Thursday, May 7, 2015

Honesty in Politics, the Humane Solution to the Drought Driven Mess in Southern California

Honesty in Politics
The Human Solution to the California Mess

April 22, 2015

Governor Jerry Brown has a nightmare of a situation with the critical drought in Southern California.  The Govenor of California has very little economic power, as their Proposition System, which allowed the public tovote on how their tax dollars were spent.  So 90% of the states treasury were earmarked for predetermined projects.  It was a very inflexible system, as the Propositions had to be repealed by another vote, and would be fiercely opposed by those who benefited from the proposition.  In this drought crisis the Proposition system kept many effective measures from being implemented.

A very sophisticated private company was able to make a very precise estimation that there is one year of water left (11 months now).  Brown requested the public to conserve; and given an insignificant result he mandated a 25% reduction (agriculture was exempted, and uses 70% of California’s water).  Again the public response was weak, very similar to the people in Austin who knew nothing about the dangers of the drought.  However, even a strong response would save a very small amount of water.  Washington, a steady supplier of water to California for years, based on the snow pack melt in the Cascades.  But this winter, there was virtually no snow in the Cascades.  So Washington, has a serious drought of its own and Cal looses another source of water.

Reluctantly California is doing the many small things that make sense when you live in a dessert. Taking out their lawns, not filling their swimming pools, using low volume flush toilets. There is a long list of effective actions citizens can take and they are well documented elsewhere.  The point of all these conservation efforts is three fold; (1) they should have been implemented decades ago; (2) the current effect of these efforts combined is hardly worth counting; (3) and finally, they would not have had any effect on the current crisis, which is caused by Global Warming, which is 100% caused by our species burning fossil fuels at a breakneck rate. 

The science behind these facts is the result of a 25 year effort, which began by a small group of young scientists who were weary of the political bickering that dominated the 1980’s.  The right wing said there was no global warming and no action was necessary; and the left position was that the global warming was real and we needed to do something about it.

The young scientists were amazed at the amount of information they found that provided evidence of warming.  Everywhere they looked in a variety of scientific disciplines another enormous amount of data was exposed.  Very early they realized that even the best PC’s working in a network were markedly insufficient to process even a portion of the uncovered data.  They needed Cray super computers.  They pitched their case with skill, energy, and some compelling examples, but their were no takers, until the Katrina hurricane almost destroyed New Orleans, and the cost of rebuilding the city got everyone’s attention, especially when there were similar climactic disasters all over the world.  Overnight, governments and large corporations ponied up the money for the Cray Computers at cutting edge scientific universities all over the world.  It took a couple of years to input the data, and when the data entry was complete, the scientists (by this point the very best researchers in many scientific fields were fighting with each other to become a member of the Global Warming effort because the importance was so enormous.  They asked the Crays to draw a picture of the world’s climate in the past.  There are several “markers” (catastrophic events that we know the exact date that they occurred.)  The researchers, a staunch and hard to impress group of scientists, were stunned.  The history “picture” that the Cray’s drew hit all the known markers perfectly.  That unexpected result added more energy, intensity, and funding, to the project at centers all over the world.

Every group of climatologists agreed that climactic change was just getting started and was going to get worse.  There is a delay in the burning of fossil fuels and the final effect of the warming it caused.  Currently have a 1.0 degree warming, but the lag time from the already burned fossil fuels would carry us to 1.2 degrees, even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow.  There is a critical point at which a positive feedback loop will start and be impossible to stop, resulting in a mass extinction of 95% of the biological life on the planet.  The best estimate by consensus is 2.8 degrees.

This research performed by the best and brightest scientists in the world using cutting edge equipment, has been the fastest most accurate analysis of any problem in any arena in the history of science.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of the basic sciences has to be impressed by the magnitude of the achievement.  When the media (owned by the super –rich), is strongly prejudiced against the idea of Global Warming because, if true, opposition to the way they have made billions of dollars in the past will likely cause political and public pressure to CHANGE.  They are correct about the pressure to change.  Typical of sociopaths they have a strong tendency to underestimate the capabilities of their opponents.  They are also ripe for an “upset”.

