis: Pakistan has lost almost all of its agricultural production the last two years. How do you "adapt" to that?

Something usually not mentioned in connection with "adaptation" is the amount of dying necessarily involved in the process, due to human nature.

We're not inclined to change our habits until driven to do so; too many dead people will be a key indicator and motivation for adaptation.

Not that it has to be this way; we don't have to collectively behave like beasts of the field, but I can't think of any lessons of history suggesting that we'll do better.