Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The First Refugees of Global Warming
Today the Tribune reported on the "first" refugees of global warming. In Bangladesh thousands have had to evacuate the Jamuna River valley as it overflows its banks due to severe monsoons and greater glacial melt in the Himalayas - both of which are direct effects of global warming.

Right now about 3300 families have been affected, only a relative trickle of refugees. But that trickle could easily turn into a flood (no pun intended) in countries like Bangladesh which, because of it's numerous large rivers and low-lying coastline, loses tens of thousands of acres of land a year as seas and rivers rise.

And the great irony is that Bangladesh contributes next to nothing to the greenhouse gases that are causing this problem in the first place. It is the Western industrialized world that has created the problem, but, as usual, the poor get stuck with the bill.

What I wonder is how many more refugees will it take before some people over here will even admit: 1) that global warming is real, 2) that we had something to do with it, and 3) we can do something about it? Of course, it's not surprising to me that there are still plenty skeptics of global warming out there. After all, if we were to admit that it is real and that we are to blame for it, then we'd have to conclude that it's our responsibility to do something to fix it, and especially to help those innocents who are affected by it. If the price for our industrial economy and affluent lifestyles is that impoverished farmers are driven from their lands by rising waters, then morally speaking, how can we fail to do something to make up for their loss? (Perhaps that's what we could have been doing with the $1.2 trillion we've spent on the Iraq War.)

And what if we don't do anything? What if we refuse to acknowledge our role in these people's suffering? You can be sure they won't forget who caused them to lose their homes. One of the experts from this article predicts even more extremism and violence directed towards the West as a result of these climate-related refugees. He says:

"A person victimized and displaced will not sit idle," [Rahman] predicted. "There will be organized climate-displaced groups saying, 'Why should you hang onto your place when I've lost mine and you're the one who did this?'

"That," he said, "is not a pleasant scenario."

No, it's not. But what do you predict our government will do about it? Given our recent track record, are we more likely to respond to these people with compassion or violence? I know which one I'd put my money on.

Update: Dan Harlow has posted several good responses to common arguments by global warming skeptics over at his blog.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 4:29 PM | Permalink |


At 5/02/2007 05:21:00 PM, Anonymous Rob

This sounds serious. I wonder if it enough to prompt Al Gore to sell his energy-hog of a house, and actually do something about the problem (other than purchasing "Carbon Credits) instead of speaking about it.

I agree that global warming is an issue, to a point. But reading that Al Gore's energy hogging mansion in TN uses between 12 & 20 times the amount of the national average electricity (over $30,000 in energy bills last year) while Bush's house in Crawford is designed environmentally friendly, uses solar power, reuses grey water, etc. and Gore is labeled an environmental hero while Bush is villified for his policies, sure makes this look like a bunch of partisan mumbo jumbo.


At 5/02/2007 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Trying to turn this into a Gore vs. Bush or a Republican vs. Democrat issue is nothing but a red herring. Let's not let our like or dislike for certain politicians distract us from the issues and actually fixing the problem. People are dying and losing their homes and time is running out. Let's stop pointing fingers and playing political games and just do something about it already.


At 5/02/2007 07:45:00 PM, Blogger Connie+

Mike, are you familiar with the regeneration project? They are based in San Francisco and are the foundation that supports the Interfaith Power and Light groups. You can look on their website to see if there is one in your area. I'm part of starting one here in Utah and it's not too difficult.


At 5/02/2007 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

No, I'm not familiar with them, though I have been involved with a number of local environmental groups here in Chicago, including the New Community Project and Faith in Place.


At 5/02/2007 11:19:00 PM, Anonymous Rob

I disagree that this is a red herring. When the leader (s?) of a movement like this is so hypocritical, and is himself unwilling to take action on the issue, it makes it harder to take anything he says seriously. If he doesn't believe in this enough to do anything himself, but tells everyone else what they have to do, how can we take anything he says seriously? Trying to say that there is no political side to this is simply not so. This is (for better or worse) a highly politicized issue, and you can't divorce this issue from the political side of things. I have a hard time believing all of this doom and gloom stuff, when there is credible science that says that -- while not something we can be ignored -- it is certainly not as bad as some make it out to be. Recently, the climatologist for the State of Oregon presented a case that global warming is not as bad as many make it out to be (though he did agree, as do I, that it is an important issue) and that we need not panic on this issue. When his arguments became public, the governor of the state of Oregon stripped him of his title; there are two sides to an issue and it has been an issue that has been exploited for political purposes.

