Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That Sinking Feeling

My memory is muddy what's this river I'm in
New Orleans is sinking and I don't want to swim

--from "New Orleans is Sinking" by the Tragically Hip

I haven't been able to get that song out of my head since Sunday when I was up late reading up on how prone New Orleans has always been to a devastating hurricane. And it looks woefully like those dire predictions are coming to pass.

Now, I can understand how some might be tempted to beat the global warming drum with both hands in their efforts to explain Katrina and her waves. That may turn out to be absolutely right, but are we going down the right road here, or are we maybe jumping the gun a wee bit?

Reminds me of that HP printer commercial - the clever one with people moving white rectangular frames around that appear to transform back and forth between pictures and physical windows. Near the end of the ad, the voice-that-knows-all declares that the images created from their wonderful new product will not begin to fade for 108 years. (Not 107, not 109,...)

Of course, we can't really know until we actually wait it out, by which time the smarmy ad-writer will be long-since deceased, and unable to hear my grandson say: "Grampa told you so!" But that doesn't stop us from believing in the science we presume led to the 108-year conclusion in all its exactitude. (I heard from a guy once that carbon-dating can be used to figure these things out, as long as it's anti-matter carbon, so it proves the future instead of the past...)

Seriously, though: 108 years? Did someone get that figure from a beaker reading or perhaps one of those supercomputer simulations? How the hell do they know?

They probably don't; at any rate, I certainly wouldn't bet on the scruples of the Marketing lords. Whether they have met the scientific rigors required to make the claim publishable in a respected journal is unimportant. All that really matters is whether I, Consumer, believe in science enough to buy the claim religiously.

It's that kind of faith in science that is unproductively at play in the global warming debate. In our haste to find a meaning in the world of science for the calamities that befall us, global warming has become something of a scapegoat for environmentalists and progressives everywhere.

And I assure you, my opinion has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I have gobs and gobs of oil-shares.

Ahem. It's just that I can't help thinking that we don't have more than a few decades of properly recorded data to make comparisons with; and so pinning every environmental tragedy (besides Stephen Harper) or observed temperature spike on mankind's contribution to global warming seems just a little too easy.

Then again, I have to either believe that, or what the scientists are telling me, and sometimes you realise more than just New Orleans is sinking.

And no, you don't want to swim.

EDIT fixed links

1 comment:

pedantmann said...

This message brought to you by Shell Oil, and The Kato Institute. Dedicated to bringing you the best in obfuscation. Don't worry, be happy!