Friday, October 26, 2007

Insanity at 1600: Secrets, lies, and the "public health benefits to climate change"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You want to know just how crazy the Bush White House is? Do you?

I know, there's already an astonishing amount of evidence to back up that assessment, so much delusion, so much apparent insanity, but consider what White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said on Wednesday in response to allegations "the White House 'eviscerated' Center for Disease Control director Dr. Julie Gerberding's Senate testimony on the 'Human Impacts of Global Warming,'" as TP put it.

First -- and I take this from the transcript posted at TCR -- she said that "the decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits," a decision made by the White House. "Well," she continued, "there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, both benefits and concerns."

Second -- back to the transcript posted at TP -- she said this in response to a follow-up question regarding her claim, the supposed "health benefits to climate change": "In some cases, there are -- look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals. There are also concerns that it would increase tropical diseases and that's -- again, I'm not an expert in that, I'm going to let Julie Gerberding testify in regards to that, but there are many studies about this that you can look into."

No, she's not an expert, but neither she nor the White House in which she works is about to let Gerberding testify truthfully about global warming. And her own argument -- and she speaks for the president, remember -- is that global warming would reduce "cold-related deaths," a supposed health benefit. She pulled a face-saving 180 at yesterday's briefing, asserting that "climate change is real" and that "humans are largely responsible," but the crazy comments of the previous day, along with the evisceration of Gerberding's testimony, reveal where the White House stands on global warming. It is not "working on a way to solve the problem," it is working to block efforts to address the problem" at every step, both domestically and internationally, and doing so by controlling what government officials say and by misrepresenting the facts, by lying about the climate crisis.

What, after all, are these "many studies" Perino mentions. Has she read these studies? Do they even exist? And, if they do, who wrote them? Furthermore, although climate change means aggregate global temperature increases, or what is generally referred to as "global warming," it is not exclusively about temperature increases, and different parts of the world would be affected differently. Melting ice and rising seas would lead to mass flooding, and perhaps millions of deaths, but it could also mean dramatic changes to the earth's hydrologic cycle, including to the so-called Ocean Conveyor, which regulates the Gulf Stream, the flow of warm water up into the North Atlantic. If the Conveyor slows down significantly as a result of more and more fresh water coming down from the north, temperatures would cool significantly in Europe and elsewhere in the region, and, more dramatically, much of the Northern Hemisphere could be plunged back into another ice age. Researchers have already discovered remarkable changes in oceanic salinity levels. It is real. It is happening. No matter what Perino and the White House would like to believe.

You know, maybe they're not crazy, maybe they're not delusional. Whatever the appeal of a psychological explanation, let's not be too easy on them. They're insane in a broad sense, but what this all amounts to is both willful ignorance born of unmitigated self-interest, and, where they do know what's really going on, a propensity for evil. Although I generally object to such terms -- the Manichaean categories of "good" and "evil" that so influences the child-like thinking of the president and those like him -- I can think of no better word for it.

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