John Semmens of the "Laissez Faire" institute in AZ points out that every credible standard that measures air pollution is DOWN. If you have ever been in a second or third world country, you step off of the airplane and can immediately tell the difference. But reading the news, it sounds like we are a breath away from choking on our own O2.

You say that the poor are the first to fall victim to the effects of the environment. Sometimes, it is the environmentalists themselves who bring peril upon the poor. DDT could have saved who-knows-how many children from Malaria. But the environmentalists wouldn't have it.

My simple point is that there are two sides to every story, and this issue has been highly politicized and exploited.

BTW, I intend no disrespect, or hard feelings. Pardon me if I come across too cynical, I don't intend it, and I do respect your opinion, in spite of disagreements.


At 5/03/2007 07:59:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

The DDT point that Rob brings up is very interesting. When I was a child in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1950's my childhood friends and I used to love to play in the DDT fog that was sprayed for mosquito control. We did it countless times and I can still remember how it smelled. I am drawing social security now and have had heard no reports of any problems from smelling that DDT.

Environmentalists have long had too much power in this country.

I agree with Rob and had a post highlighting this hysteria on Apr. 30.......


At 5/03/2007 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Connie+

Mike, check out: which is the IPL in IL.

I am reminded of when I lived in Moab, UT and there was a politician who always carried a piece of yellow cake (Uranium Ore, I think)in his pocket to prove it was not harmful. He did die of bone cancer centered over that hip - he staked his life on its not being harmful.


At 5/03/2007 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

What makes Al Gore the "leader" of some movement? Because he made a movie? He's just one voice among many. What kind of house he has is entirely irrelevant to anything I said in my post or anything to do with this larger issue. Did I even mention Gore in my post? Why even bring him up? He's not a leader of anything, he's just a messenger.

The bottom line is the science. Either global warming is happening or it isn't. Either we caused it or we didn't. And either we can do something about it or we can't. It's easy enough to find a small handful of scientists who will be skeptical about it, but when you compare those half-dozen voices to the overwhelming consensus of the international scientific community, they don't seem as credible anymore. (A scientist friend of mine actually explained to me that the problem with the skeptical scientists is that they are usually just looking at one isolated set of data that seems to point to different conclusions, rather than trying to integrate their data into the bigger picture of global climate trends.)

At any rate, the international consensus among scientists belies any claims that this is merely "political". I've heard libertarians in this country claim that global warming is just a liberal hoax in order to justify bigger government (never minding that it's the Republicans who seem to be all about big government these days), but does that same accusation work, say, in France where they already have a big socialist government? Why would their scientists need to falsify data to promote big government? They already have it.

The bottom line is that scientists from all over the world in vastly different kinds of political situations are seeing the same data and reaching similar conclusions. It seems absurd to the highest degree to suggest that they are all conspiring to mislead the world for some nefarious political purposes. I'm sorry, but I gave up believing in those kind of conspiracy theories back in high school.

BTW, two more points:
1) Air pollution is not the same as greenhouse gases. Air pollution could very well be going down while CO2 levels go up as CO2 is not technically a "pollutant".

2) There are lot better ways to fight malaria than to poison our kids with pesticides. I'm glad Jazzycat has dodged the bullet so far after inhaling all those chemicals, but anecdotal evidence hardly overturns the mass of scientific data.

Besides which, overuse of DDT leads to DDT resistant mosquitos. Most countries were reducing their use of DDT long ago for that reason. It had nothing to do with the environmental movement.


At 5/03/2007 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Connie+

Yes, Faith in Place is your local IPL group! Sorry, I didn't make the connection there at first.


At 5/03/2007 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous Rob

I should have included this in my first post...

What is happening in Bangladesh of course is a concern. But it is far from anything new. Bangladesh is one of the most low-lying countries in the world, and is particularly susceptible to monsoons and therefore flooding. Check out this link:

Going back to 1954, you can see that the percentage of area flooded rises and falls. 1988 was a particularly bad year, as was 1998. But then it dropped drastically, to almost nothing in 2001. I am skeptical of linking this solely to global warming.


