A Philosopher's Blog

Weather Defense Initiative

Posted in Environment, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on December 3, 2012
Temperature difference in Europe from the aver...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humans have always faced off against the impersonal power of the weather, sometimes winning and sometimes not. In many ways, humans are at war with the weather of our world and the damage inflicted by weather can be comparable to that which we inflict on each other. But, while some might attribute an intelligent design behind the ravages of the weather, it seems most reasonable to hold that the climate does not wage intentional war against us. Rather, the world simply does as it does and sometimes this kills us and destroys our cities. However, destructive weather, as it has historically done, does raise questions about the alleged benevolence of our alleged creator.

Sticking with the war metaphor, there are clearly times in which the conflict is more damaging than others. In recent years, the damage has stepped up considerably. The September 2012 edition of National Geographic featured “Extreme Weather” by Peter Miller discussed, as might be imagined, the recent extreme weather that has impacted the world. The article was, obviously, written before Sandy hit the United States. However, Sandy was, in some ways, just another example of extreme weather.

While there are some who are skeptical about climate change, it is possible to discuss the matter by ignoring the alleged causes of the extreme weather and focusing on the damage done by weather incidents.

Weather disasters have been rather costly financially in the United States and the damage done has increased significantly. From 1980-1995 there were 46 disasters causing $1 billion or more damage. In 1996-2011 there were 87 disasters causing that amount of damage. Insurance companies reported insured losses of $36 billion in 2011, which is 50% greater than the average for the past decade.

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that Americans increasingly live in areas that are subject to destructive weather, such as the coastal regions of the United States. Part of this can also be attributed to the greater value of the structures being built, especially in risky areas. After all, the destruction of a beach mansion costs more than the sweeping away of a beach cabin. However, even taking into account such factors (and the obvious factor of inflation) the damage being done has increased.

There is also the cost human life.  The 2003 heat wave in Europe killed about 35,000. In 1970 Tropical storms killed 500,000 in Bangladesh. There are, of course, many other sad examples of humans being killed in large numbers by weather events.

While the exact costs in deaths, suffering, property loss and economic damage can be debated, it is clear that weather events cost us dearly. If the damage inflicted by the weather was done by a human attacker, there would be screams for war, defense and retaliation. Look, for example, how the United States responded to 9/11.

Naturally, retaliation against the weather would be absurd—there is no intelligent agent to seek vengeance against (except, perhaps, God) or deter. However, it does make sense to establish a developed defense against the damage of weather.

People are, of course, establishing defenses against weather events. For example, France took steps, such as building air conditioned shelters, and cut the heat deaths in 2006 by two thirds. While storms still tear through Bangladesh, the construction of shelters and warning systems has reduced the death toll from hundreds of thousands to thousands. These are still heavy losses for humanity, but an improvement over the old system.

While these defenses have shown some effectiveness, our response has been largely reactive (we tend to slap together a response to the last disaster rather than preparing for the next one properly) and piecemeal.

So what I propose is a worldwide weather defense initiative (WDI—yes, this is blatantly stolen from SDI) to address the damagers presented by our planet. Many steps, such as large scale tsunami warning systems, are in place. However, most of our cities are woefully underprepared and our defenses are very limited. Meanwhile, we waste and squander resources making war on each other. I contend that at least some of these resources would be better spent (morally and practically) on defense against the weather rather than against each other. Such spending would, of course, allow for the profits and political dealings that defense spending now involves. However, at least the results would probably be more positive in terms of lives saved. I am not, of course, proposing that military defense be neglected—after all, I know us and I know that we are obviously not to be trusted unless guns are pointing at us. Even then we should probably not be trusted.

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44 Responses

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  1. T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Aside from the tsunami warning system, why does the WDI need to be coordinated at a global level?

    • WTP said, on December 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      To provide the largest number jobs for the largest number of bureaucrats possible.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Because weather does not recognize national boundaries. There is also the matter of the scale of some weather events.

      Now, for those willing to accept that human activity can play a causal role in weather (like drought), then we’d international coordination to help reduce the damage we inflict on ourselves.

      • WTP said, on December 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

        Like I said. Because FEMA has worked so well in just one country under the last two administrations, it is now “mature” enough to expand the franchise before someone else does it.

    • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      To protect us all from SUVs. Isn’t that the real message?

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

        Not at all. People can drive those until the gas runs out.

        • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:26 pm

          Everything runs out. Even my Heineken. Stupid Belgians need to get brewing….

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm

            You should try brewing. It might be your true calling. :)

          • T. J. Babson said, on December 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm

            Heineken is from Holland. Belgians will say the Dutch don’t know the first thing about beer. Best beer ever is a Belgian beer named Orval. I think it is probably a Trappist beer.

            • magus71 said, on December 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm

              My bad. I knew that, I think.At least I should, I drink enough of it. My great-grandmother was Dutch–straight from the old country. She looked like a beer gal. No fruity drinks at all. My dad has a photo of her with a deer over her shoulders and a 35 caliber rifle in her hand.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

      That he was peacefully removed for taking someone else’s place? How is that scary?

      • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:16 am

        Removing his UN credentials? Maybe I’m misinterpreting that.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm

          What scares you about it?

          One thing about official events is that there is an expectation of procedure. Apparently he just took someone else’s seat and used their microphone.

          Now, he could be cast as a bold rebel who refuses to be silenced by such things as facts or the scientific method. While it is reasonable to point to past rebels who were right, there are also plenty of rebels who are wrong. Thus creating a practical and ethical problem in regards to deciding who to allow to speak at meetings. Obviously, time cannot be made for everyone who might want to say something, but such selections should be made in a rational and just manner.

          Since I favor free expression of ideas, I am generally against silencing people. However, I’m also for meetings being orderly and short.

          • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

            Not sure if they removed his UN credentials because he sat in a seat reserved for someone else, or because he is a dissenter. I suspect if he would have said something they agreed with, they would not have removed him, and certainly not taken away his credentials. The excommunication of dissenters from the UN, merely for disagreeing with all the tenets of global warming seems a major problem and perhaps a vision of what’s to come.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm

              The story doesn’t make it clear. It is plausible that they removed him because of what he did rather than his views. If, for example, someone grabbed the mic at a sporting event and started saying stuff, they’d probably get the boot as well.

            • magus71 said, on December 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

              It does say he was met by a chorus of boos, all from people who apparently believe every line of Al Gore’s movie.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 8:18 am

              Every line? Did I miss that in the story?

            • magus71 said, on December 8, 2012 at 9:29 am

              Rhetorical of course. Just betting they like the movie. They seem to have pretty strong feelings about global warming, no?

              “The stunt infuriated negotiators and activists here who gather every year to address what they believe is one of the world’s top threats, the steady rise of man-made global warming.”

              “By late today, several activists attending the conference had posted calls to “deport Monckton” on their Twitter feeds.”

              All for noting that there has been no warming in the last 16 years? Maybe they should investigate why there has been no warming, or offer a factual rebuttal to his statement.

              In any case, I tend not to like Orwellian globalist organizations that don’t allow dissent. Especially because our president gives great weight to the opinion of the UN.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

              The UN is hardly Orwellian. It has rather limited authority and no power beyond that provided by the member states. You’re not paranoid about the UN taking over America are you?

            • magus71 said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

              Taking over? No. Shaping our political terrain in a way that is more beneficial to other countries than to America, yes.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

              Can you provide examples of how the UN has done this and the consequences of these actions?

            • magus71 said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

              “no power beyond that provided by the member states.”

              China, Russia and France have the same power as does America in the UN. And they don’t pay their monetary dues. Do you think these other countries, including some tyrannical regimes that get votes, have our best interest in mind?

              The fox entered the hen house long ago in the UN. It is now worse than the League of Nations ever was.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

              The League was effectively powerless and collapsed.

            • magus71 said, on December 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm

              I’d prefer the UN were powerless.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm

              It is fairly close to that.

            • magus71 said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

              John Bolton, an anathema to some on this blog I’m sure, wrote the definitive book on what goes on at the UN. As stated, biomass2 and Mike will vehemently differ with Bolton’s world view. But he was the US ambassador to the UN and deserves to be heard.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm

              Well, he wrote the definitive book from his perspective. As you note, he certainly has experience with the UN and this gives him credibility. However, there is the question of bias: is his work an objective assessment of the UN or is it biased?

