Shaping Reality Through Law
North Carolina may decide to deny global warming science in a big way.
A new state law in the works would require estimates of coming sea level change to be based on historical changes from the past, ignoring scientific studies which indicate how levels are actually likely to rise in the future.
A state-appointed science panel projected that the sea level off the coast of North Carolina may rise as much as a meter by the year 2100. The state legislature apparently didn’t like this idea, because it would affect coastal communities, tourism, most of the big cities in North Carolina, and much of the state’s industry. Plus, it is contrary to conservative ideology, which holds that global warming doesn’t exist — but things wouldn’t be inconvenient if it did — and it shouldn’t elicit any action on the part of humans in any case.
In order to be certain that global warming doesn’t affect North Carolina, the proposed law states, in part,
These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly …
In other words, the sea off the coast of North Carolina will not be permitted to rise at a faster rate than it has in the past. We can assume the Earth is listening to the North Carolina legislature.
North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise – caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists – go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.
Which, yes, is exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.
This isn’t the first time a U.S. state has attempted to control reality by the force of law. In 1897, House Bill 246 was introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives by Representative T. I. Record of Posen county. This bill officially defined the mathematical constant π — the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — as being one of three possible values (apparently a citizen of Indiana would have a choice):
(1) The ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is 5⁄4 to 4. In other words, pi equals 16⁄5 or 3.2
(2) The area of a circle equals the area of a square whose side is 1⁄4 the circumference of the circle. Working this out algebraically, we see that pi must be equal to 4.
(3) The ratio of the length of a 90 degree arc to the length of a segment connecting the arc’s two endpoints is 8 to 7. This gives us pi equal to the square root of 2 x 16/7, or about 3.23.
In point of fact, of course, π is approximately equal to 3.1415926535897932… It is an infinite non-repeating decimal. The idea of an irrational number appears to be offensive to some. The bill unanimously passed in the Indiana House, but died in the Senate.
Nor is this the sum of state’s power over reality. The State of Tennessee used to have a law — the 1925 “Butler Act” — which made it illegal to teach the science behind evolution in public schools. A famous trial — the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial — put that law to the test. A permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the Act was finally issued in 1967. Undaunted, a new “Monkey Bill” came before the Tennessee legislature this year, a bill designed to encourage public school teachers to “question” both evolution and climate science.
One interesting part of all this, as far as global warming, is that the deniers seem to pay more attention to research results than do those who accept the science. The mainstream media pretty much ignores climate research. Doubters anxiously pore over new reports with hacksaws. This is, perhaps, understandable. Deniers have a case to make, a calling to pursue. They have to convince the rest of us that the scientific method — the same principles that brought you penicillin and PCs, television and Terminex, movies and motorcycles, astronauts and acidophilus — the scientific method has, in this one case, utterly failed us.
This is politics in its most naked form. To deny global warming, one must selectively ignore reality. But only selectively — we would know about neither global warming, nor about the arguments against it, were it not for the existence of technology created through the same scientific method that brings us climate science. The technology through which we communicate today — radio, television, the Internet, even newspapers and the transportation tech that brings them to you — these things would not exist if modern science didn’t work. If you’re reading these words — more, if you hear or read the words of climate science deniers — you are engaging in activities that would not be possible if climate science can’t be trusted.
Float that boat in North Carolina.
- North Carolina tries to wish away sea-level rise(guardian.co.uk)
- North Carolina Bill Would Require Coastal Communities To Ignore Global Warming Science(thinkprogress.org)
- Another stupid piece of antiscientific legislation: sea-level rise(whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- North Carolina To Outlaw Rise in Sea Level(neatorama.com)
- Denialism Heats Up
- Ballot Watch: The South (Part 2, The Swinging South)
- Indiana and North Carolina Elections
- The Secret Truth about Global Warming
- Of Caps and Trades and Flips and Flops
- The BEST Study Yet
- The Ice, Man, Recedeth
- Block the Vote!
- No Science Please, We’re Republicans
- No Worries in the Heartland
About dcpetterson (194 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson