I talked to a lot of farmers this week, and they disagreed about whether there would be no corn crop in Iowa this year or if there would simply be a catastrophically small one. The Midwest is wheezing through the worst drought in 50 years. Everybody’s lawn is dead. May was the 327th consecutive month in which the global temperature exceeded the 20th-century average; the odds of that happening by chance are 3.7 x 10^-99, which exceeds the number of stars in the known universe. That last number comes from Bill McKibben’s terrifying article on global warming in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. If McKibben is to be believed, climate change is not a scientific controversy or even a problem that threatens to make life unrecognizable in 100 years. It is a thing that could put Africa underwater in 20 years, and nobody is doing dick about it.
Here’s a fun thought experiment: say you had conclusive evidence that A) man-made climate change would render the planet unlivable in 50 years and B) this process could be reversed by an immediate reduction in carbon emissions. Everyone has access to this evidence, but let us say that a combination of factors—popular ignorance of science, resistance from industry, sheer denial—leads people to do nothing. Some people try to make laws about burning coal and oil and gasoline, but other people stop them. Everybody keeps driving and cooking plastic bags on the stove and whatever, even though this behavior will kill the human race in two generations. Now for the sixty-dollar question: in this situation, when the will of the people was sure to wreck everything, would you still support democracy? Before you answer, read this editorial about the Rio+20 summit in Brazil and how little has changed since the last one. Continue reading
Friday afternoon, The Heartland Institute announced that they would stop running this billboard over the Eisenhower Expressway. That’s Ted Kaczynski, who worried about man-made climate change in his manifesto before he rendered the phenomenon nonexistent by mailing bombs to scientists. The ad was to be part of a series featuring public figures who expressed belief in global warming, including Fidel Castro, Osama Bin Laden and Charles Manson. It was to be classy. Then a bunch of debate-team types called in and forced them to cancel it, which—as Heartland’s press release explains—was what they wanted all along. “This provocative billboard was always intended to be an experiment,” Heartland President Joseph Bast said through his press agent. “And after just 24 hours the results are in: It got people’s attention.”