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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sandy: Freezing Citizens and Politics of Ignorance

There are more troubling aspects of hurricane Sandy and lack of preparedness.

One is the fact that tomorrow there is an election for President of the United States.  There seems to be a great interest in politicizing the hurricane in support of the current Administration.    For example, this article from the Huffington Post says that "... strongly suggests that it is the failure to stabilize the climate that creates the greater risk of an enormous growth in governmental power."

The meaning here is that left to range "out of control" the climate will force a larger government on the people than today's attempts at climate law.

(Of course this debate rages as the temperature in the Northeast drops and those without shelter, food and heat are left to fend for themselves...  Funny how smart people like Bloomberg fail to think through these sorts of details.)

Of course there are many, many discussions of climate change, pro and con.  But today, sadly, we have the added political element of Sandy: "Oh my God! Climate change has triggered a disaster."  (For example, NYC mayor Bloomberg endorsing Obama because he will address "climate change"  - hint, hint, its why NYC is suffering).

Though I have posted it before I post it again here for discussion: the Wikipedia post-glacial "Sea Level Rise" chart.

I provide it here to go along with this (as one of very many) discussions about sea level over the last 10,000 or so years.

Please, please read, study and think about the pro and con arguments yourself and ignore the "factoids" offered by the political machines.

The truth is that no one has a clear idea, except at a very gross level as depicted in the chart above, what sea levels have done historically.

We can reasonably know that when much of the planet was covered with ice the levels were lower (perhaps 15,000 years ago).  But there are many reason we simply don't know what the exact levels have been - even since the times of the Romans.

For one thing, there is no "absolute" scale from which to measure sea level from.

Our seas and land exist on top of large tectonic plates that move.  Left, right, up and down.  They float on a sea of lava.  The pressure of the oceans, atmosphere, their own movement, the tidal pull of the moon, natural silting activities related to rivers and so on cause them to "flex" and, for example, earth quakes are a consequence of pressure release of this flexing.

Their scale of movement is a few millimeters a year (these plates an be thousands of miles across in both directions and miles thick).

All of the land from which we measure ocean level is on these plates as is the all the seas we are trying to measure the levels of.

So the very first problem you encounter when "measuring sea level" is that what standard do you measure it from?

The underlying land moves around as does the bottom of the sea.

So how can any measurement which is less than this movement be accurate?

The answer is it cannot be - certainly not within millimeters.

Like global temperature its not really a useful metric.

Yet this does not stop people from Bloomberg from using it in a political fashion.

Nor does it stop those ignorant of the science and big picture from believing it as simple gospel truth.

Historically, see this article, hurricane Sandy had a moderate impact on the northeast.

However, today's disasters seem much "larger" than those which were in fact far worse for several  reasons.

First, there is more to damage today.  More people, more infrastructure, "worse" choices as to where and how to build things, and so on.

Secondly, we have extended the coast lines by building "artificial" lands out into the rivers and seas - particularly around NYC.

Third, there is more "news" today - more companies vying for more notice and more ad revenue - so the disaster can profitably be made larger for the benefit of "big news" (on both sides of the political equation).

So any reasonably thoughtful analysis of the Sandy situation shows that Bloomberg hasn't one single leg to stand on when claiming "climate" is the reason for the misery in the northeast.

And, in fact, things he himself could control, i.e., building codes, expansion of land into the water, etc. somehow seem to escape his mind when having these discussions.

Which is worse, that Bloomberg foists this fantastical nonsense on the freezing masses or that they believe it even while freezing or walking up fifty-one flights of stairs after buying water?

The crime here is one of ignorance. 

Had the populous been taught to "think for themselves" instead of merely accepting random "factoids" as gospel truth things might be different.  Instead of having the latest fifty-one inch LED TV they might have had water, a generator, and gas handy.  (Or perhaps instead of $25K is student loan debt they might have had a vast disaster plan???)

The northeast has traded self-sufficiency for debt and comfort.

Climate blame is merely a hand-wave to distract the ignorant masses from grasping the fact that for the last few decades they've been sold a useless "bill of goods" relative to their safety and security.

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