Esquire wins our Over The Top Award for 2016, only four months into the year.
The picture is supposed to harken us back to a time when we plunged into a senseless war for no real good reason. We would never be so stupid again, right?
Esquire says of itself “As the only general-interest lifestyle magazine for sophisticated men, Esquire defines, reflects and celebrates what it means to be a man in contemporary American culture.”
Their commitment to climate change is clear from the cover of their magazine:
Okay, maybe it’s not clear. Charles Pierce, writer of the Esquire article, says “The other day, I mentioned that the problem of the climate crisis simply may be too big and too deadly to be handled by our political system. So, it seems, the system has decided not to talk about it—or, at least, not to talk about it seriously.”
Perhaps Mr. Pierce has been asleep since the spring of 1988, the last moment in our history when the system did not talk about climate change. Perhaps he missed the messages emanating from Al (‘The planet has a fever’) Gore, Bill (” global climate change clearly is one of the most important of those challenges and also one of the most complex, crossing the disciplines of environmental science, economics, technology, business, politics, international development, and global diplomacy, affecting how we and all others on this planet will live, support our families, grow our food, produce our energy, and realize our dreams in the new century.”) Clinton, George (“The issue of climate change respects no border. Its effects cannot be reined in by an army nor advanced by any ideology. Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world.”) Bush, Barack (“Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree: Man-made climate change is a reality. In early 2014, two landmark reports spelled out the reality of the challenge we face. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment both showed that, left unchecked, climate change has the potential to affect Americans everywhere—no matter where they live.”) Obama and various other members of ‘the system.’
Mr. Pierce characterizes climate change as ‘an existential crisis,’ analogizing it to slavery in the U.S. “Throughout the run-up to the Civil War, there were consistently successful attempts to deal with the slavery crisis by not talking about it.” Pierce offers only one example, “The congressional “gag rule,” enacted in 1836, that automatically “tabled” any petition to the Congress regarding slavery.” It was shameful and lasted 8 years. That was five years after Virginia’s ‘Great Slavery Debate.’ Perhaps Mr. Pierce hasn’t had the chance to read Theodore Weld’s ‘The Debate Over Slavery,’ published in 1839. Perhaps he isn’t familiar with the constitution of the American Anti Slavery Society, published in 1833. Or the best-selling “The Narrative of the Life and Adventures of an American Slave (1849) by Henry Bibb.
Of course, Pierce could have looked even further back in American history. “Convinced of the utter sinfulness of physical coercion, American Quaker activists, following Anthony Benezet and John Woolman, succeeded in making abolition a test of religious truth. In 1758, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made involvement in the slave trade a disciplinary offence, leading to exclusion from all its business meetings.”
Possibly Charles Pierce is as utterly ignorant of the public debate on slavery as he is of the non-stop public debate on climate change that is almost 30 years old.
Pierce is referring, of course, to the report I discussed in yesterday’s post, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: An Assessment.”
Pierce writes, “Among the range of physical health impacts, Americans can look forward to a future of more food and water contamination, increased asthma rates, and tenfold jumps in death from heat exposure, the report found. The report also devotes an entire chapter to the mental health impacts of climate change, which are often symbiotic.”
The Center for Disease Control publishes trends in food contamination. After 15 of the 16 hottest years in the global record, six of the eight contaminants they follow have decreased in incidence. Only Vibrio and Cryptosporidium have risen since 1996.
“Comparison with the first three years of FoodNet surveillance (1996–1998) shows some clear changes:
- The incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter, Listeria, STEC O157, Shigella, and Yersinia has declined, mostly in the first years.
- The overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged, but the incidence of some types of Salmonella have increased while others have decreased.
- The incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher.
- The overall incidence of infection with six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.”
For water born diseases, let’s just show the chart published by the Center for Disease Control:
As for asthma, the recent hot years haven’t had much of an impact:
As for heat related deaths, the number of deaths per million has risen over the past two decades–as has the number of cold-related deaths, which are higher.
The total number of all deaths captured in that graph is around 2,000, an asterisk in mortality considering 2.6 million deaths occur each year in the U.S. And some scientists do believe that the lowering of death by cold will be greater than the rise in death by heat.
As for mental illness, I confess to a very real prejudice–I believe the growth in the number of conditions described as mental illness, coupled with the drug treatment based paradigm currently extant in the U.S. is entirely responsible for the rise in reported mental illness and that these two factors will outweigh any contributions from climate change by an order of magnitude.
It would appear to me that Charles Pierce is not familiar with the extent of policy discussions on climate change. That he is not familiar with the extensive debate on the issue he wishes to compare climate change to–slavery in America. And then he accepts without question misleading data offered in the report that set him off.
As for the headline,people are not now dying of climate change. They are not now being displaced because of climate change. They are not starving because of climate change.
Will they suffer these fates in the future? Perhaps, although probably not in America, which has the wealth and power to adapt to whatever climate change our (much-debated) efforts cannot prevent.
Perhaps Esquire should stick to its strong points–like interviewing Megan Fox, of whom they write “[Her skin is] the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters.”