In Texas everything has gone their way since George Bush was elected Governor of Texas in 1998.  Big powerful and overconfident, sudden substantial resistance will catch them by surprise, and they are very inflexible thinkers as they believe they are always right.  This happens often in sports, to the delight of sports fans everywhere, because that having “heart” and fearlessness can overcome what appears to be a certain loss.  I like to point out the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament.  The mighty University of Houston basketball team, one of the greatest teams ever in college basketball, came to the finals with a record of 40-2, and three players who were All-American every year; AND went on to   be All-Stars consistently in pro basketball.  Their opponents: Villanova, with a 24-22 record and barely made it into the tournament.  They had no dominant players; no one who made it in the pros.  They did have a very cohesive team chemistry and a inspirational coach that convinced them they could defeat this giant.  In a thrilling game, the lead went back and forth the entire 4 quarters. Even the announcers got exited, and we rooting for the super underdog.  The bookies bet that U of H to win by 40 points.  But every player on the Villanova team played the best basketball in their lives.  Houston didn’t play badly, but every time they obtained a good lead, say 10 points, Villanova would come right back and tie the game or even establish a small lead.  You could see the disappointment on the faces of the Houston players.  They were in a game and fighting for every  basket.  But Villanova’s confidence grew as they continued to play an even game with a team they were supposed to be crushed by.  Villanova won on a long range jump shot at the buzzer.  After the game the Houston players were gracious:  “How can you beat a team that shoots 78% from the field?”

A similar event awaits the rigid thinking arrogant sociopaths.
This is where the political arena becomes the main battle ground.  Many already super-rich sociopaths become even more obscenely rich when fossil fuels are used as they have been in the past.  To survive as a species, these people (called the Davos group has been in operation since 1992) who have control over 70% of the world’s industrial output, must be removed  from their position of power, whether it be by voting them out of office or a shooting civil war, if necessary.  If the effort to displace them becomes violent, another common fault will be revealed.  They are terrible at tactics, and rarely seek outside wise counsel; but they reject the recommendation of the wise counsel and proceed with a bad strategy, and loose the battle and often the war.  Rommel, firmly told Hiler that after three week “blitzkrieg” of France by going around the touted French heavily fortified Maginot Line that spanned the boundary between the two countries.  It shocked everyone except Rommel (and Patton who thought the French were stupid when it came to warfare and that the Maginot line was useless), whose idea was to drive his tanks through the flat planes of Belgium avoiding the Maginot  Line completely, and took control of France in three weeks. Rommel then strongly urged Hitler to invade England immediately because the were not prepared and the invasion would succeed with very little cost to the German’s in men and equipment. (Rommel was the German’s most brilliant field general, the German equivalent of the American George Patton.  The two fought some of the best battles in military history.)

In typical sociopath fashion Hitler was obsessed with punishing the Brits for the harsh reparations extracted from the Germans after WWI. He chose nightly bombing of London, perceiving them as “just a nation of shop keepers”.  Well the shop keepers fought ferociously, with brilliant leadership from Winston Churchill whose nightly radio broadcasts helped keep the Brits spirits high as they were hunkered down in the subway tunnels trying to sleep while the booming of bombs continued all night, and the daily routine of emerging from the tunnels to see what had been destroyed.

 In one of histories greatest triumphs against a powerful siege (like Vienna holding off the Ottoman Empire and therefore stopping the Ottoman attempt to conquer Europe).  The Brits held off a far superior German war machine, and after six months they showed no hint of surrendering, which demonstrated the sociopaths strong tendency to underestimate the strength of the opposition. By then, they had time to fortify the cliffs of Dover, and a German invasion would be far too costly in manpower & equipment.  And most important, it gave the US time to support the Brits with supplies and armaments, and as a result of England not being in the control of the UK, the US had a base of operations from which to invade the German controlled French Coast.  If Hitler had taken Rommel’s firm advice to immediately invade England after the three week blitzkrieg of France, he would have probably won the war and controlled Europe for decades.

Instead of trying to solve an impossible situation, how about describing the situation as honestly as possible, and let the public develop their own solutions to the situation.  This would be fair, and address an issue that has not been discussed publically:  what will do if/when we run out of water.  There are no easy answers to that question either; but one fact is, we can’t live without it.  It’s not going to come to us (at least in quantities needed to support 20+ million people.)

To my knowledge governor Brown has not stated whether he thinks Global Warming is the main cause of the drought.  Why not state:  “The scientific evidence is very compelling. I will appoint a committee to create a list of things the State can do to help those who decide to stay and those who decide to leave.  The dangers of each choice will be listed as thoroughly as possible, give the limits of time needed to deliver this report to the public in order for it to be of use in families deciding which course to take.  There is no single course of action that is right for everyone.  People must decide on the basis of which risks they can most comfortably tolerate. And, with a situation this complex, there will be surprises no matter what decision anyone makes. Sadly, the State of California can do little to make this life threatening situation any easier to cope with.

