Sunday, November 25, 2007

Planning to finance my new beach-front condo in Seaford

One of the great problems of Demopublican machine politics like we have in Delaware (aside from those minor issues like corruption, contempt for the public, nepotism, etc. etc.) is the inability of the machine to look into the future.

Here's a great example: Delaware and global warming.

Let's make one assumption here for the sake of argument: global warming is real and has at least as a partial cause human, carbon-related activity. You can be agnostic or even hostile to that premise, but just bear with me for the moment.

I've just been reading the report of the Delaware Climate Change Consortium, and I couldn't help but notice a key point: the whole "Climate Change Action Plan" is all about preventing Global Warming. It shows in great detail how Delaware can reduce its carbon emissions over the next few years, and I don't question the science behind the various graphs and stats at all.

I just question the relevance.

Here's assumption number two: If Assumption Number One about Global Warming is correct, nothing that the State of Delaware does about it is going to make one damn bit of difference. In terms of the US we are a microscopic population--less that 1/3 of 1%, and even if we meet all the maximum effort targets in the report our contribution to carbon emission change in America will be rounded off somewhere east of the fourth number to the right of the decimal point.

And even if America and Europe make all the wonderful, carbon-reducing changes that Al Gore and the UN Climate folks want, it doesn't matter a tinker's damn if China, India, Indonesia, Bangla Desh, and Pakistan (which between them now account for about 1/2 of the world's population) don't reduce their own emissions and stop having so many babies. The elephant in the room with global warming (and the UN knows this even as it spends time arguing about forcing the industrialized world to reduce carbon emissions) is that birth rates will eventually cancel out whatever the First World does in terms of decreasing environmental impact. What works with 6 billion people on earth will be meaningless with 6.5 or 7 billion people here.

So I'll say it again:

Nothing we do in Delaware can either slow down or stop global warming. Oh, it might make us feel more virtuous, and purchase a few votes for the Democratic machine, but its not going to accomplish anything.

So what, instead of bending over, sticking our heads between our cheeks and kissing our butts goodbye, should we be doing?

Long-term planning for surviving the changes that headed our way.

We're a small state, a coastal state, a damn-near-below-sea-level state, and a tourist destination. By 2025 things should be changing rapidly enough to thoroughly modify our environment, and--if we're not careful--to depopulate our whole state.

What state government and those vaunted state universities should be doing now is studying the immediate impacts of the worst-case scenarios and how to plan for them. What technologies are we going to need? What industries are we going to have to rely on if the tourist industry dries up? What kinds of new opportunities will global warming bring?

(Yes, you heard me right: new opportunities. By 2050 if the wheat belt has moved toward northern Canada we could be the new home for formerly Florida citrus. Or something. All disasters are also opportunities.)

(Aside: you can start your own research with the National Wildlife Federation's "Delaware and Global Warming report. It's heavily focused at the beginning on losses of bird and fish species, but it also starts providing some clues about how the process will affect the overall geography of Delaware.)

But gee--look around and you'll realize that we are not planning for that; we're still caught up in the "Let's all recycle at the curb and use flourescent bulbs and pretend that Rehobeth Beach will still be here in fifty years" mode.

There are some people thinking about that kind of future: Tommywonk's crusade for windpower (I personalize it to him because in the blogosphere he is the chief and most passionate advocate) is not only a chance to lower carbon emissions in the present, it's an opportunity to develop a new energy source that will work for us in that unfortunate future.

And what happens? Delmarva Power and its minions in the state government are trying to kill it.

Here's a new question to add to my list for prospective candidates in Delaware:

What do you think we should be doing now to plan for the environmental, economic, and social changes that will result from global warming if the "worst-case" scenario is true?

Since I am a Libertarian, and don't believe that questions so fundamental to our survival should be solely entrusted to the state, it's also a question for you.


Sam said...

As a parent, and one who probably won't live to see the major effects of global warming, my goal is to educate my children on the follies of our current political parties and encourage them to move toward Libertarianism views, including voting for those who can see beyond the next gala event with the rich and famous.

Anonymous said...

This state is horribly close-minded to the future as is much of GOP/Corporate-led politics since the Reagan era especially.
Short term let-me-get-mine and the rise of the rights of the stock-holder,(ergo capital globalization), over the constituent, created a cyclical undermining of planning for the greater good at home.

Delaware's ruinous record of pollution, sprawl, poor-health, environmental degredations, ad nauseum all seem to be choices averted in Dover to have done the right thing.

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