              Now, I do agree that the UN is rife with corruption and nonsense. However, it does give us an opportunity to discuss matters between nations before getting right to war. Historically, it might be seen as a step towards a unified earth. Just as humans formed tribes, then primitive states, then nation-states, we’ll probably get around to a planetary government. Unless we put ourselves into another dark ages or go extinct, of course.

            • magus71 said, on December 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

              Mike,

              There is a strong urge in our politicians, particularly among Democrats, to push a globalist agenda. This has the same effect as the multicultural agenda of Europe, Canada and America: A bunch of different societies thrown together, many of them holding differing views on fundamental issues. In an attempt to appear “fair” and “cooperative” , and “multilateral”, many people in American politics simply love the idea of everyone’s ideas having equal value.

              President Barack Obama espoused the true meaning of this thinking when he was asked about American exceptionalism.

              So, if all countries are exceptional, then no country is exceptional. I beg to differ, however. Obama and others use the UN to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the people, and by the above speech, you can see that he thinks America is no better than any other country, If America is no better, than the ideas on which it was founded are no better, and we are no better than countries who use their positions in the UN to harm America. For instance, Syria’s Assad should have been killed by America by now. He is s supporter of terrorists that have killed American troops, and is an Iranian proxy, allowing Hezbollah fighters to train and plan inside Syria. He destabilizes the Middle East. He indiscriminately violated the rules of war by leveling civilian neighborhoods with artillery. Gadaffi did not. Why have we not killed Assad? Because Russia, a member of the UN security council, doesn’t want us to. They don’t want us to because they have numerous military contracts with Syria and they want Syria and Iran to be a thorn in the side of America, because they distract us and drag us down.

          • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

            Lefties are generally much less tolerant of diverse viewpoints than those on the right. Republicans run the gamut from Ron Paul to Rick Santorum to Condi Rice. It actually hurts them because anything any of them say that sounds wacky is used to tar all of them with the same brush. Dems avoid this by insisting on ideological conformity. Agree or you are voted off the island.

            • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm

              ” Agree or you are voted off the island.”

              This sounds suspiciously like a certain faction of the Republican party. . .

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm

              Actually, Will Rogers’ famous saying “I belong to no organized political party–I’m a Democrat!” applies much more to Republicans these days.

              Obama is like the Pied Piper to Dems…

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 8:08 am

              How so?

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

              Glen Greenwald:

              This mentality is not only the animating belief of President Obama, but also the sizable portion of American Democrats which adores him.

              There are many reasons why so many self-identified progressives in the US have so radically changed their posture on these issues when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush. Those include (a) the subordination of all ostensible beliefs to their hunger for partisan power; (b) they never actually believed these claimed principles in the first place but only advocated them for partisan opportunism, i.e., as a way to discredit the GOP President; and (c) they are now convinced that these abuses will only be used against Muslims and, consumed by self-interest, they concluded that these abuses are not worth caring about because it only affects Others (this is the non-Muslim privilege enjoyed by most US progressives, which shields them from ever being targeted, so they simply do not care; the more honest ones of this type even admit this motivation).

              But the primary reason for this fundamental change in posture is that they genuinely share the self-glorifying worldview driving Obama here. The core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the Democratic Party; the side of Evil is the GOP. All political truths are ascertainable through this Manichean prism.

              This is the simplistic, self-flattering morality narrative that gets reinforced for them over and over as they sit for hours every day having their assumptions flattered and validated (and never questioned or challenged) by watching MSNBC, reading pro-Obama blogs that regularly churn out paeans to his greatness, and drinking up the hundreds of millions of dollars of expertly crafted election-year propaganda from the Party that peddles this Justice League cartoon.

              The result is that, for so many, it is genuinely inconceivable that a leader as noble, kind and wise as Barack Obama would abuse his assassination and detention powers. It isn’t just rank partisan opportunism or privilege that leads them not to object to Obama’s embrace of these radical powers and the dangerous theories that shield those powers from checks or scrutiny. It’s that they sincerely admire him as a leader and a man so much that they believe in their heart (like Obama himself obviously believes) that due process, checks and transparency are not necessary when he wields these powers. Unlike when a GOP villain is empowered, Obama’s Goodness and his wisdom are the only safeguards we need.

              http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/26/obama-drones-kill-list-framework

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 8:08 am

              Evidence, please.

            • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm

              And that, TJ, is why Greenwald can be categorized as an opinionator.
              “Partisan opportunism ” and the “hunger for partisan power” are uniquely Democratic . Yeah. Right.

              Meanwhile, he churns out stuff like this:
              “The core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the Democratic Party; the side of Evil is the GOP.”

              That, and a lot more, folks, in a Limbaugh-like rant that seems to indicate that ^Greenwald’s^ “core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the GOP; the side of Evil is the Democratic Party.” Only a man who sees the world in black and white terms, no shades of gray, could seriously consider either statement to be sensible.

            • biomass2 said, on December 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

              TJCB:

              “Obama is like the Pied Piper to Dems…”

              Is this another attempt at spreading a meme to explain why Republicans lost the last election?
              It had nothing to do with the fact that they brought a weakened candidate out of the primary process. A candidate who was only accepted as a last resort by some in the party because of they had reservations about fielding a Mormon for the office?
              It had nothing to do with the criminally damning “47%” video?
              It had nothing to do with the fact that the Obama team out-and -out out-strategized the Romney team?

              Of course not. It was Obama’s mystical ‘voodoo’ nature. He’s got 52% of the voting public ‘mesmerized’. Yeah. That’s it.

            • T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm

              But the primary reason for this fundamental change in posture is that they genuinely share the self-glorifying worldview driving Obama here. The core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the Democratic Party; the side of Evil is the GOP. All political truths are ascertainable through this Manichean prism.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 8:01 am

              Yes, there is diversity among conservatives but the same is true of liberals and moderates. As far as tolerating dissent, this is an empirical matter. Any objective and adequate studies on this as opposed to anecdotes?

            • biomass2 said, on December 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm

              “Agree or you are off the island”

              Carville the Bald’s scary (uber) Republican wife, on TWwGS this morn spoke of the Democrats as 17% extreme liberal and the rest centrist. The 17% aren’t off the island—they’re the Democrats who right wingers identify as lefties, socialists, etc. But they’re still in the party. So who’s getting kicked off of what island?

  2. T. J. (Cassandra) Babson said, on December 8, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Greenwald is a Leftie and write in the Guardian. But I think he is on to something.

    The hubris and self-regard driving this is stunning – but also quite typical of Democratic thinking
    generally in the Obama era. The premise here is as self-evident as it is repellent:

    I’m a Good Democrat and a benevolent leader; therefore, no limits, oversight, checks and balances, legal or Constitutional constraints, transparency or due process are necessary for me to exercise even the most awesome powers, such as ordering people executed. Because of my inherent Goodness and proven progressive wisdom, I can be trusted to wield these unlimited powers unilaterally and in the dark.

    Things like checks, oversight and due process are desperately needed only for Republicans, because – unlike me – those people are malevolent and therefore might abuse these powers and thus shouldn’t be trusted with absolute, unchecked authority. They – but not I – urgently need restrictions on their powers.

    This mentality is not only the animating belief of President Obama, but also the sizable portion of American Democrats which adores him.

    There are many reasons why so many self-identified progressives in the US have so radically changed their posture on these issues when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush. Those include (a) the subordination of all ostensible beliefs to their hunger for partisan power; (b) they never actually believed these claimed principles in the first place but only advocated them for partisan opportunism, i.e., as a way to discredit the GOP President; and (c) they are now convinced that these abuses will only be used against Muslims and, consumed by self-interest, they concluded that these abuses are not worth caring about because it only affects Others (this is the non-Muslim privilege enjoyed by most US progressives, which shields them from ever being targeted, so they simply do not care; the more honest ones of this type even admit this motivation).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/26/obama-drones-kill-list-framework

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:29 am

      I do agree that Obama crossed a moral and probably legal line with the drone assassinations. But the trait of flirting with tyranny (in Locke’s sense) is hardly a disease unique to Democrats. Also, not all Democrats go along with the drone policy.

      • T. J. Babon said, on December 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm

        So you are arguing that because “is hardly a disease unique to Democrats” O should not be criticized?


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