Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend

August 24 - September 7, 2005
Issue #82

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
Evolution Rock
Jesus or Darwin? An ultimatum
Allan Uthman

Keepin' it Real
Cindy Sheehan, representin'
Shawn Ewald

It's Gettin' Hot in Here
Global Warming: Warming the Globe?
Kit Smith
Large & in Charge
Bob Wilmers, Buffalo's control freak
Donnie Dobovich
People Like You
You people just don't get it

Michael Manville

No Strategy, Just Exit
Fractured left threatens itself

Stan Goff

The Real Greatest Americans
Screw the Discovery Channel
Erich Schulte

Buffalo in Briefs
The Sports Blotter
The Week in Sports Crime
Page 3
Celebrity Math
Separated at Birth?
Kino Korner: Movies
[sic] - Letters
 Cover Page

Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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Last Issue: (81)

It's Gettin' Hot in Here
Global Warming: Warming the Globe?

Finally, finally due to a culmination of information released this summer, we may have even the crackpots convinced that global warming is a fact, and that human beings are contributing to it. The journal Science, National Public Radio, and Mother Jones have all released disparate but concurring reports that have convinced even some idealist werewolves—I mean libertarians. Perhaps they can convince you, too.

Previously, satellite, surface, and weather balloon data on temperature trends all reported a rising trend but the extent of that trend differed, as did correlation with computer models. This gave doubters something to point at, which seems kind of like standing on railroad tracks and arguing about how fast the train is coming. More damning was that surface trends, which showed warming, were not reflected in tropospheric trends, even though the laws of thermodynamics demand that they match.

Well, it’s been mooted as of August eleventh. Three articles appeared the peer-reviewed journal Science, each of which reports flawed methodologies in the initial data interpretation. The details would put a normal person to sleep after 5 double espressos, but the takeaway is that troposphere trends have been reconciled with surface trends. Turns out the sky actually is falling. The speed at which this is happening—exactly how many degrees per decade—is still being argued.

The following day, NPR interviewed Evan Mills, whose article, also in Science, discussed the probable role insurance companies will play in defining corporate and government policy response to global warming. When all its facets are considered—property, liability, health, life, etc—insurance is the largest industry in the world. But the roots of insurance are grounded in loss prevention. The industry has a gambling problem, and is essentially betting that you won’t have a horrible accident. They don’t count cards, but they do things like demand the inception of fire departments, building codes, and automobile safety devices. Yeah, they’d be thrown out of Vegas.

Losses by insurance companies from weather-related catastrophes are rising worldwide, according to Mills, increasing from a negligible fraction in the 1950s to 25% in the last decade. Skeptics point to demographics, that more people are living/vacationing in flood and hurricane hotspots. But global weather-related losses are trending upward much faster than these demographic trends. Meanwhile, the International Panel on Climate Change asserts that global warming has brought an increase in the intensity of natural disasters, which in turn drives up the cost of recovery from such events.    

Though highly speculative, Mills believes that insurers worldwide may soon follow the lead of Swiss Re (one of the largest reinsurance companies—firms which insure the insurance companies—in the world) and Munich Re (who first speculated that climate change could have an impact on their bottom line back in 1973). These companies have joined a number of smaller players as signatories of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), self described as “a range of partners [and] organizations to develop and promote linkages between the environment, sustainability and financial performance.” Their statement of environmental commitment by the insurance industry includes a section on general principles of sustainable development and another on environmental management.

There is a precedent for this: nuclear power. The commercial insurance industry was always unwilling to assume full liability when insuring nuclear reactors. But this extends to you as well. Take a look at your homeowners’ insurance policy, or your auto policy; you’ll find a “nuclear hazard exclusion.” So if North Korea bombs us or the nuclear reactor down the road has a melt down, not only will all your hair and teeth fall out, but your car, which may have melted, won’t be covered—so you’ll have to call in sick to work.

If insurance companies begin lumping big oil and coal, and for that matter manufacturing facilities in developing countries with few or no environmental regulations, into similar categories as nuclear energy, the world will be forced to prick up its ears. “Do right or we won’t insure you” carries vastly more weight than “do right or hippies will complain.”

Really, though, nobody should need this much convincing since May/June issue of Mother Jones magazine. Their “special project on global warming” included a list of forty “public policy” groups that have been funded in varying degrees by Exxon Mobil. The list includes the CATO institute, the misnamed Advancement of Sound Science Center and, sadly, the Arizona State University Office of Climatology. These organizations crank out disinformation to the general media and successfully shift the focus of debate from science to politics.

That shift is the telling feature, the big red PROPAGANDA flag. Scientists are not rewarded for educating the general public. They rely on peer review, manifested in scientific journals. Research studies are submitted, reviewed by a panel of scientists and, if the research is deemed legitimate by people in the field, published. Once published, numerous other scientists throughout the nation and sometimes the world attempt to repeat the experiment. This is simply how it’s done, just as a pizza is made by putting sauce and cheese on dough. You can put sauce on bread and stuff it in the toaster oven and call it pizza, but we all know it’s not—you’re just poor.

The sauce on bread in this case is the “other side’s” representation of global climate change. If the petroleum industry truly had compelling scientific evidence to support their case, they would keep it in the scientific arena. The fact that they have chosen instead to fight on the streets and in political settings says they too are poor, truth-poor.

The media also must be held accountable: Whenever page-time is devoted to stories about global climate change, industry-funded naysayers are granted equal time, in the name of being “fair and balanced.” How about we skip the fair and balanced and aim instead for true and accurate?

There are still a number of stragglers. On August 17th, CATO institute fellow J. Patrick Michaels had a piece in Reason magazine, slamming (peer-reviewed and highly respected) Nature for an article about global warming increasing the intensity of hurricanes. I guess Mr. Michaels won’t be looking for a job in the insurance business, but the petroleum industry probably already has a parking spot reserved for him.

But I say unto he and to all others sharing his thinking: You don’t care about the environment? That’s groovy. Because all you’re actually doing is making the planet unlivable for you. Mother Nature will persist; just take a look at any neglected stretch of highway. The weeds bust right through it. It will be a big cockroach sitting in your armchair drinking your beer and watching your television. Yes, there need not be a special place in Hell for these folks; Hell will gladly come to Earth for them. Unfortunately, it’s coming for you too.

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