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Please allow me to get this straight. The average daily tidal height around New York City is about 6 feet per day. Around the world this tidal range is as little as a few inches, to a couple feet in the middle of the ocean and as high as 30+ feet in the Bay of Fundy.

We are told that melting glaciers AND an expanded volume of ocean due to its warming (for fun, go check out the actual data on this and examine what the actual consensus is on these predictions and past increases) are going to be something like two-feet over the course of this century at the high end of the IPCC range and closer to a half-foot on the low end. Of course, folks are suggesting these are too-low, and that when the Antarctic ice sheet drops into the oceans, the 30 foot sea level rise would doom us. But let’s take 2 feet.  Now, understand that I am conflating topics here, but we are being told that an increase in sea levels of 2 feet is going to be catastrophic, when most cities experience triple that rise each and every day.

You might say, “well, we are built out to the edge of that 6 foot rise right now, so another 2 feet would sink us.” And I’d simply suggest that if we cannot handle a 2 foot level sea level rise over the course of 100 years, well, we’re pretty inept.  Here is an image of a 10 foot high dike around the island of Pellworm, which did not take 100 years to build, even when it was done with horse and hand.

Dike in Germany(photo credit Von Michael B. Schlüter)

Wouldn’t Manhattan be pretty spectacular with one of those wrapped around it? And just think of all of the jobs to be created from building it. By the way, wouldn’t it make sense to employ every unemployed American right now to build these around the entire country? Would you take on $2 trillion more debt right now in exchange for ending this worry about global warming? Of course, we’d still get the latter, but hey, I’m not the one who’s too rigid to compromise here. I’d seriously suggest someone in the Republican Party offering this up as a deal to the left, and I am sure we’d end up at, “but we have a moral obligation not to allow sea levels to rise at all.” Fine, then send Americans to the islands around the world to build these too.

On a similar note, the “bad” cases suggest that temperatures on average will increase by 4 to 5 degrees over the next century. Yet American domestic migration patterns are heavily in favor of these changes. For example, the annual average temperature is over 10 degrees higher in Phoenix than it is in New York City. And better than that, the average daily variation in temperature in most places is in the 10 to 15 degree (F) range, easily within the range of increase we are expected to see over 100 years. I find it odd that it is going to be catastrophically crippling to deal with this – EVEN IF such an average temperature increase alters the way we grow crops and the way that insects affect us.

The current “alarm” community would have us believe that the human race is so powerful and so brutal as to have a catastrophically bad impact on the planet due to our misuse of science, incredible thirst for motive power, and our lust for new stuff. Yet this same community would also have you believe that this very same powerful force of humanity is going to be utterly hobbled by higher sea levels and warmer temperatures that are going to occur over the course of a century. This seems at best a little lacking in imagination, don’t you think? And of course, none of this says anything about our human ingenuity to avoid the “problem” in the first place. Whose vision of the world is actually optimistic?

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about the planet not warming or anything about the feedback effects of CO2 or anything like that. But you can bet a dollar for a doughnut that nonetheless this post will be cited as evidence of denialism and justification for “planet wrecking capitalism” by “opponents.”


14 Responses to “Ineptitude?”

  1. Tom Davis says:

    While it certainly makes sense to build a dike around Manhattan, and possibly even at certain points around other NYC boroughs, it would be ridiculous to try to build a dike around the entire US.

    Start by thinking about rivers. In each case where a river dumps into the sea, the dike would have to go inland along the river banks to a point where the height of the river is greater than the expected new sea level. On top of that, rivers are not stationary. Rivers change course over time. So in many cases building what would today be a dike would in 100 years be the walls of a lake, merely keeping the fresh water divided from the salt water. A 100 year program to contain all of the rivers to their current beds is truly ambitious to say the least.

    Next think about rain. A dike prevents transmission of water in both directions. What used to be a natural draining action into the sea is now just a pool of water which must be pumped to the sea (that’s what those dutch windmills were for).

    Now think about beaches. A significant economic benefit of the land/ocean interface (if you will) is that people enjoy spending time on the beach. A dike would destroy that.

    Again, it almost certainly makes sense for large cities to have their own dikes with pumps, etc, but for the rest of the coast, it would make more sense to allow “nature to take it’s course” and have the beaches and coastal residences move inland. The idea that we’ve drawn the map and everything must therefore stay exactly the same forever, is ridiculous.

    • Wintercow20 says:

      I entirely agree. Check out David Haddock’s work on what we have done to prevent the Atchafalaya River from running its course, it is beyond unnerving.

  2. SY says:

    As David Friedman said in his talk on campus, global warming is “a pretty wimpy” thing to worry about–there are three things more likely to end humanity: nanotech, AI, and biotech.

