The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egyptian Revolution and Climate Change

So Keith is redoubling down. He goes after Coby for suggesting that climate change is a factor in Egypt. In doing so he points approvingly to what appears to me to be a sound piece of conventional wisdom, wherein Bryan McDonald says that bad weather leading to increased food prices was a factor in the recent, amazing events in the middle east.

Well, yes. How does that refute the idea that climate change was a factor leading to that bad weather, and thus involved in those events?

It doesn't. Every word McDonald says can be true without contradicting the point made by Joe Romm and affirmed by others including myself and Coby Beck. Climate change is a factor.

Then in lawyerlike fashion Keith goes after an alternative attack. "Global warming helps end tyranny. Finally, a silver lining to runaway climate change!"

Let's get this clear: first of all, despite the very inspiring events of the last couple of weeks, Egypt is far from out of the woods yet. Secondly, the fact that this is the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, doesn't mean it was good news just because it was a bad camel. Obviously, I'd think.

Let me stipulate that Egypt is not "a climate change story" in the sense that climate change should be a primary element in the day-to-day reporting. But that is not to say it won't be an element in the history of our time. It is perfectly reasonable to raise the Egyptian story in the context of climate change even if it is unreasonable to raise climate change in the context of the Egyptian story. I am a bit baffled by Keith's adamant refusal to see that anthropogenic climate change may already be a factor in human history. It's as if climate change were in a little box by itself. But that's the exact opposite of what we are facing, because, well, because every single thing that happens in human history happens in this nitrogen/oxygen/trace gas soup that we are stirring around.



As an aside, it is interesting to consider how events might have transpired if someone less competent than Mr. Obama had been US president at the time. Via Daily Dish:
"We are witnessing a complete seismic shift in the direction of the world away from freedom," Pamela Geller told Andy Kroll at CPAC, where he says Mubarak's resignation has "barely made a ripple."
Fascinating. Practically the entire population of Egypt has stood up to the authorities at risk of life and limb to demand that their freedoms be taken away. A first in human history, I suspect.

18 comments:

EliRabett said...

Egypt is the one place in the world where climate change has always dominated. Take a look at a map.

Belette said...

> Then in lawyerlike fashion Keith goes after an alternative attack

Yes, but that was *my* idea and I said it here first. Keith is just ripping off my idea without attribution.

King of the Road said...

Re. your aside: No, it's happened before; cf. Iran 1979.

Michael Tobis said...

KOTR, yes that was the consequence but that surely wasn't the intent at the time. You could point to the French revolution in exactly the same way. Nobody at the Bastille imagined Robespierre.

But it is why I join the right in not being sanguine about the outcome in Egypt. There are many fish left to fry.

Michael Tobis said...

Belette, I acknowledge your primacy in that half-baked idea.

King of the Road said...

I don't align myself with Beck, et al, on this issue but the outcome in Iran was or should have been, in my opinion, quite foreseeable, even to to the participants at the time.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Khomeini's writing could hardly have been surprised at the outcome and he was explicitly the desired leader of the participants in the revolution. Thus I think it does, in fact, meet the expressed criteria of practically the entire population standing up and demanding that their freedom be taken away, the Shah's repressive regime's characteristics notwithstanding.

I don't necessarily predict an analogous outcome for Egypt but, based on the expressed goals of Muslim Brotherhood and what is apparently the thinking of the majority of Egyptians vis a vis Sharia law and the role of religion in government, I'm not sanguine.

27183 said...

Belette, you're too damn weird.

I submitted that as a FARK headline to Joe Romm's article days ago.

Redlit of course because the denialists run FARK.

Belette said...

27183, you're too kind, do come and visit.

*I* said it here on the 2nd of Feb. When did you say it? (As an ex-scientist, priority is a high priority).

Belette said...

Actually reading back there I see that Brian claimed to have had the idea first, but he posted it at Kloors on the 3rd, so in all probability Kloor ripped him off, not me.

Michael Tobis said...

KOTR, I don't know much about Iran, but youyr claim is contradicted at your link:

"Many observers of the revolution maintain that while the book was distributed to Khomeini's core supporters in Iran, Khomeini and his aides were careful not to publicize the book or the idea of wilayat al-faqih to outsiders,[5] knowing that groups crucial to the revolution's success—secular and Islamic Modernist Iranians—were likely to be irreconcilably opposed to theocracy. It was only when Khomeini's core supporters had consolidated their hold on power that wilayat al-faqih was made known to the general public and written into the country's new Islamic constitution.[6]"

I find this more believable than your version.

There has long been a secular middle class in Iran, and most of the several members of that culture whom I have met in various capacities have been delightful, charming, sophisticated and tolerant.

EliRabett said...

Eli was there first (at least with the right answer)

EliRabett said...

FWIW, most of Kholmeni's propaganda was via K7s (try that in French)not books.

King of the Road said...

I agree that there was and is a secular middle class in Iran and with your characterization of the members of that class doesn't, in my opinion, mean that the intentions of Khomeini were a surprise. It read, to me, like an after the fact rationalization. I don't find it credible, though I wasn't there and also am not an expert.

We have a few Iranian expats who work for us, I'll ask them what they think.

ScruffyDan said...

"Global warming helps end tyranny. Finally, a silver lining to runaway climate change!"

The same could be said for anything that causes misery... but I assume KK's tongue was at least partially in his cheek when he wrote that

David B. Benson said...

Massimo Pigliucci
Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
Univ. Chicago Press, 2010.

Peter T said...

Re Iran:

I was there. To be united against something is not to be all for one thing. Middle-class and poor Iranians, more Islamic and more Persian Iranians were all against the Shah, to the point where they walked in thousands up to soldiers and invited them to shoot. When they did get shot, more walked up and invited the soldiers to do it again. The soldiers gave in first.

What happened after was devout Shia (mostly poor) against middle-class Persian.

But in Iran women still vote, Armenian Christians still drink beer and vodka, and people still quote Hafiz on wine.

If you want to understand Iran, think of France but with more history, more grievances, and a martyr complex. It will take a few decades yet for them to work out what suits them.

btw, I think climate change is likely to hit Iran hard.

Brian said...

FWIW, I had meant to indicate that William had the idea first, but I also wrote it at Kloor's before I saw William's comment here. And that I didn't find it an even slightly-convincing argument in favor of delaying action on climate.

Brian said...

FWIW, I had meant to indicate that William had the idea first, but I also wrote it at Kloor's before I saw William's comment here. And that I didn't find it an even slightly-convincing argument in favor of delaying action on climate.

And Kloor's quote, "I think I see an upside that everyone else is missing" is clearly incorrect.