TWO PREDICTIONS: THE FUTURE OF FLORIDA
As noted at the end of the prior page, this page offers predictions about the future, rather than known facts.
But first, I need to point out a severe misalignment, between: (i) how scientists think, work, and communicate; versus, (ii) how politicians distort, manipulate, and scheme. That misalignment has helped lead us into a dark tunnel, which we can no longer get out of, while a runaway world-threatening train of disasters is coming at us, hard and fast.
As one who has been practicing law – and, observing and listening to politicians – for more than 40 years, I’ve had plenty of exposure to the ways most lawyers and politicians learn (and are taught, trained, motivated, and pushed), not to remain steadfast and faithful to some abstract concept of ‘truth’, but to use skill, cleverness, manipulation, and sometimes distortion -- and sometimes, even outright dishonesty (but – the rest of the world can hope – only when truly necessary) -- to create arguments and claims that will help some lawyer or politician get the result(s) he wants. I’m not claiming scientists are saintly in comparison, or are always and forever honest; nevertheless, they live in a different world, and are held to different standards, which lead to large and important differences in how they talk and work, compared to lawyers and politicians. As two major points of difference:
PRINCIPLE #1: SCIENTISTS ARE TAUGHT AND TRAINED TO NEVER CLAIM TO KNOW ABSOLUTE TRUTH
Good scientists learn that they are risking (and jeopardizing, and threatening to damage, and possibly even destroy) things they do not need to risk, if they ever, ever claim to know ‘absolute truth’ about anything scientific.
Part of that attitude comes from their objections and resentment over how humanity has been controlled and manipulated, for so many centuries, by selfish, conniving, manipulative people who, throughout history, have claimed divine right, divine inspiration, divine power, and anything else divine, which they claimed had been given to them – directly, and personally – by and from God. Since scientists know how much those attitudes held back good science, they don’t want to be accused of doing the same things, themselves.
There are, regrettably, a few not-so-good scientists who claim things such as ‘Evolution has proved that there is no God,’ but those people are in a small minority, and any non-scientists should try to accept, tolerate, and understand that those types of statements should be regarded as evening- and night-time statements of non-scientific dogma, and personal opinions, from outliers who actually work as scientists only during their day jobs, and who (apparently, if they make severely dogmatic and unscientific statements in public) never really managed to figure out what good science is, and what its limits are. Alternately, people should simply recognize and accept that a VERY small (but prominent) number of scientists have figured out how to make money, by selling atheism, as a product. As an example, when Richard Dawkins goes out on book tours, to promote his latest book encouraging everyone to be an atheist, he charges $1500/hour, to sit with and give reassurances to those who might be wavering, and afraid of some version of Judgment Day, after they die. His website openly advertises that price, for a 1-hour session with him.
Another part of the modest attitude (among good scientists) about needlessly and foolishly risky claims to ‘absolute knowledge’ comes from seeing, a number of times, how some set of widely-accepted “knowledge” had to be heavily rewritten and revised, in light of later discoveries. As one example, the very definition of “atom,” for roughly 2000 years, had been ‘the smallest possible component of mass’. However, major discoveries in the late 1800s and early 1900s forced scientists to realize and accept that, ‘No, that prior belief was wrong, because now we know that atoms actually are made up of even smaller components, which we now call protons, electrons, and neutrons.’
And then, it even happened again (!!), with yet ANOTHER major re-write, and shake-up. Starting in the 1960’s, scientists realized that even protons, electrons, and neutrons are made up of even smaller components, generally called quarks (with additional terms such as hadrons, baryons, muons, bosons, etc.).
BOTH of those two major transitions – BOTH of which cut directly to absolutely fundamental, center-of-everything questions, such as, ‘What is matter, itself? And, what are WE made of?’ – played a powerful and enduring role in teaching scientists to NOT claim to know ‘absolute truth.’ Why not? Because, in all truth and seriousness, more information, and alternate theories, may come along that may require `re-writes' of things that, in retrospect, will look like dogma, rather than truth.
In similar ways, biology and medicine never have been, never will be, and never can be, fully quantifiable, “deterministic”, and predictable. Whenever ANY large biological population is measured for ANY variable trait, the results can be reported accurately, only as statistics and probabilities; the hard data will be arrayed across a ‘bell curve’ shape, and the question becomes, ‘Where does this individual happen to fit, on that type of statistical curve?’ Similarly, doctors simply accept and admit that they will NEVER be able to fully understand (or reliably predict) why some patients with severe and even dire conditions get better and recover, while other patients, having apparently milder conditions, succumb and die.
