Tomorrow Happens

...trends slamming at us from the dark

David Brin

David Brin
San Diego, California, USA
October 06
Bio David Brin’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, including New York Times Best-sellers that won Hugo and Nebula awards. His 1989 ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed cyberwarfare, the World Wide Web, global warming and Gulf Coast flooding. A 1998 Kevin Costner film was loosely adapted from his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. ............................................ Brin is a noted scientist, futurist and speaker who appears frequently on television (Life After People, The Universe), discussing trends in the near and far future, on subjects such as surveillance, technology, astronomy, and SETI. His non-fiction book, The Transparent Society, deals with issues of openness and security in the wired-age. ............................................. David Brin web site: Twitter: Facbook:


MARCH 29, 2012 12:57PM

Climate Change and the Navy, Shipping & Insurance Co's

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I regularly consult with various branches of our “protector caste”... from the military services and homeland security to several unnamed “agencies.” Naturally, I am encouraged by the fact that some of the most serious-minded men and women on the planet are very interested in well-grounded projections of diverse possible futures - not only mine, but those of several other "science & sci-fi guys."

I can’t tell you about some of these “future studies.”  But I am free to share this one observation:

Absolutely all of the top-elite officers of these services appear to be convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, about Human Generated Climate Change (HGCC). All of those I have met consider it to be both real and one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Ponder this: the US Navy is striving with great intensity to prepare for an Arctic Ocean that is nearly ice-free for large parts of the year. Canada is shifting most of its military budget northward.  The Russians have moved an entire division to the Siberian northern coast.  And dig this.  The Russian Navy’s top priority? Their pride-and-joy?  SIX brand new, double-hulled, nuclear powered icebreakers they recently put in service. (The U.S. has one single-hulled, obsolete oil-powered breaker, soon to be retired.)

A year or so ago, the Northwest passage opened so wide that a flood of cargo vessels raced through it from China to Europe. And prospectors are sifting for treasures on the sea floor, where Peary once spent a summer dragging sledges over ice-continents in search of the Pole.

What do all of these groups share in common? They cannot afford to let their view of reality be warped by willful delusion, just-so stories, Beckian rants and dogma, They don't have the time for denialism. Want another example?

==  Insurers Confirm Growing Risks, Costs ==

Stakeholders from the insurance industry met with members of the U.S. Senate to acknowledge the role global warming plays in extreme weather-related losses, and to issue a call for action.  "At a Capital Hill a press conference on the cost of climate change, debate was not on the agenda. Pointing to a year of history-making, $1 billion-plus natural disasters, representatives of Tier 1 insurance companies took a definitive stance with members of the U.S. Senate to confirm that costs to taxpayers and businesses from extreme weather will continue to soar because of climate change.

"From our industry's perspective, the footprints of climate change are around us and the trend of increasing damage to property and threat to lives is clear," said Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. "We need a national policy related to climate and weather." Perhaps no industry better understands the impact of global warming than the insurance industry whose job it is to analyze risk. See the video of the March 1st press conference. Marsh & McLennan, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, called climate change "one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today.” As Jules Boykoff put it in The Guardian, "Let's be clear: insurance firms aren't altruists; they're capitalists. A rise in extreme weather means a fall in their profits. This is hardball economics based on risk analysis, not save-the-polar-bears stuff."

So, if all the men and women who must combine brains, education and professionalism with harsh practicality can see the desperate need to prepare, how do 40% of the citizens of a great nation enter denial so severe they'll demean and ignore not only scientists and the insurance industry... but even the U.S. Navy?

Are all of these groups (and a myriad more) absolutely convinced that absolutely every single aspect of current climate theory is absolutely proved in all levels, in all ways?  Of course not. There is always room for sincere skepticism that aims at finding flaws and improving our models of the world.

What they can’t afford is prim dogmatism. They have to pragmatically prepare for the world that appears 95% likely (by preponderance of evidence and expert calculations) to be coming.

On the other hand, there is a word for people who refuse to take reasonable precautions, or even negotiate in good faith the cheapest and most efficient just-in-case precautions, demanding instead (at the behest of a couple of coal-billionaire brothers)  that climate theory be absolutely proved in all levels, in all ways, before we take prudent, moderate measures to protect ourselves.

That word is imbeciles.