  3. Harry says:

    You hit that paradox in the bullseye, WC.

  4. Harry says:

    I was going to say, not ineptitude, but conceit. WC often bends over backwards intellectually to further the discussion, hoping to get the global warming priests to utter something beyond a grunt or a burst of flatulence.

  5. qazokm2222 says:

    I’ve been lurking here as a reader for quite a long time, and I have a slightly off-topic question for WC:
    You strike me as a libertarian or classical liberal or whatever title you’d like to give it. For the record, I would also describe myself this way. Therefore I assume that you (like myself) would want government to, in general, stay out of our lives unless there is some good reason like enforcing property rights or correcting large externalities. Along with that, I suspect you have socially liberal views such as preserving uncensored free speech, allowing gay marriage etc.

    So, my question is why do you mention advice specifically for the Republican party? I mean not just in this post, but in at least a few others I remember reading as well. You often make note of how incentives for all politicians are structured in such a way as to basically ensure many of the bad policy outcomes that we see, and I agree. No matter what party one belongs to these bad incentives are always in place, thus there is no reason to be bias towards one party or the other – they’re both bad because neither one does much to protect our basic liberties. Democrats have a mistrust of free capitalism and try to regulate when they should not, and Republicans trample the rights of homosexuals, start wars, and denigrate immigrants. Both parties are very guilty of cronyism. So again, why do you seem to have this perspective of wanting to help the republican party over any other? I do not see how they are any closer to supporting libertarian ideals than Democrats, so I then I don’t see why you’d choose to offer anything in their favor. I get this might just be nitpicking on my part, but as a long-time reader it’s a subtle pattern I’ve picked up on and I think its very odd. You have every right to see the actions of “progressives” as immoral and stupid, but the right wing in this country is full of racists, homophobes, and just as many crony capitalists. That’s certainly no better.

    • wintercow20 says:

      Perhaps one day I ought to post a “what I believe” series in order to clear some of this up. For a short answer, I’d refer you to a bastardization of a quote that has stuck in my head for years, and also why I wouldn’t even want to affiliate myself with much of a “formal” libertarian community. It’s that the best way to destroy an idea is to have it defended poorly. And the Republicans have used the rhetoric of freedom, respect for the law, etc. remarkably well, and the left has used it against them – so I find it far easier to address this. I’d also ask you to remember that, at the margin, the few readers I have that are not fellow student-classical liberals, at least in name, are likely to be Republicans. I doubt strongly that I have many Democrats (and I mean died in the wool like i grew up with), and I find it helpful to address folks’ own thinking.

      By the way I would venture to say that one of the ugliest unspoken truths in this country is not that there are a lot of Republicans who are homophobes and racists, but that I would bet a dollar for a doughnut that the Democratic party is similarly composed. I know that to be true where I live. But that is perhaps a stupid point, as I don’t believe it is fair to group everyone together by party. “All Democrats are …” is probably the way to get someone to tune out faster than just about any other invocation.

      • qazokm2222 says:

        Thanks for your reply. I see your points about poorly defending ideas and that the Democratic party has plenty of prejudice. I agree.

        But I take serious issue with what you wrote here: “…Republicans have used the rhetoric of freedom, respect for the law, etc. remarkably well…”

        Are you sure about that? I don’t see how that’s true in the least (again, not defending Democrats here at all, I think they’re just as bad). Sure, the republicans have been quite steadfast in their defense of things like the 2nd amendment, which is fine. But then look at everything else they do. Blowing money on insane military operations, coming up with BS like the Patriot act, opening up Guantanamo Bay, their policies on immigration, reproductive rights, marraige equality, creationism in school, the list goes on. None of these things are fair. None of these things are in defense of our freedom. And most importantly, these aren’t just the views of some fringe crazies. These are big issues openly supported by large groups of republican politicians at the national level. And do you really think they’re any more willing or capable than democrats of reducing lobbying or stopping the revolving door between Wall St. and high level jobs at the Fed and Treasury? Doubt it.

        If anything, the republicans have done a great job destroying any hope we have of a truly liberal society. By preaching the virtues of the constitution and the free market while simultaneously acting on cronyism and deranged xenophobia, they have created a psychological link between their brand of economic and social policy. If you come out as a capitalist, you are assumed to be a crony/social darwinist and at least partially racist. The republicans don’t deserve help. The deserve to have their party fade out of existence for tainting the image of capitalism by letting the descendants of the KKK direct their social policy. Again, I wish a similar fate on democrats, as well as all other political parties. I think Washington was right when he warned about the dangers of political factions. But the point here is that I still don’t see why one would favor republicans – I think it’s far more logical to try to get reasonable members of any party to be independent of political faction.

