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Binswanger Exhibits Nonobjectivism On Climate Change

Today, Harry Binswanger writes in an Op-Ed for the Forbes business web site, “A generation and a half into climate change, née global warming, you can’t point to a single place on earth where the weather is noticeably different from what it was in 1979.”

Harry Binswanger calls himself an “Objectivist”, by which he means that he is a follower of Ayn Rand. The label Objectivist also implies that Binswanger will heed objective facts even when they don’t fit with his preferred ideology. His comments show, however, that he elevates ideology over objective reality.

Binswanger says that we can’t point to a single place on earth where the weather is noticeably different from what it was in 1979, but that’s simply not the case. Scientists around the world have made careful, objective measurements of the weather and found statistically significant, and historically unprecedented, changes in the weather. These measurements have been independently verified, and subjected to rigorous analysis to establish consistent descriptions of rapid and unprecedented climate change (which includes global warming, but is much broader, incorporating elements such as extreme weather, sea level rise and ocean acidification).

Binswanger’s grip on objective reality must be quite strained if he failed to hear the news that 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the history of the United States of America. That’s noticeably different weather.

Right now, we can point to objective data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which shows that, after last year’s record-low Arctic sea ice extent, the surface area of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is right now even lower than it was last year, beyond two standard deviations below the average Arctic sea ice extent from between the years 1979-2000. That’s not just a subjectively noticeable difference in the weather. It’s a scientifically confirmed difference.

If Harry Binswanger can’t see how the weather has changed over the last generation, it’s because he’s too busy gazing in adoration at a portrait of his hero, Ayn Rand.

weather change since 1979

6 thoughts on “Binswanger Exhibits Nonobjectivism On Climate Change”

  1. Bill says:

    Hey, give the guy a break. His name is Harry Binswanger, after all….

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Have you ever noticed that people with easily-mocked names seem to be more likely to go conservative? I suspect rather than can prove this is true, but just look at the Congress, where a lot of men with gender-indeterminate names — Dana Rohrabacher, Lindsey Graham, Kerry Bentivolio — are Republicans who spend a lot of time talking about how staunch they are.

      1. Bill says:

        That’s because they know ‘staunchness’ is a big turn-on for the ladies

        1. Jim Cook says:

          I remember a Republican Senator who had a wide staunch.

  2. Tom says:

  3. Tom says:

    Steve Fraser,
    A Disaster for All Seasons

    Even if you set aside the man-made environmental disaster that is China (at a cost now estimated conservatively at $230 billion annually), ever more expensive disasters seem to be on the rise globally. Moreover, thanks to climate change — that is, the greenhouse gases we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere at record levels — the distinction between man-made catastrophes and natural ones is rapidly blurring. In the United States, we’ve recently suffered a one-two punch when it comes to extreme weather: 2011 now holds the American record for weather disasters that cost $1 billion dollars or more with 14 of them, and 2012 came in an uncomfortably close second with 11. (You can check out the list here.) The Swiss Insurance firm Munich Re points out that “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” A dubious honor.

    And of them all, perhaps the most expensive of recent times, already estimated to have cost more than $50 billion, is the drought that had 60% of the country in its grip last year and has continued relentlessly into 2013, parching the Southwest, the Midwest, and parts of the West. This, in turn, almost assures another season of “record” wildfires and, according to early predictions, possibly a new round of flooding from late season heavy snowfall in the upper Midwest and especially along the Red River.

    In addition, on the billion-dollar bad-news side of things, scientists now believe that the continuing dramatic loss of ice in Arctic waters, which has been heating up that region, is also changing northern hemispheric weather patterns. It is evidently ensuring more extreme weather in the middle latitudes which helps explain, for instance, Europe’s “frozen spring” of 2013, and will evidently lead to even warmer summers for most of us.

    And when we’re talking about extreme weather, extreme events, and disasters, let’s not forget that globally the likelihood of extreme energy events like BP’s massive oil spill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico is also on the rise. After all, as Michael Klare has long argued at this site, energy companies are now ever more regularly going after extreme energy in situations of rising danger. As a result, from the frack zone in the U.S. and the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil to the Arctic seas of Alaska, the possibility of distinctly energy-company-made disasters is on the rise (as, of course, are record oil company profits).

    In other words, we’re now on a planet where extreme disaster seems ever more normal and, when it comes to the weather, such extremes can increasingly be considered man-made or at least human-influenced. It’s important to keep in mind as well that what’s a catastrophe for many of us always turns out to be the main chance and a profit center for at least a few of us. As Steve Fraser, TomDispatch’s historian-in-residence (who tells tales of American history you never learned in school), reminds us, there’s a backstory to the way genuine disasters are never disasters for everyone and it couldn’t be more relevant to our increasing catastrophe of a world. (As a tiny example, consider that each horrific oil spill means more oil company dollars flowing to lobbyists and to Congress — and so yet more high times on Washington’s K Street.)
    (there’s more)

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