Benchmark the weirdness

What tornado?

What tornado?

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

Aunt Ruth understands disagreement. Really, she does. Her folks are Republicans, most of the rest of her immediate family are Republicans. She disagrees, of course. But she gets it.

Disagreement, domestically speaking, can be an emotional door-slamming era in the life of a family (so it was for Ruthie in younger days); it can escalate into utter dysfunction or simmer in a repressed state of suspended animation.


Somewhere, under the murk of family life, there are things akin to observable facts that can be agreed upon. From there, peaceor something like it—might ensue. A long strange trip it can be, certainly. But worth the ride.

And, yeah, huge errors can be made comparing really big things (like countries) to really small things (like a family), but Ruthie thinks the same standard should be true in a democracy. Even in times as ugly as these, there has to be some acknowledged facts of the matter, if only as a starting place.

But not always. Witness what is happening far, far away, in the coastal state of North Carolina. Beachfront property is one of the things California has in common with North Carolina, but Ruthie doubts the developers here on the left coast would try anything this wack.

Because climate change predicts a raise in ocean levels by taking into account, as Grist noted, “the warmer it gets, the more the water volume expands, and the more stuff melts, and the more it expands, etc.” This predictive model is tough, evidently, on developers on the North Carolina coast, because models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are anticipating an oceanic rise of 3 feet or more by century’s end.

So the N.C. state Legislature cooked up a bill outlawing that kind of scientific prediction, preferring to use a “linear” historical record, which—based on records kept since 1900—only predicts an oceanic rise of 8 inches by 2100. A little less scary to the 1 percent who can fork out the dollars for windows on the water. While public ridicule was swift, the Legislature has modified the legislation only slightly.

It’s like ignoring a tornado warning because the last two weeks of weather have been fair.

Some days, all Ruthie can do is benchmark the weirdness.