At 5/03/2007 02:05:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

I wasn’t going to get in this, but I couldn’t let Rob go it alone. There are many reasons that I am skeptical about the alarmists opinion on global warming such as using glaciers receding as proof of global warming being caused by humans.

The following information is in the Glacier Bay National Park Brochure and it is also on their web site:
1794: Captain George Vancouver of the H.M.S. Discovery, along with Lt. Joseph Whidbey, describes Glacier Bay as "a compact sheet of ice as far as the eye could distinguish".
1879: John Muir records his "discovery" of Glacier Bay. The glacial ice has retreated up into the bay 40 miles from where Whidbey saw it.

From 1794 to 1879 there wasn't any auto's yet glaciers receded 40 miles. Seems to me this takes humans off the hook altogether.

Al Gore (the messenger) has been quoted as saying it is O.K. to exaggerate because the problem is so serious. That makes him one discredited messenger in my opinion. I trust Al Gore about as far as I could throw an elephant even before he admitted that lying was permissible.

We were being warned about the coming ice age in the 1970's by Scientists and now we are supposed to believe the exact opposite. Even if the temperature has risen 0.7 of one degree in the last 100 years, why the hysteria? When you consider that water vapor has by far the greatest effect on greenhouse effect, why single out CO2 and human's use of fossil fuel as the culprit. Could it be that agenda based groups have a hard time blaming water vapor on humans?

The bottom line for me is that I choose to believe Coral Ridge Ministries, The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, etc. over Al Gore, Hollywood activists, and other left-wing groups that I have an intense distrust for when I see them being dishonest with the data they use to make their case.


At 5/03/2007 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Jazzy, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm afraid your anecdotes and random facts are really only revealing your ignorance of the science involved. For instance, a temperature change of "only" 0.7 degrees actually is a really big deal. To give you some basis for comparison - the "Little Ice Age" during the Middle Ages (which brought us at least one "year without a summer") was an average cooling of less than 1 degree. And according to climatology experts, if the planet's average temperature rises by a mere 3.6 degrees it will produce catastropic results.

Anyhow, as I've said before, perhaps you should stop listening to political groups altogether (whether your conservative groups or more liberal ones) and just start listening to the scientists who actually have the expertise to tell us what's going on apart from the politics. Try starting with the IPCC. Familiarize yourself with the scientific facts (and make sure they come from actual experts and not political "think-tanks" or sci-fi authors), then ask yourself what kind of moral response is required if the facts are real. Once you've decided that, your political choices should be clear. Talking about which group of politicians you trust just gets the cart before the horse IMHO.


At 5/03/2007 11:44:00 PM, Anonymous Rob

One last post...

That was my point earlier. There ARE credible scientists who have the research that suggests that global warming -- while in fact real -- is not as serious as many make it out to be. Political bias obscures this. And that is why I brought the "red herring" up.

There is evidence that climate -- over thousands of years -- has ebbed and flowed. Your own mention of the "little ice age" shows that "global cooling" took place. You seem to think that only scientists who share your opinion are credible, and the rest of not.

In two of your responses you have implied that it is the "enlightened" people are those who believe uncritically in everything the media and every scientist has said about global warming. The rest of us are ignorant, or have not yet disposed of our high school thinking. I don't buy it. There are two sides to every issue.


At 5/04/2007 02:08:00 AM, Anonymous Dan Harlow

The funny thing is that nobody disagrees that global warming is happening. Even the most fundamental conservative believes the earth is heating up about as fast as this non-debate. The trouble is that everyone is arguing about the why's and how's but nobody is talking about the when.

Though I believe humans are responsible, it really does not matter because the climate IS changing and there will be dramatic consequences when ocean levels begin to rise. (For whatever reason)

Now, to all you people who want to debunk the human responsibility for this issue - what are you then going to do to help ease the impact global climate change will have on the millions of people it will effect? Since we can't get you to turn off the lights in your home or stop driving your giant SUV's, what are YOUR plans to ease the burden?

My guess is that you all will say "Ain't nuthin' we can do 'bout noways, so why bother. Somebody else (a scientist, I might add) will figure it out.". I've heard it said before too because you're nihilists who want to continue living a life of spoiled privilege in this here great United States instead of actually helping people (which is what made this country great to begin with).