The Doubt Factor

A major deterrent to Californians behaving in a manner that would improve their chances of survival are two psychological trends:
1)   Their long history of experiencing earthquakes.  There is sudden frightening shaking of their surroundings, followed by a couple of less violent shaking, and it is over.  The damage may be significant in a few places, the fire department has special training and equipment in how to go about rescuing those trapped in rubble.  There are special crews to reestablish disruption of water and power.  These skills are well honed after years of practice.  Building codes have made all structures earthquake resistant, so there is often little damage.  For the vast majority life returns to normal after a few hours. 
2)   However, a drought of the current magnitude is a totally different experience.  It is a slow grinding reduction in a recourse that is necessary for life.  The available water slowly is depleted, and at the start it limits the maintenance of non-essential structures like swimming pools and cosmetic items in the environment, like those green lawns.  Then private activities like long showers and bathing.  People can ignore those sensible measures, and continue their normal routine.  If the water districts raise prices to encourage conservation, people will complain, but pay the higher bill and continue as before.  No experience that makes the drought tactile comes until, no water is coming out of the tap.  Then there is bitching, complaining, until the reality that this is a serious matter and not just a government game.
3)   Then as the public tries to figure out what is really happening and what to do, past experience, the lack of education in the sciences and the medias anti-Global Warming slant in their reporting of he events in California, combine to sabotage the development of a consensus of what to do, if anything.  Here is a breakdown in the process of forming a consensus of what to do. The public becomes stuck in a morass of confusion, and resistance to what leadership, Governor Brown and others, advise them to do.
4)   Here are a consolidation of a study by “Life Sciences”, and others that cause a major disbelief in the “climatologist”, the severity of the drought, and any need to take any action because of the drought.

The American Public’s Understanding of Global Warming and the Danger it Represents is Very Weak

42% believe that Global Warming is happening.
Only 22% believe that only 80% of scientists agree on  that basic fact.
Fact: 100% agree that the drought from Southern California to the middle of Texas will be severe and last 100-200 years if the species lives long enough to see the end of the drought.
47% of Americans think that if Global Warming is happening it is caused by human activities.
The number of Americans who believe that Global Warming isn’t happening increased from 16% in 2013, to 23% in 2014.

The majority is not aware that all the major media outlets are owned by super-rich individuals whose profits and wealth would decline if people believed that Global Warming is happening and is a major threat to their lives, and the lives of their children and grandchildren.  The media owners are correct about that, and they instruct their staff to put a “spin” on major news about Global Warming, for example emphasizing that there is disagreement among climatologists.  There is disagreement about unknowable details like at what degree of warming would cause an unstoppable positive feedback loop.  The current guess averages out to be 2.8 degrees.  Also the date that this would occur if we continue burning fossil fuels at the same rate that we currently do.  This to is even more unpredictable as so many factors contribute to Global Warming are subject to change, climatologists have different guesses about that too. 

The public is also unaware that the scientists working on the ‘climate change” problem are the very best scientists from all over  the world and come from a great variety of disciplines, all of which contribute to the major conclusions.

15% of the public are “dismissive” to the point that they believe “global warming” is a conspiracy theory or a hoax.

Many people depend on current temperatures to assess global warming because this information is readily available.

Many, or most, people who doubt global warming are clearly are poorly educated, especially in science, and rely on sound bites from the major media TV outlets to come to their decision.  They are incapable of reading the actual research papers or published books, so they can understand what they read and come to their own conclusions.  Here is a prime example of the high cost of NOT EDUCATING everyone. As the public schools continue to
deteriorate, people will barely be literate. 

For example, Texas, which has the 10th largest economy in the world, yet rates 49th in dollars spent per student under the direction of the right wing neo-cons.  Only Alabama spends less.  A trip to  Alabama is like time machine travel to the 1950’s before the Civil Rights movement.  Teachers in Texas will now have classes of 50 students even in elementary school.  Even a gifted teacher can do is maintain order and prevent the students from destroying the furniture and protecting themselves from physical harm.

A gentleman and a scholar
Austin, Texas
April 22, 2015