Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Authoritarianism of Climate Change - 3

Putin on the Ritz
I. Background

So far in this series I have not addressed the question of the proper way to respond, in terms of considering multiple ways of responding, to the ramifications of global warming induced climate change (The Authoritarianism of Climate Change, 2).

In other words, what is the proper way to respond, on a local scale, to the global warming induced climate change induced changes in sea level?

Should a local community or a local seaport authority be dictated to ("You shall ignore sea level change because it is a hoax!" ... "You shall adapt to sea level change exactly in the manner we dictate!") or is another way better ("Each local coastal area shall respond to sea level change as their local governments determine based upon the votes of the people in that local area") ?

The stakes are quite high (Hansen et al, 2016).

It would seem, at first blush, that allowing local ways of resolving problems is a better approach:
"With such a serious sea-level rise on the horizon, experts are increasingly looking at its potential impacts on coasts to facilitate local adaptation planning. This is a more complex issue than one might think, because different stretches of coast can be affected in very different ways. First of all, the sea-level response to global warming will not be globally uniform, since factors like changes in ocean currents (Levermann et al 2005) and the changing gravitational pull of continental ice (Mitrovica et al 2001) affect the local rise. Secondly, superimposed on the climatic trend is natural variability in sea level, which regionally can be as large as the climatic signal on multi-decadal timescales. Over the past decades, sea level has dropped in sizable parts of the world ocean, although it has of course risen in global mean (IPCC 2007). Thirdly, local land uplift or subsidence affects the local sea-level change relative to the coast, both for natural reasons (post-glacial isostatic adjustment centred on regions that were covered by ice sheets during the last ice age) and artificial ones (e.g., extraction of water or oil as in the Gulf of Mexico). Finally, local vulnerability to sea-level rise depends on many factors." [cf. Tamisiea & Mitrovica]
(Sea-level Rise: Towards Understanding Local Vulnerability, emphasis added). But what if a local decision will result in negative impacts on an adjacent local area?

Would the proper response be to increase the decision making scope up to the next higher level (e.g. from city authority up to county authority, or from county authority up to state authority, or from state authority up to national authority, or finally, from national authority up to United Nations authority)?

Who would decide when the current authority should be replaced with a higher authority?

II. Back In The USA & "USSR"

The response in the USA, as in the USSR, is to dictate the response from the Administrative Branch of Government (e.g. Putin & Trump).

The U.S. President has ordered the military to stop saying that global warming induced climate change is a national security threat, his cabinet is doing the same, and more, in areas of their jurisdiction (even wiping official documents and websites clear of any mention of things relating to climate change).

At the same time, states are rejecting that federal approach saying they will have a different response.

Some lawsuits at the city level of governance have invoked the judicial branch (courts) of governance (Oilfluenza, Affluenza, and Disgorgement, 2, cf. JULIANA et al. v U.S.).

Russia has the same seemingly contradictory stance on the issue, which like in the USA, will have an impact on how the problem is handled:
"Many influential voices here routinely debunked climate change, and some Russian newspapers in recent years chalked up climate variability to a mythical U.S. weapon aimed at Russia, or as a foreign plot aimed at Russia's energy exports.
Earlier this month, Russia's government fired the head of its weather forecasting agency, the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, or Roshydromet. Alexander Frolov, 65, had surpassed the mandatory retirement age for civil servants, but the real reason he was forced out, observers say, was Roshydromet's failure to anticipate the late-May storm's intensity and warn Muscovites accordingly. His ousting also sent a message to the environment ministry, Roshydromet's overseer. The state prosecutor's office, according to the newspaper Kommersant, demanded that the ministry take steps to increase the accuracy of forecasts in light of a changing climate.

The new charge to the environment ministry reflects a sea change in Russia's views about climate change and how the nation must respond. Politicians have acknowledged that extreme weather events have doubled over the past 25 years, to 590 in 2016, and that average temperatures are rising, particularly in the Arctic. Yet until recently, tackling climate change was a low priority for the federal government. One reason is complacence, because Russia's greenhouse gas emissions have already plummeted since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another is political: Russia's economy depends heavily on pumping oil and gas out of the ground."
(Russia wants to protect itself from climate change?). Unfortunately Trump and Putin have yet another thing in common it would seem.

III. Conclusion

The issue, then, involves more than agreeing on the science, it also involves agreeing on the governmental dynamics to use while reacting to the problem.

IMO, that makes it a much more dangerous situation.

The previous post in this series is here.


  1. "Russia linked U.S. lawyer indicted by Mueller" (link)

  2. Good point, Dredd. There seems to be a gap in our elected leaders' collective brains, whereby they can just ignore the OBVIOUS. This, of course, will come back to bite in the ass all those who heed these clowns. Miami, in a state where climate change talk is verboten, is already seeing the effects and has some hard decisions to make (all of which will be futile).

    Thanks, and keep up the good work and hard-hitting journalism.

  3. "But what if a local decision will result in negative impacts on an adjacent local area?"

    If decision making is made too high up, everything will become gridlocked and nothing will get done.

    Natural features should be emphasized versus man-made "barriers". Building near sea level now is just plain stupid and this needs to be outlawed. If this had been done 50 years ago - we would not be having a huge problem with coastal cities and towns (ports are another matter).

    Prohibition for any new development within xx feet of sea level would go a long ways towards future mitigation needs. I'd recommend 10 feet, but in some locations, that would include much of the county or state.

    Development should therefore be behind existing natural features and where barriers can be erected efficiently. This will need to be localized decisions because it will require intimate knowledge of soils, features, costs, impacts and requirements.