Let Them Eat Dust

Live in America's breadbasket? I've got bad news for you. Don't live in America's breadbasket? I've still got bad news for you. In fact, if you eat, I've got bad news for you.

[USA Today:]

Man examines drought-stricken soilThe Midwest will see the most dramatic temperature rise in upcoming decades due to global warming, according to a new analysis of U.S. climate data released Thursday by the Nature Conservancy.

In just the next 40 years, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate, average temperatures are expected to rise by more than 5 degrees across much of the USA, with the greatest temperature increases expected in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois.

"The surprise was that the biggest changes were in the Heartland and the Great Plains," says Jonathan Hoekstra, director of climate change for the Nature Conservancy. So far, he said the western USA has been the area that has seen the most warming.

The changes will be even more dramatic by the end of the century. "In many states across the country, the weather and landscapes could be nearly unrecognizable in 100 years," he adds. By 2100, states such as Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota could see average temperature increases of more than 10 degrees.

The United States produces roughly 10% of the world's wheat, on average. Most of that comes from the midwest. Global warming is about more than just being hot, it's about your belly.

USA Today reports, "The analysis was based on data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was produced in conjunction with the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi." The findings aren't pretty. "America's $200 billion agriculture industry could face serious threats as higher temperatures dry out soil and shift production patterns," we're told. "The dairy industry could suffer significant declines, since dairy cow productivity starts decreasing above 77°F."

What will that mean? Let's face it, this is America. We can buy our way out of a food shortage if we want to. What it'll mean for us is that food will get a lot more expensive. And, since the climate won't return to "normal," will continue to get more expensive. At a certain point, food production worldwide will fall and people will starve.

But not everyone will starve. There will be enough food for a smaller population and that population won't be chosen for their worth, but because of their money. The wealthy will be able to buy themselves out of crisis. So for the rich, there will be no crisis. They'll be fine. So what do they care?

Not much, it turns out. The LA Times reports that the US Chamber of Commerce has a plan to deal with climate change -- make it go away through the courts.

The nation's largest business lobby wants to put the science of global warming on trial.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

Is a court of law the best place to settle a matter of science? Obviously not, since John Scopes was found guilty of the crime of teaching evolution. In the Scopes trial, truth lost. At least, initially.

Of course, Kovacs and the Chamber don't really care about truth. All they know is that reducing carbon emissions is going to cost money. "The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change," the paper reports. "If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court."

The comparison to creationism is actually very apt. Both global warming denial and creationism are based entirely in a rejection of the facts -- neither offers evidence for their own position. All they really do is dispute the evidence that's presented. No creationist has ever presented evidence for creationism; for the obvious reason that none exists. The entire creationism industry is based entirely on "debunking" evolution. For their own case, they offer absolutely nothing.

And here's the global warming denying US Chamber doing exactly the same thing. The evidence is presented and summarily dismissed. We can take some comfort in the fact that denial in its purest form -- that global warming isn't happening at all -- is pretty much dead. The Chamber doesn't deny the warming itself, but the fact that humans are doing it or that it's even a bad thing. "The Chamber of Commerce cites studies that predict higher temperatures will reduce mortality rates in the United States," we're told. This is an insane argument.

"The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable," heads of the top science agencies in 13 of the world's largest countries wrote to world leaders recently. The Environmental Protection Agency predicts that warming will result in "the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems."

In addition, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress issued a report in 2008 that found that an increase in infectious disease would be the "most immediate consequence" of a changing climate. Diseases that would flourish in a warmer world include "Lyme disease, yellow fever, plague, and avian influenza, or bird flu," in addition to "babesia, cholera, Ebola, intestinal and external parasites, red tides, Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis."

Tell, how will that "reduce mortality rates in the United States?"

But the point isn't to prove anything. The point is to sow doubt. Like creationists, climate deniers don't hold themselves to the same rigid logical framework that scientists do. As a result, they're free to cherry-pick data and intentionally misread findings. They can just make things up and declare them true. Dishonesty has an advantage over honesty, in that you can be as creative and strategic as you need to be. Science can't lie -- once you start lying, it's not science.

If the Chamber succeeds in slowing progress on global warming, what do they care? The consequences will likely occur after they die and they're pretty sure their kids will be able to spend a stupid amount of money for an apple. And, if they make even more money now, those kids will be able to afford even more expensive apples down the road.

I suppose the irony here is that they're using the same tactics as creationists to advance economic Darwinism. The rich will be able to adapt to a changing world -- at least, for a while -- and the poor will go extinct.


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