== Consistency: A Litmus of Madness ==

Here is a distilled essence showing just how bad it's gotten.  How thoroughly Murdoch-Limbaugh-Norquist-Waleed, the four horsemen of America's collapse, control the Republican Party. Two years ago, 100% of the GOP Senators voted the party line 100% of the time, all votes, for every issue, all year long.

Hell, a single dumb light switch could have done that job. What's the point in being a "statesman" or delegate of the people to the world's greatest deliberative body? As Mark Anderson put it: "This is the opposite of informed, rational decision-making. If that's all they are going to do, why not save a few billion dollars and just put hats in their empty seats, and let them stay home? In other words, Newt's party discipline has poisoned American politics.

 == Moral Decline? ==

All right, I am almost done with this political blog-trilogy. So let me just add a couple more thoughts.

Many - even most - "red" voters proclaim they are motivated in large part by anger over America's "moral decline." Rick Santorum says it is Satan's work, undermining the moral foundations of the nation that is his biggest obstacle on Earth.  But is this assertion subject to any kind of test or comparison with facts?

In a fascinating article, The Economist explores measurable things like divorce rates, abortion, violent crime, high school dropout rates and teen pregnancy... all of which have declined... most of them steeply... in the last couple of decades. (Unmentioned by the article: rates for these things, as well as domestic violence, STDs and teen sex, have all declined much less in purportedly "more moral" Red America than they have in Blue states and cities.)

Teen pregnancy is at its lowest level in 40 years.  Shouldn't that indicate something?

There is one contrary statistic, so read the original article. But this would seem to be yet another case of looking for a mythical reason to rationalize a fuming, volcanic anger that has other, much more psychological causes.  The truth is often bitterly inconvenient to dogmatists

(And you lefties... you have some of your own!)

== Political Miscellany ==

Here is a quickie interview on my local NPR station in which I did some rapid blather about taxes and pyramids and diamonds and oligarchy and historical perspective.  Stuff you’ve all heard from me before, but redolent and relevant this year.

An interesting piece of film-polemic. Biased but very telling. Asking anti-abortion demonstrators if making it illegal should then send women to jail.

A fascinating story about re-shoring or in-sourcing of manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.  - claimed to be a growing and significant trend.

Courts ruled that GPS trackers on cars require a warrant. FBI turned off 3000 GPS trackers currently in use, and now has to apply for permission to turn them back on, in order to find them, in order to remove them.

AND FINALLY: More on high frequency trading (HFT). In recent postings I gave five different reasons why they infernal mutation of capitalism threatens to destroy the very same capital markets that brought it into being. Now here’s another: "Sometimes high-frequency traders don't even profit from the trade itself. They buy and sell shares at the same price and make money by sending large orders through the exchanges. NYSE, Nasdaq and others want to attract the most traders. So they offer rebates of 20 to 32 cents per 100 shares to traders who send in large orders. On the electronic exchange NYSE Arca, traders who can move 35 million shares pocket a quick $112,000".

Yeesh. If there were one tax we desperately need, it is this one.

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Thanks for this, posting to fb.
Fascinating. Especially with regard to the legendary Northwest Passage, which now, due to climate change, exists for real and will be subject to much debate regarding sovereignty.
That abortion video floored me! It laid bare so quickly and easily the hypocrisy in the claim that abortion is murder; and how shallow their moral convictions are. It was amazing how many had said they never even thought about it. They are so focused on the fetus that they never even consider the mother. Their moral certainty dissolves when faced with a question that anyone who thinks about abortion should already have carefully considered. How on earth do you think about abortion without thinking about the mother?

I guess the answer is that their beliefs are based not on thinking, but on emotional adoption of a pre-packaged belief they are spoon fed.
I really got into it with TimingLogic. I followed his blog very closely, as he's an astute, intelligent analyst on matters financial and in the stock market. However, he posted a NASA picture of extreme Arctic Ocean build up this winter, trumpeting this as proof that Al Gore is nuts. When I mentioned that global warming should be renamed manmade climate change, he went nuclear -- calling me a slew of nasty names that I was tempted to get into a flame war over.

I use this as a cautionary tale about global warming deniers. For some reason, being seen as somehow smarter than the National Science Foundation, the Nobel Prize Committee, the Defense Department, and the Royal Society combined is vital to these people's sense of personal identity.

And when you challenge their personal identity, you must be a nitwit in league with Satan. But then politically, I've always said that when you have an unlimited amount of money for marketing, you can sell a helluva lot of Preparation H.