Giving Shape to Phantoms

The predictability of water is an illusion. If the Dust Bowl were to happen again today, it would be televised 24/7 and attributed to climate change. An abandoned farm, near Liberal, Kansas, March, 1936; Library of Congress.

What follows is the second excerpt from my new book, Don’t Sell Your Coat, which can be purchased as a paperback on Amazon here. It will be available on Kindle, iPad, and Nook by New Years. The excerpt is from Chapter 3 – Giving Shape to Phantoms. 

We happen to live in an era when glaciers are, for the most part, shrinking. Again, this has happened dozens of times before in world’s past. The coincidence of the glacial melt with our fascination with carbon dioxide has led, sadly, to the people of the world being held hostage by scientists with questionable acumen and by misinformed journalists. And Earth’s rising sea level, laid at the feet of glacial melt, is the most potent weapon in the hostage-takers’ rhetorical arsenal.

Before getting into the science of sea levels, though, let us stop, briefly, to consider the nature of water. Stability and water are anything but synonymous. “The river was just at this level yesterday, but today it is here,” “sea level has risen during the last thirty years,” “glaciers have grown,” “glaciers have shrunk,” “the fire is burning out of control” and “Australia is undergoing a drought” are all statements that simply express the shifting of water around the globe. It is not in water’s nature to be stationary. When reading through both mainstream media and scientific articles the governing idea in a great many of them appears to be that nature used to be friendly and that water used to be predictable.

This is not the case. The surface of the spinning orb we live on is 71 percent water. “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth,” observed Arthur C. Clarke, “when it is quite clearly Ocean.” Between the seas, the great river systems, the glaciers, the lakes, and all the water in the atmosphere, our home is, in its very essence, change. The idea that by showing the existence of change with respect to water a scientist or anyone else is showing something new, unnatural, or sinister is profoundly unscientific, and reveals a lack of appreciation for the mystery, and the destructive power, of water.

Indeed, one of the great ironies of the global warming alarmism printed in newspapers during the last generation is the suggestion that now is a particularly unfortunate time to have been born, climatologically speaking. This is laughable. Earth is in a prolonged Ice Age. Of the last 200,000 years more than 170,000 of them were times of glacial advance and cold and fewer than 30,000 have passed during interglacials – the warm and benign pauses between long periods of deep chill.

Our ancestors in Europe and Asia, meanwhile, were skin-wearing cave dwellers shivering through winters until the brief respite of summer came each year. Life was difficult and short. When dramatic global warming brought an end to the last period of glaciation and cold some 12,000 years ago, it set in motion a range of events up to and including the United States’ journey to the Moon in 1969. That trip, and all of the technology that preceded it, was facilitated by the warm, safe nest of the Holocene interglacial. When the lunar landing took place it punctuated the obvious: the best time to be born, in terms of climate, was right now. The benign Holocene made it possible for agriculture to be widely developed and for the incredible multiplicity of laborreducing and life-giving technologies to be brought to bear. People born during the Holocene have won the climate lottery. Weather and climate did not used to be better than they are now, and they’re not going to get better when the ice sheets reform.

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About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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