        • qazokm2222 says:

          I should also add that another reason not to favor a certain party is because you have lots of good ideas. The last thing you want is for those good ideas to be assimilated by a crappy party that will bastardize them, poorly defend them, mix them in with them in with their social prejudice, and ultimately see to it that your good idea gets squashed before it sees the light of day.

    • Harry says:


      Having voted in more elections than I care to admit, and having taken the time to understand the views of the candidates I voted for, I admit to voting for Republicans most nearly all of the time, even when the choice is not that clear. For example, I voted for Arlen Specter not once but four times in the general election, even though he was not my perfect cup of tea. For me, I tend to favor the person most likely to preserve liberty.

      There was one guy I wish I had voted for — Paul McHale (D, PA) — who ran against Depublican Don Ritter.McHale won, and I got to know him to be a decent, good man. When he retired from Congress, he got appointed Undersecretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, and went on to practice law.

      And while we are on the subject of Clinton, I never voted for him, either, despite his doing some good things in his second term with capital gains and welfare.

      The question is: what is the alternative? Can you imagine where we would be with Al Gore, or John Kerry? I know there is a school of thought that seeks to hasten disaster, hoping for libertarian triumph in picking up the pieces and teaching everybody a lesson.

      • Michael says:

        I’ve pondered going Libertarian a few times, but it seems like there is just a huge disconnect between the Libertarian (or Austrian) economists I know and like, and the politicians of the Libertarian party. Even in this last election with McCaskill and Akin in Missouri, the Libertarian’s opening remarks were about the legalization of pot. Not saying I’m for or against pot, but out of all the issues that you could discuss with the last election, why bring up that non-issue? And getting past that, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Libertarian politician give a good appeal for more liberty; instead I hear tired clichés and quotes from founding fathers.

        • Harry says:

          I remember being at the car wash, these guys noticing my Bush/ Quayle sticker on my bumper, and we got into about the merits of Ross Perot, who was then running as a third-party candidate and had captured the attention of what I thought were energetic young men destined for bigger things than running the car wash. They said they were going to vote for Perot, and I told them they were throwing their vote away. Clinton won with 43% of the vote.

          But it was tempting to vote for Ross, and not just because of the nexus between GHWB, Skull and Bones, the Trilateral Commission, and John Kerry, or, to me, GHWB’s belief that supply-side economics was voodoo.

    • Harry says:

      And it is a mistake to equate Republicans and the right wing, however you imagine either. And saying the right wing is “full” of homophobes and racists is a cheap shot, as in anyone who is not a left winger must be a homophobe or a racist, since they disagree in general with the philosophies of BHO or Barney Frank.

      In any event, I do not mean to discourage you from commenting, and my apologies to you and WC if I have been blunt.

      • qazokm2222 says:

        ok sorry as is the case with lots of internet comment exchanges i think something has gone seriously wrong here.

        @Harry: I don’t mean to say everyone in the republican party is a racist or homophobe. But, there are many leaders in the party that tend to be outspoken about their prejudice. For example, many republicans have no problem saying they are against gay marriage, adoption etc. No matter which way you cut it, that’s homophobic garbage, and it’s a policy that is part of their national platform. Please keep this in mind if you’re thinking of voting for them in a big election where they are held accountable for pleasing the party base. Individual candidates in smaller elections might be a different story (I believe Mr. Specter is a decent example) but not supporting equal rights for all is simply anti liberty. A similar argument goes for their immigration policy, and many other stances. You might say that their economics is more sound and you would vote for them over a lefty for that reason. First, their economics is no more trustworthy than the democrats. Republicans simply SAY they are free market. I would love it if it were true, but cronyism abound and ridiculous military budgets simply isn’t good economics.

        Can I imagine where we would be with Gore or Kerry? Yes I can. It’s an alternate reality where we didn’t waltz into Iraq for no good reason at all, blow cool trillion bucks, and kill thousands upon thousands of innocent people. I am fully aware that democrats’ economic policies would have been bad, but as I said, are republicans any better? Even if they were, I’d have a hard time taking good economics in exchange for over a decade of senseless death as a result of the Republican ideas of “homeland security” and “patriotism”.

        Lastly, I am not automatically saying that you or anyone else who is not a leftist is a racist or homophobe. For example, I am a pretty strict free market guy, I am certainly not racist, and there are many others like me including you. What I mean is that the republican party has given these types of people a place in mainstream politics. Gay marriage should not be on the table to begin with. Government shouldn’t have any say in marriage at all. But it’s the republican party by and large that has made this an issue by bringing the religious right wing into their party base.

        @Michael: I didn’t mean to advocate for the Libertarian party. I use the word libertarian in the sense of the philosophy, not the party. Like I said, political factions are generally bad news. You’re right to say the Libertarian party politicians are disconnected, but so is every other politician of every other party.

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