A third reason why scientists are taught to NOT claim to know ‘absolute truth’ about anything scientific, comes from a mature and insightful realization that the trait (or, even just the appearance) of modesty tends to be pleasing, agreeable, and “becoming”, even if (or, especially if) it comes from some apparently super-human being, with super-human strength, and super-human knowledge and insight. Because good science combines the efforts and accomplishments of so many contributors, it is, indeed:
(i) super-human (i.e., it stretches vastly above and beyond the capabilities of any single human);
(ii) super-humanly strong (i.e., strong enough to move entire mountains, lift giant rockets into space, and then figure out how to kill, with precision, microbes so small they could not even be seen until a bunch of really smart scientists invented electron microscopes); and,
(iii) endowed with super-human knowledge, and insight.
Regarding the not-so-modest phrase, `super-human knowledge, and insight’: science finally became what we regard as ‘science,’ only about 150 years ago. There were so many epochal advances in each and all of chemistry, physics, and biology, between about 1850 and about 1870, that that timespan can fairly be called the beginning of what we recognize, today, as ‘science’. Science then began acquiring, at a HUGE velocity, so much knowledge and insight that – in only about 150 years – it has totally and utterly changed the entire world, all of humanity, and all human civilization. Radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, nuclear power, computers, cellphones, modern medicine, genetics, genetic engineering – the list is endless, and none of those things could have been even imagined, by anyone, in 1850. Those are compelling illustrations, evidence, and “proof” of how intelligent, insightful, and powerful science is, and of how much it has changed society, and humanity.
So, science – and good scientists – have learned to modestly claim and assert that nothing they claim to know, is “absolute truth”. If someone comes forth with a new theory or hypothesis, scientists will not try to have that person arrested, tortured, and then killed because he was spouting blasphemy which can corrupt other scientists if allowed to continue. Instead, any good scientist will respond by saying, “That is an unusual claim, and I will not believe it unless he can provide very good and strong evidence that he is right, and all the rest of us have been wrong. So, what is his evidence? What is he actually saying?” And, the scientific community will ask that person to show them his evidence, whatever it might be.
But now . . . take that principle, and remove the word ‘absolute’ from the phrase, ‘absolute truth’? How much does that change the meaning of ‘truth’? ‘Truth’ is the noun, the thing, itself. Adding an adjective doesn’t really change what the thing, itself, actually is.
So, scientists who try to convince (and warn) politicians about global warming, do not really feel comfortable in saying what ‘science’ does and does not >> KNOW << to be >> TRUE!! << Instead, they must begin using complex, cluttered, difficult-to-understand charts and numbers, about statistics and probabilities.
And . . . THAT . . . is where scheming politicians – who want power, more than anything else, including truth – find gaps, openings, opportunities, and excuses to attack and highlight any candid and honest admissions, about the limits of what good science does, and claims.
THAT severe and even tragic misalignment – between science, versus political scheming and conniving – is where politicians find the opportunities and excuses they can use to simply ignore and criticize the warnings they get, from scientists. The tragic blind spot of too many scientists is that they will sacrifice themselves, and what they are trying to do, by continuing to do their level best to always be scrupulously and carefully honest, even when they are being cut up, and cut into pieces, by dishonest and unscrupulous knife-fighters who have knives in their hands, and malice in their hearts.
PRINCIPLE #2: GOOD SCIENCE DOES NOT AND CANNOT “PROVE” ANYTHING WHICH HAS NOT YET HAPPENED;
INSTEAD, IT CAN ONLY MAKE PREDICTIONS, AND FORECASTS, ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE NOT YET HAPPENED.
Another severe misalignment, between how scientists communicate – versus how politicians claim, strut, posture, parade, bloviate, and argue – arises from the fact that science never claims to have “proved” anything which still lies in the future, and has not yet happened. Instead, science modestly accepts, understands, and says that any statements about the future are merely predictions (or, forecasts, extrapolations, or similar terms).
However, that does NOT means that “predictions” are puny, uncertain, unreliable, and a poor substitute for truth and knowledge. Instead, people should recognize and respect GOOD predictions as having – and providing humans with – enough courage, foresight, motivation and energy to actually get things done. Predictions about what will happen, that day, are what enable, motivate, and drive the kinds of people who will actually accomplish things, to get up every morning. Predictions about what will happen, in the future, are what enable companies to do business.
To understand that point, consider the following: every type of manufacturing operation that is ever performed, by any person or company, anywhere in the world, rests entirely and totally on predictions. Plain and simple. A chemical manufacturing process rests on predictions which say, in effect, “I hereby predict – and, I have bet good money on this prediction – that if I put these chemicals, in the quantities and temperatures listed on this page, into this machine, and if I provide power to the machine, and turn it on once it has been loaded with those chemicals . . . well, I predict that this machine will convert these chemicals, into the product I want to make.”
If some process involves mechanics rather than chemistry, the prediction will require only minor changes, without changing its nature or meaning: “I hereby predict – and, I have bet good money on this prediction – that if I put this piece of sheet metal into this machine, then this machine will shape this piece of metal into a car fender, which will then have a shape which will enable us to fit that fender onto the type of car we are making in this factory, today.”