And as for Al Gore - quit changing the subject by pointing out how Al Gore is not perfect. You're not perfect either, so stop being a child. You're not going to make the Earth stop heating up because you're real busy proving Al Gore is a fallible human being. Besides, what are you going to do in the future when Bangladesh is under water; throw salt water at Al Gore?

Sorry for the rant Mike, but you already know how I feel about this issue.


At 5/04/2007 09:05:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

Since leftists are very much involved with the IPCC and many creditable scientists affirm this view, it is a political issue and as I have already pointed out, misinformation in the best tradition of Dan Rather has been proven.

When the "messengers" are caught exaggerating & lying, don't expect conservatives to buy their opinions hook, line, and sinker without checking into other opinions. Glen Beck interviewed many scientists the other night on a CNN special that gave another opinion. Coerced consensus does not impress me one bit.

Would you please tell us what steps you are personally taking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or do you just point a finger and judge others? I would further suggest from going to your blog that nobody has taken your God. God as revealed in Scripture has not changed and is still in control. God’s of one’s imagination (idols) can be what you want them to be. Perhaps your real meaning is that you are upset that everyone does not perceive and believe in God as you see him in your minds eye. There is only one true triune God as the Bible describes. If the God you believe in differs from the God of the Bible, then you are believing in an idol.


At 5/04/2007 10:19:00 AM, Blogger M James

You said:
"Recently, the climatologist for the State of Oregon presented a case that global warming is not as bad as many make it out to be (though he did agree, as do I, that it is an important issue) and that we need not panic on this issue. When his arguments became public, the governor of the state of Oregon stripped him of his title; there are two sides to an issue and it has been an issue that has been exploited for political purposes."

In talking about the recent Oregon climatologist, you failed to point out that he wasn't actually a climatologist. He had a masters in meteorology and that was it.

From the Williamette Week Online:
" Taylor's position as the leading climate expert in Oregon, a state with a national environmental reputation, has given ammo to those who are hostile to the idea that the earth is warming up. On Jan. 4 of this year, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a Senate floor speech, "As Oregon State University climatologist George Taylor has shown, Arctic temperatures are actually slightly cooler today than they were in the 1930s. As Dr. Taylor has explained, it's all relative."

Inhofe was wrong on two counts. First, Taylor is not a doctor; he has no Ph.D. (he received his master's in meteorology at the University of Utah in 1975). And second, Taylor is flat-out mistaken. Temperatures in the Arctic have, in fact, reached unprecedented levels, according to an exhaustive study by two international Arctic science organizations published last November that confirmed previous, similar results.

Mote, whose Ph.D. is from the University of Washington, surmises that Taylor is guilty of looking only at data that support his views, while discarding the rest. "You can only come to that conclusion if you handpick the climate records," Mote says.

"You can say whatever you want about a subject, but to defy expert opinion-it's just hard for me to understand approaching a complex subject like this and say, 'I know better than the experts,'" Mote says. "

As Mike points out, these are think tanks, not scientists that release material that is skeptical of global warming caused by man.

The fact remains, there is no credible scientific research on global warming that is skeptical of man's role as a causation.

It's all just anecdotal.


At 5/04/2007 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Connie+

Certainly this could turn into a mud slinging contest over which political party has the best record of honesty (examples deleted here) but I seriously doubt that it would be much help to the people of Bangledesh.

The Triune God is a developed doctrine that I do believe but actually has little Biblical backing. That's OK with me I'm not a Biblical literalist.

What I do find to be of absolute certanty is the commandment to care for those in need, to love our neighbors as ourselves (SUV in Bangledesh anyone) and the fact that God created heaven and earth and called it good and that we aren't being very good stewards of God's creation.

This is why it is a part of my faith practice to be concerned with what happens to people who are not Americans. It is also a part of my faith journey to care for what God has created and called Good.

The question is not aimed at me but as I activly work at reducing my carbon emissions I'll answer: As my old 'fridge died, I replaced it with an energy star model (after living the winter with the food in the garage to save up), I have replaced my mini van with a smaller four door car (after this family did with one car for quite a while), I take the bus when I can (but I don't live in the city), when light bulbs burn out I replace them with compact flourscent, I grow a vegitable garden and compost kitchen garbage, and I pay extra (yes it pinches) on my electric bill to buy renuable (specifically wind) energy.

Click here> for the low carbon diet: how to lose 5000 pounds in 30 days.


