Sometimes it helps to look abroad for one's news to capture the peculiar absurdities of American politics. Case in point: The Daily Mail, of the U.K., yesterday ran an item discussing a potential chair of the U.S. energy committee, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL). For Shimkus, it would be a breeze to run a committee devoted, at least in part, to the prevention of disastrous anthropogenic global warming. That's because Shimkus doesn't believe disastrous anthropogenic global warming is happening. Because God said it wouldn't.
That was in Genesis -- the book of the Bible wherein paradise was ruined by a bad apple and a talking snake, and God flooded the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights. After drowning his children, God promised he would never do anything so nasty again. According to the Mail, Shimkus stood before the House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and quoted:
"As long as the Earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night would never cease."
"I believe that is the infallible word of God," said Shimkus, "and that's the way it's going to be for his creation [...] The Earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood."
Good to know! For Coloradans, anyway. Because even though Shimkus' God did apparently promise to never again destroy all life on Earth in a flood, he never promised he wouldn't flood individual pieces of the Earth. Such as, say, coastal communities with treacherously low elevations.
"In the last hundred thousand years, Florida has been underwater," says Lee E. Branscombe, PhD, a climatologist formerly with the National Research Council's Climate Research Committee. Branscombe now runs the Climatological Consulting Corp. in Palm Beach County. "So obviously, climate change is going to create huge problems along the coasts."
Branscombe believes that the authors of the Bible, whatever other merits they may possess, are not useful oracles in discussions of Florida's climatological future. "They didn't even know that Florida exists," he says.
Besides an overwhelming consensus re: the existence of Florida, climate scientists have come to several other conclusions that may have surprised the Bible authors. For example: 40 days of rain, even relatively heavy rain, will not flood the planet, which in fact receives approximately 365 days of rain per year. Moreover, you do not need mountain-drowning cascades of water to put a profound hurt on an ecosystem or a culture. "With reference to Mr. Shimkus," Branscombe says, "we should all be concerned well before all of the land on the planet is flooded. It's a very serious problem if the water level rises three feet."
Anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change is likely rapidly accelerating the rate at which the oceans rise. Whereas natural cycles would account for a multifoot rise over the course of a thousand years or so, Branscombe believes we now confront a situation where such rises may occur in a century or two. "That's fast. Of course, flooding the Earth in 40 days, Noah has us beat by a mile." He pauses and adds: "That's a mile, vertically."