That is the very essence, and the key, to understanding what manufacturing actually is, and does, and accomplishes. Being able to successfully and accurately PREDICT things like that, is what enables ALL manufacturing operations. It is what enables ANY company to pay for the machines that will do the predicted operations, and to pay for the supplies and materials which must be loaded into those machines, to enable them to work. Rather than being puny, uncertain, or unreliable, predictions that are skilled, shrewd, intelligent, and insightful, are absolutely crucial, critical, essential components of any and all decisions and commitments which enable things to actually get done.
Clearly, some types of predictions are so obvious and predictable that it can seem silly or stupid to even make them. Simple example: I hereby predict that, no matter WHAT day, or week, or month, or year, you happen to read this . . . the next morning after that, the sun will seem to rise over the eastern horizon, rather than the western horizon. Why? Because of the scientific rules of momentum, and inertia; there is NO reason to expect that the earth will suddenly stop rotating in the same direction (or speed) that it has been rotating in, for billions of years.
Now, here is the crucial point which needs to be made, and understood, about that type of prediction: no matter how obvious a prediction might be, it still is only a prediction, if it describes something which is expected to happen, but has not yet happened. Science – no matter how powerful or insightful it is – simply cannot “prove” something which has not yet happened, and cannot happen until some time in the future. Even something as obvious as claiming and stating, with total certainty, that the sun will rise in the east, tomorrow, is not proof; it is a prediction.
As another example, I can safely and reliably predict – with absolute, total, 100.0000% confidence (and with as many zeroes after the decimal point as anyone might care to imagine) that if I lift up something heavy, and heave it upward, on any day next week, it will fall back down to earth . . . on the very same day!! Why? Because that’s how gravity works. But even so – and here is the crucial point – IF I have not yet DONE it . . . then I have not yet PROVED it. I have only PREDICTED it.
That is the nature of science, and the problem becomes this: the words and the terms that science uses, to discuss and describe things that have not yet happened, can be seized upon, hijacked, and used in very different ways, by politicians who do NOT want to have to face up to troubling, difficult, frightening warnings. Republicans who do not want to have to vote for large and expensive programs to help slow down global warming, have an easy and obvious excuse. Using the exact same words that the scientists are using, Republicans act as though, and talk as though, and claim that, all they need to say, to justify their actions to voters they regard as their ‘base’, is ‘The scientists have NOT even PROVED that those things are going to happen.’
Somehow or another, people who want to protect the planet need to find ways to cut through that tactic used by politicians (especially Republicans, plus Joe Manchin in the Senate).
My suggestion and proposal is this: the most promising, high-potential, and best chance that we have, to cut through the stalling and word-game tactics that too many politicians use to avoid facing up to real, serious, and even horrible threats coming at us because of global warming, is by adopting and using this tactic:
(i) make a single, targeted, limited prediction, which focuses on a single specific area, and which sounds so unsettling, dramatic, disruptive, and almost bizarre, that it begins gathering enough attention, and headlines, to force people to begin taking sides on whether or not they think that prediction is valid, reasonable, and likely to be true; and, then,
(ii) bring in some genuine experts, to begin describing and explaining, in detail, what they believe and anticipate about that prediction, and what they think the time frame will be.
In my assessment, Florida is the best focal point, for predictions that may be able to shake things up, to a point where more people will begin to seriously ask and think about the predictions and arguments on both sides, and about which side is being more honest.
And, in my assessment, that needs to be done urgently. This year. BEFORE election day, November 2022. Why so urgent? Simple – so that voters can make better-informed choices about which candidates they should vote for, for Congress, in 2022.
