Sunday, May 10, 2009

god forbids climate change

On 25th March, Illinois Representative John Shimkus was on the panel considering climate change for the US House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Sounds quite a normal thing for an elected politician like him to do, and indeed it is. There, we part ways with normality. He opened with a quote from the Book of Genesis.

I want to start with Genesis 8, verse 21 and 22.

"Never again will I curse the ground because of man even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. As long as the Earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease".

I believe that's the infallible word of God and that's the way it's going to be for his creation... I do believe God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.

OK, even before he's tried to talk about climate change, he's cocked up. Because, even within the bizarre blinker-vision world of those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible, he's fucked. As I've said before, the Book of Genesis cannot be infallible and perfect.

Which creation story is true? There are two. Not in an interpretation-of-metaphor way but in that straightforward creationist-style literal obvious-meaning-of-the-words sense.

In chapter 1 of Genesis God makes light, water, land, plants, animals, and then lastly in verse 27 he makes man and woman at the same time. Less than a page later, at a time before the earth has plants, he makes the first man from dust who has 15 verses of mooching about getting lonely before God pulls out a rib and builds a woman.

Even on the real-world stuff Shimkus is something of a wobbly clown.

The cost of a cap-and-trade on the poor is now being discovered.

He illustrates this with a picture of some miners who lost their jobs.

Firstly, for every miner that loses their job you'll find a wind turbine builder of insulation installer who gains one. If we wanted to, we could even make it be the same people retrained.

Secondly, American miners are not poor. Not poor like subsistence farmers already dried off Eastern African lands or Bangladeshi farmers flooded off their only lands, anyway.


The Subcommittee inexplicably heard from fully qualified swivel-eyed loon Viscount Monckton. That he is a hereditary peer and former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher are reasons to dislike him, but not discount him. The fact that he readily and unrepentantly admits to being a liar should ring some alarm bells, though.

They said, 'Don't you mind being made to look an absolute prat', and I said, 'No - I'm quite used to that'. History is full of stories that aren't actually true.

It's his complete lack of climate expertise is the thing that should have him kept away from such hearings. Like his brother-in-law Dominic Lawson, he's a climate denier, one who likes to use lots of impressive sounding but personally faked evidence to prove his position.

One interviewer said that

he suffers an extreme case of the patrician sense that good breeding and a decent classical education equip you for anything, even for outwitting the collective intelligence of the world's best scientific brains

Nonetheless, he's called by the Representatives as if he were some kind of expert.

He's had contact with the American government before. When Senators called on ExxonMobil to stop espousing climate-denying nonsense, Monckton wrote an open letter. Of course, he wasn't a climate scientist back then either, but he explained that he was writing in his capacity as 'a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature'. One problem there - he isn't any such thing. He simply lied to make himself sound more impressive than he really is. Again.

And so we see him there at the Subcommittee, his mouth is open and noise is coming out. That could never be a good thing.

Carbon dioxide is a plant food, it's necessary. Without it all plant life and therefore all life that depends on plantlife would disappear.

He's absolutely right. So everyone who is campaigning to remove all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere should stop right now. Go on, all none of you.

Shirkus likes Monckton's point and extrapolates. The problem with carbon emissions is that there aren't enough of them.

So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?... So all our good intentions could be for vain. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

Presumably, he thinks there were no plants around before we started emitting greenhouse gases.


Whatever Mr Shirkus or certain climate activists may think, averting climate change is not about 'saving the world'. Anyone who talks of 'saving the world' has delusions of grandeur. Humanity and the world are not synonymous. Algae, ants, rats, Keith Richards, all seem impervious to harm that would kill humans, and any of them may well come out on top after colossal habitat changes. Contrary to the opinion of those who think self-contradictory bronze age texts are perfect and infallible, the world is not here for human use.

The planet is incomprehensibly robust. Life is robust. Humanity is comparatively frail. Modern mass society, for all its many securities, sees much of our frailty multiplied. Earthquakes would have killed very few people five thousand years ago. What kills when they strike today is the collapsing buildings. It is humanity, especially modernised humanity, that is in peril. Not 'the planet'.


Texan Representative Joe Barton said

Adapting is a common natural way for people to adapt to their environment.

Hard to disagree with that one, isn't it?

I believe that the earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons. And I think mankind has been adapting to climate as long as man has walked the earth. When it rains, we find shelter. When it’s hot, we get shade. When it’s cold, we find a warm place to stay'.

In prehistoric times we could readily migrate. To pick a point in comparitively recent history, when Britain's neolithic monuments were built there were about twenty million people on earth. Today the combined population of India's two biggest cities exceed that. Half the global population lives in places that would be affected by serious sea level increases. We all live in places built on certain climatic certainties of water supply and temperature.

We're also dependent on those same certainties for the places far away that supply our needs. The sheer numbers of us mean we are dependent on global food production being sustained. Mess with the heat and the rainfall and we're in trouble.

At the same time, we are dependent on others to do it for us. The basics of human life are mysterious to us modern humans. How many people you know could find their own clean water or make fire? Despite the deniers cliaming climate activists want us to go back to living in caves and foraging for grubs, it's drastic action on carbon emissions that will prevent us having to do that.

So, why would we risk catastrophe if it were easily averted? Because, says Joe Barton with a straight face, adapting to climate change is easier than adapting to the 'devastation' of a cap-and-trade policy (of the kind we've had in Europe for the last five years without most people noticing).


We expect there to be loons. No threat has been so great as to be universally recognised, no policy so self-evidently sensible that there haven't been those who'll confidently decry it. And people often want to do wacky things in the name of religion. Stick Mr Shirkus with the Heaven's Gate crew waiting for the flying saucer people to rescue us, I'm sure he'd be happy.

What is indefensible and dangerous is that those with such ludicrous beliefs - impervious to evidence, using one another as references to prove their absurd point - get taken seriously in places charged with making policy for the real world. Allowing them in to positions of power is an act as ill-informed and deranged as they are.

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