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Matthew Wills Headshot

Future Floodshock

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There are twenty million Pakistanis suffering from floods, threatened by cholera, dysentery, and starvation. The UN says six million people need immediate help in one of the worst natural disasters that organization has ever seen. This a tragedy right now, but it's also a forecast of the enormous disasters that await the future because of global warming and radical climate change.

When people claim they don't "believe in global warming," what they are really saying is that they don't care about the future. Because whether it's anthropogenic or not, the planet is warming, and there will be severe consequences. These will include floods, droughts, starvation, and disease. And the things that stem from these: political instability and chaos, which as we already know results in ethnic cleansing, war, terrorism, mass migration.

Can we escape the world now? Of course not. Just consider how NAFTA - a negotiated, legal document - resulted in sending millions of people north. What makes anyone think future Americans will be able to escape the future world?

Ironically, the deniers are usually the same people who say that we can't possibly bequeath our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren big budget deficits. Right, like the future is going to be cheap. Yes, we are protected by two large oceans, which are getting larger, and our wealth and power, and most disasters will happen over there, among the world's poor. As if we could turn that off.

Consider for instance, the cost of building seawalls around all the precious real estate of our coastal cities. Think of the disruptions in food supplies. Think of the refugees clamoring to get in. Think of the rage against the world's largest energy user.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I would define a conservative as someone who cares so much about the past that they want the same for the future. And the past ain't what it used to be. For isn't it quite obvious that it will be our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on, who will be the ones who bear the brunt of a warming planet?

If for nothing else than for selfishness - that blessed state said to underpin capitalism, indeed, even human nature in the conservative world-view - you'd think the deniers would care. It's the selfish gene, literally: being worried about your progeny and their progeny.

Personally, I get no pleasure in imagining future Americans cursing their ancestors, not just for their do-nothingism, but their actual resistance to doing anything. "God damn you all to hell" is what the man says at the end of Planet of the Apes, referring to his criminal ancestors. That's just about right.