At 5/04/2007 10:43:00 AM, Blogger M James

You said:
"Glen Beck interviewed many scientists the other night on a CNN special that gave another opinion."

Did you actually do any research on these "scientists"? Or because they were on Beck's show, you take them at face value?
If you actually check these people out, you will see that most of them work for think-tanks and receive money from companies like Exxon Mobil.
They are not "scientists" as you would call them.

Here is a perfect analogy of what you are saying:

Every morning you wake up coughing up blood. You go see the doctor and the doctor tells you that you have lung cancer because you smoke. In fact, 99.9% of all doctors and associations of medical doctors tells you that you have lung cancer and that you have to quit smoking or you will die.
But there are a couple people who work for RJ Reynolds that tell you something different.

Should you listen to their opinion?
Are you going to stake your life on their opinion?

This is, in effect, what you are saying.

Mike gives good advice. If you want to debate this issue, debate the science. Pull up the latest report from the IPCC and tell me why their science is wrong.

Not to come off too harsh, but resorting to fallacies and demagoguery is not going to persuade intelligent people of your point.

If someone wants to talk about how we can be compassioned and help out our fellow humans, or debate some actual science, let me know.


At 5/04/2007 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson


I'm a pretty skeptical person too, and I used to be just as skeptical of global warming as you are. However, a while back I realized that skepticism can go both ways, and that perhaps I was being skeptical of the wrong set of people. I started to ask myself who seemed more credible:

1) A few dozen skeptical scientists, some of whom are not actually credentialed in a climate related field (and several of whom are on the payroll of the energy industry); or the numerous international scientific organizations representing hundreds of qualified scientists in the field of climatology and related disciplines. (Percentage-wise, something like 95% of the science community is convinced that global warming is human caused.)

2) The big corporate interests who have a clear financial interest in promoting global warming as a controversial theory rather than scientific fact (and are deliberately doing just that); or environmentalists whose primary motivation (which I can personally vouch for, since I know some of them personally - both scientists and activists) is simply a love for nature and a deep concern for the negative human costs of climate change. It's easy enough to posit conspiracies and ideological bias, but I started to question which side seemed to have the most to gain from promoting their point of view - and frankly, given their long and nefarious track record, I have more reason to distrust big corporations than to distrust my activist and scientist friends (none of whom are getting rich off of this).

Yes, there are two sides to every issue, but ask yourself which side seems more credible. Like I said before, I didn't come to this issue with a preconceived bias towards global warming, and I didn't only listen to the scientists that agreed with my opinions (since my opinions started off very much like yours). I just asked myself who it made more sense to believe.



At 5/04/2007 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson


I can tell your worldview is very black and white, but not every issue has to be "left vs. right". Caring for God's Creation is not a liberal or conservative issue. Frankly I don't understand why conservatives are so dead set against the environmental movement. What does being good stewards of our land and air and water have to do with whatever it is that conservatives believe these days? (I won't even take a stab at characterizing it, since after 7 years of the Bush administration I don't really know what it means to be conservative anymore.)

Caring for the Creation ought to be something that unites both sides, and people like myself who don't identify with either side. Personally I try to come at issues like this from a moral/theological standpoint and let that direct my politics, rather than letting a preconceived political ideology (whether conservative or liberal) tell me what I'm supposed to believe about this stuff or tell me that certain opinions belong to the "other side".



At 5/05/2007 10:23:00 AM, Anonymous Dan Harlow


I am an atheist. The meaning of my blog title is listed on my about page.

Things I am doing do cut carbon emissions:

1- Break down all my trash that can't be recycled
2- Turn off all lights and power when not home
3- Turn off my Jeep when at a train stop
4- Since I drive a Jeep and not a hybrid - I keep my Jeep in good condition such as keeping the tires inflated properly, oil changes, tune ups, etc so that I maximize gas mileage
5- I drive 4 miles per day - that's it
6- When showering, I do not run the water when lathering, etc...
7- Use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies - they are not more expensive when you buy them at Big Lots
8- I pick up and dispose/recycle trash laying around my work, home, anywhere I may be walking
9- Use energy efficient light bulbs / constantly turn off lights at work when people are not in their office (it's become an obsession at this point)
10- Desire to do more / spread the word / study the research

My list is unimpressive, I can do more and want to do more.

Your turn ...


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