Neil Reynolds is probably the Globe and Mail’s premier hack columnist: your bog-standard anti-Keynesian upper class white guy with a knack for pretentious phrasing oft combined with folksy imagery. The Globe generally doesn’t have a lot of gratituously pointless writers on its staff, so presumably Reynolds fulfills a quota; either that or he couldn’t get a job with Sun Media.
Consider the following passage:
But people adapt to changes in climate. In the Dirty Thirties, people delivered blocks of ice to the poor, slept in basements, wore wet headbands under their hats, went to air-conditioned movies – and took it easy.
This is really a masterpiece of twaddle. In the Thirties, see, there were hot summers! But people of the time (who, by virtue of being older and more self-reliant than the current spoiled generation, were better people) “adapted” by sleeping in basements and wearing wet headbands beneath their hats. If this were a “of times gone past” sort of column, this hokum would be forgivable if not laudable. But it’s not: this is the basis for Reynolds’ entire column, wherein he explains that global warming isn’t a big deal because the changes are very small and anyways we’ll just adapt to it. We will, as our forefathers before us, sleep in the basement and therefore global warming is really not a bother at all!
This sort of fatalistic non-denial denialism is nothing new for Reynolds: just a month past he was ponderously repeating the words of Robert Laughlin, a physicist with no actual climatology background, who informed us all that despite what we might believe, climate change will not destroy the Earth. Having managed to dispense of that straw man while glossing over the minor problem of mass extinctions and the not-really-comforting thought that just because we can’t blow up the planet with global warming doesn’t mean we can’t render ourselves extinct, Reynolds sat back, content being the Wise Man of Letters. Before that, he was explaining that Europe may experience some truly harsh winters in the coming years with a tiny little “not that this has anything to do with global warming but maybeeeee people will stop believing in it!” so as to appear reasonable. Reynolds doesn’t bother with low-class denials of basic scientific evidence; he’s too well-bred for such things. Instead, he goes for the “it’s really not a problem” form of denialism – denialism because it, like the more traditional form, exists to stand against the idea that, gosh, maybe we should do something about carbon emissions.
(Also, not particularly related to the subject matter at hand, but do consider this gem, wherein Reynolds discusses a 19th-century geologist’s study on coal supplies as if it was in any way relevant to anything whatsoever, as evidence of his ability to suggest that the inconsequential or irrelevant are in fact deeply consequential and relevant.)
Of course, the problem with this entire line of argument is that slight changes in temperature can do things much more bothersome than force you to sleep in the basement. For example, they can result in half of Russia being on fire. Or mass flooding rendering more than two million Pakistanis homeless.1
Now of course these instances aren’t necessarily climate-change related; there’s no way to definitively prove that one way or the other, and to do so would just be engaging in the reverse of “look how hard it just snowed so there’s no global warming” arguments that are definitively stupid. But what is true is that increases in temperatures make dangerous weather of this sort more likely to occur, just as a mass decrease in temperature might make glaciers marching across Europe more likely.2 Dangerous weather of this sort isn’t “adaptable.” It’s just expensive, and generally then requires federal expenditures to make life livable again for the affected populace, which of course is something Reynolds traditionally dislikes so you’d think he’d be on the “spend a little now to save a ton later” bandwagon, but shockingly this is not the case.