Charles M. Blow has an op-ed in the New York Times today entitled Farewell, Fair Weather. He opens by outlining how the United States has experienced more extreme weather than other places in recent decades. Blow then says that we are to blame, and things will probably get worse.
Okay, I’m nodding along, it’s a reasonable argument to make, and he highlights work by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the recent White House report (as he notes, released “years late and under pressure”). The Associated Press piece on that report had scientists’ comments like these: “a litany of bad news in store for the U.S” and “It basically says the America we’ve known we can no longer count on. It’s a pretty dramatic picture of all kinds of change rippling through natural systems across the country. And all of that has implications for people.”
Charles Blow then comes to his main argument: “This increase [in extreme weather] is deadly and disruptive — and could become economically unbearable.” Okay, I’m nodding again.
But then comes the kicker: “This surge in disasters and attendant costs is yet another reason we need to declare a coordinated war on climate change akin to the wars on drugs and terror. It’s a matter of national security.”
WTF!!!! Sorry for the language, but we all know how successful the war on drugs and the war on terror have been. Not very. But at least these have some identifiable bad guys–drug dealers and terrorists. Now we’re going to go get those evil climate changers?! Or bash the ozone layer back into submission, because it’s dared to get uppity?
Drugs, terror, the climate–these all require systemic change, and the war model just isn’t the right metaphor for that. The Us vs. Them and Brute Force assumptions don’t work well for systemic change. Obviously I think anthropology can help, but at the very least an economic model recognizes both supply and demand in the market and a political model implies the need for negotiation and consensus to help create concerted action. About the best I can say is that declaring a war might help in getting people to think about making sacrifices. But it won’t make us more secure when the change is already among us. Bush flew over New Orleans as if it were a war zone. What did that do?