In a weird sort of progress, NASA administrator Michael Griffin* acknowledges that global warming is real. But being a Bush appointee it goes without saying that Griffin cannot possibly say something reasonable without slipping in the crazy somewhere.
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep that will air in Thursday’s edition of NPR News’ Morning Edition, Administrator Griffin explains: “I guess I would ask which human beings – where and when – are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”
I mostly let the global warming issue go these days since, IMO anyway, the key thresholds have already come and gone so there is little point getting worked up about it now. Still, even a jaded cynic like me has to stop and stare at self-justifying stupidity like this. Griffin’s personal odyssey from doubt directly to despair reflects a too-convnient attitude that I see in rightwingers practically every day. One moment they deny anything to do with global warming, the next they think that puny little people like us could never hope to influence such a terribly huge problem. Or, this is a new one, it might even be morally wrong to fix the problem that we created. So many rightwingers seem to magically pass from denial directly to despair without getting anywhere near the idea that we should try to tackle the climate problem before it wrecks us. This transition from denial to inertia suits perfectly the Exxon-Mobil interests that fund America’s rightwing.
Giving Griffin the benefit of the doubt, here is an answer to his complaint. You don’t have to know each individual who will win and lose from changing climate to know that human civilization in aggregate grew in and depends on a several thousand year period of historic climate stability. Our global population has surged towards seven billion because food growers can plan their harvest five, ten and twenty years in the future. Water rights in marginal lands use regional averages that have held true for hundreds of years. Humans living near water (somewhere near 50% of the global population) count on the coastlines staying where they are next year and the year after that. The word civilization keeps growing in meaning as technology advances and far-flung regions grow entirely interdependent on one another for survival.
Hardly an exception from global interdependence, Americans may be the worse off than anybody. Think of how many products you have used that came entirely from inside America. Do you know where the raw materials were produced? Do you know where your shoes were assembled? The simple fact is that Americans could not possibly afford shoes, cars or coke for blast furnaces produced entirely in America. Our raw manufacturing sector is dead. We outsource both labor costs and evironmental degradation to poorer countries that make our stuff for us and then sell it back to us on the cheap. Coincidentally many of these same countries stand on the front lines with respect to climate. When components of the global system break down everything will start to crawl.
We need to find a solution for global change because every element of our current system is heavily mortgaged on stability. Naturally instead of either proposing to mitigate change with sensible carbon policies or suggesting a national Apollo Program to handle the disruption that change will cause we get despondent, inertia-bound leaders like Michael Griffin who must rationalize away his ideological allergy to dealing with problems that he can no longer deny.
(*) No idea whether he’s related to ousted US Attorney and vote purger Tim Griffin, although I suppose I would have heard about it by now.