They say we're going to have to get used to these storms, that we're past the point where anybody can do anything about them. The temperatures and sea levels are going to rise, the woods are going to burn, there's going to be misery. Just as you can tell it's going to be a rough winter by the thickening of a cow's nape, you can divine the coming apocalypse in the contingency escape plans of Silicon Valley dudes with homesteads in New Zealand.
Scientists say that no matter what measures we take now, average temperatures on the planet are going to go up at least four degrees by the end of the century, and the results are going to be catastrophic. The Trump administration says it's not that bad; it's worse. Temperatures are going to rise about seven degrees, and there's no use worrying about it.
Because people are driving the world, and avoiding the coming horror show would require us to make very serious cuts in our carbon emissions, which would be highly inconvenient. Because somewhere back in the day we lost the ability to do hard things. Or as the statement drafted in August by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to justify President Trump's decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020 puts it, to do so "would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today's levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible."
Since we're on double secret probation anyway, we might as well throw a toga party.
I for one am relieved. I once got scolded for throwing an empty water bottle in the trash can rather than the recycling bin (which looked exactly like another trash can) and I've resented all this do-goodery ever since. I cheered in that episode of Mad Men where the Drapers went on a picnic and left their garbage to rot on that verdant hillside. That's when America was great, before that old fraud Iron Eyes Cody shed his snowflake tear and guilted us all into behaving like responsible caretakers of a world we're only passing through.
The earth is ours because we took it from the dinosaurs, right? It's our property and we can do whatever we want with it. And, let's be honest, it's got some miles on it--it's kind of a beater. It can't last forever anyway. So let's just cancel the insurance and push it 'til it drops. Worst case, we got maybe 50 years? Are you going to be around in 50 years? Even if you are, a lot can happen in 50 years. Maybe Matthew McConaughey will lead us through a wormhole to a new home in the sun.
Relax. We're all going to die.
(Unless you get your consciousness uploaded into the cloud and downloaded into a succession of increasingly advanced androids. Or into some virtual cosmos. What's dreamt of in your philo-sophy, Horatio?)
We're going to bull our way through this, like a Senate Judiciary Committee with an under-vetted candidate. Call it a triumph of the will. We might as well make a show of our obstinance. Live fast, die hard and leave no witnesses behind. Nothing matters anyway, it's all a game to see who can build the bigger house, amass the most toys, have the most selfies taken with celebrities, and pay the lowest tax rate.
Or we can close our eyes and wish real hard. Like the man said, climate change could be good, right? Not that it exists; despite his administration's assumptions, Trump has often described anthropogenic climate change as "fake news." And fewer Americans probably believe it now--according to a Yale University study, 72 percent of us credited climate change as a fact back in 2008, while only 63 percent believed it in 2013, well before Donald Trump emerged as a bully boy for the insensible logic of wishfulness. (But not before Florida Gov. Rick Scott forbade the state's Environmental Protection Agency from using the terms "climate change" and "global warning" and to characterize sea-level rise as "nuisance flooding." Call it the "nyah-nyah-nyah-I-can't-hear-you" method of dealing with catastrophe.)
Still, for those of us in Arkansas, this could be a good thing. If the ocean takes back some real estate, then the value of the real estate that's not been taken back by the ocean goes up, right? Someone's formerly landlocked property is going to become beachfront. And if you look at a satellite photo of Louisiana, you might wonder if someday El Dorado won't have a port.
Miami, as we know it, is over. Sea walls won't save it because the city is built largely on porous limestone. Sea water is seeping up from the ground. By the end of the century, they'll have structures on stilts, maybe floating buildings, but the city proper is drowning.
Manhattan may be a different story. There's talk of a $3 billion project that would build a berm around Lower Manhattan, from 42nd Street in the east to 57th Street on the west. (Build the wall.) Wall Street and Tribeca would be protected. But Queens is just going to flood--neighborhoods in and around Jamaica Bay already flood during high tide; Howard Beach will likely be uninhabitable in a few years.
The dispossessed are going to have to go somewhere. No doubt there are those who see that as opportunity.
Like the Christian Bale character in The Big Short, who at the end of the movie has decided to go all in on water rights in anticipation of the coming droughts. Or the cruise line that, thanks to the melting polar ice caps, can now offer a cruise through the Northwest Passage from Alaska around Greenland then on to New York.
The softening of the polar ice caps means that we've gained access to a lot of heretofore unavailable oil and natural gas reserves. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that up to 25 percent of the world's undiscovered fossil fuel has been buried under ice. Now we can go and get it.
So we'll have plenty of gas to drive ourselves over the cliff.
Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at email@example.com and read his blog at blooddirtandangels.com.
Editorial on 10/16/2018
Print Headline: We'll have to get used to it