So – as someone who has studied environmental science, and who actually understands the actual facts about global warming that are described on the prior pages, here is what I offer, as a serious, genuine, sincere prediction about ‘The Future of Florida’:
PREDICTION #1: The Future of Florida
Based on my work, studies, and level of understanding as an environmental scientist and engineer, I hereby predict that, within less than 35 years (with 2022 as the first of those 35 years), the coastal regions of Florida will be rendered more than 90% unlivable, by sea level rise. Property values along the Florida coast – which amount to trillions of dollars in 2022 values – will drop by somewhere in the range of 95-98%, within less than 35 years (probably within less than 30 years, or even just 20 years), as people are forced to witness and reckon with the unmistakable and unstoppable onslaught, once the damage truly begins and then accelerates. Within 40 years, nearly all homes and apartments along the Atlantic coast of Florida will have to be abandoned (Florida’s Gulf coast likely will follow, within about 10 years or less, after that); and, at least 10 million people (out of a current population of about 22 million) will be forced into ‘refugee’ status, driven northward and/or inland, having no significant savings or assets beyond a car (or possibly two), and whatever they are able to carry in that car (or two). The only people who will remain behind will be radical outliers, outlaws, and ‘frontiersmen’ who choose to live lifestyles that are completely and totally different from ‘normal’ Americans. Rather than paying rent or taxes, the people who remain in Florida, or who move to Florida willingly, will defy any and all outside authorities, and will challenge anyone to come and take any rent or tax money from them, if they think they can. Violent gangs will form, as a substitute for severely broken (or totally abandoned) government and law enforcement services, and their members will claim to be pioneers who are performing valuable services for America, and for all countries, by figuring out, and showing everyone else, how some type of semi-functional remnant society can be organized, and managed, in the areas that previously were coastlines. In addition, at some point in the process, people will begin bombing and destroying bridges or other “choke-points” on the major north-south highways (or, they will attack and disable trucks and cars on those highways, to create barriers to travel without damaging the roads themselves), thereby rendering those highways unable to carry more refugees. This might be done by violent gangs that intend to remain in Florida, in order to give them more valuable items they can plunder and steal; or, it might be done by people who do not want their states, north of Florida, to have to absorb – and begin taking care of, and begin paying the huge costs of taking care of – millions of broke, hungry, unwanted, and very, very angry and embittered refugees from Florida.
Okay, then. Without wanting to seem sarcastic or flippant about the disasters that are coming to Florida, I hope the above is unsettling and disturbing enough to provoke various people (such as reporters, talk radio hosts, TV hosts, debate moderators, etc.) to at least begin asking, `Is this real? Is this serious? Does anyone else, other than THAT guy, think things like these might actually HAPPEN, in real life?’ And then, when experts who genuinely understand global warming begin standing up and saying, `Not only is it possible, it is actually becoming probable,’ then THAT added weight and momentum will become `the tipping point’ which will be enough to enable, and push forward, a serious and ongoing dialogue (and, hopefully, a set of Congressional hearings), about what is going to happen, to Florida, over the coming decades.
This is, indeed, a direct plea for Congress to hold at least SOME hearings, on global warming, during 2022, so that voters can make better-informed decisions, when they must cast their votes for Congress. In addition to directly addressing `The Future of Florida’, the second page after this one proposes several other specific topics for such hearings, which should begin to be at least asked about, considered, and discussed seriously, among members of Congress in both parties.
Regardless of whether Congress decides to hold any such hearings this year, I hereby ask, invite, welcome, and urge any climate expert – or any military officer (especially from the U.S. Navy) – anywhere in the world, to step up and state, as your first and opening comment about the prediction above, where you stand, in terms of your opinions about the time frames set forth above, for “The Future of Florida”. That will help any moderators of any such discussions figure out where to position and classify you, along the spectrum of advocates for an entire range of positions and beliefs, as follows:
(1) Anyone who says it will happen even faster than the timetable above, can be initially placed in an “alarmist” category.
(2) Anyone who says it will NEVER happen, can be placed in a “total denial” category.
(3) And, my suggestion would be that anyone who says something like, ‘Guesses about time frames are not that important, because the prediction itself is horrible, and yet realistic, to a point that deserves serious consideration without getting too distracted by guesses about probable timing,’ should be placed into some sort of “moderate” category.
PREDICTION #2: The Failures of Congress
Unless something truly remarkable happens, during the pre‑chaos period – i.e., before the fate of Florida is fully recognized as both catastrophic, and no longer avoidable, triggering hundreds of thousands of ‘refugees from Florida’ to abandon their homes and begin fleeing northward – Congress will show itself to be utterly incapable of facing up to either: (i) the impending disasters and catastrophes in Florida; or, (ii) the challenge of how to respond to the Florida disasters, in any way which will even remotely merit any words of approval or praise (such as ‘squarely’, ‘honestly’, ‘usefully’, ‘effectively’, etc.). The particulars of how (and just how severely) Congress will prove itself to be incapable of meeting that challenge – and other challenges which also will begin growing exponentially, during that same period – cannot be predicted, and can only unfold in whatever way they will. Nevertheless, any American who has observed the failures and dysfunctionality of Congress – even BEFORE a relentless series of coastal crises, in Florida, begin to forcibly PROVE how severe they will be – can safely predict that Congress will NOT be able to create any sort of orderly, logical, or respectable transition process . . . unless something truly remarkable happens, during the pre‑chaos period.
Okay, then. So much for the fully serious, on-the-table, cast-my-lot predictions. As a potentially amusing show for the sidelines, which may be able to help focus more (and/or, more sustained) attention to, and questions about, what will be happening in Florida, the next page proposes a ‘betting pool’, comparable to the office ‘betting pools’ that pop up when a Super Bowl or NCAA Basketball tournament is approaching.
The one I propose, on the next page, is called ‘The Mar-a-Lago Pool Pool.’
That name is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but only in part. The other part is entirely – even deadly – serious.