Alarmism – it really frightens people and it sucks

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California’s imminent deathbed? Really?

Green alarmism generates newspaper sales, TV ratings and hits on social media but it is a big problem standing in the way of reasoned and effective political responses to environmental problems. The latest alarmism comes from California where the Internet is abuzz with talk of California’s water supply running out in a year’s time. It is amazing how many publications, including mainstream ones, have run this line.

The Guardian’s headline said it all: “Drought-stricken California only has one year of water left, Nasa scientist warns”.

Good heavens! Who can argue with a NASA SCIENTIST?! The Guardian names the Nasa scientist – an expert on the global water cycle, Jay Famiglietti. He has an impressive curriculum vitae.

The original source for all this is the Los Angeles Times, which ran an opinion piece by Dr Famiglietti.

On social media, there is a photo doing the rounds showing the 1930s dustbowl period in the US with a caption: “R.I.P. California (1850-2016): what we’ll lose and learn from the world’s first major water collapse”. The opener claims that NASA has announced that California is on its death-bed and only has 12 months of water left.

Alarmism is a scourge but it can easily be repudiated with some good critical thinking:

1. Always read the article, not just the sensationalist heading and opening paragraph. In The Guardian above, the actual article offers no evidence whatsoever for the claim in the headline and Dr Famiglietti’s words do not make that claim. No other Nasa scientist is quoted. The Nasa scientist has been misrepresented. Neither does Nasa claim that California is on its death-bed.

2. Check the original source, do not rely on the journalist’s take on it. Who knows, they may be influenced by green doomsdayism! Or out to sell their paper. Or, more likely, both. In this case, on checking the LA Times article by Dr Famiglietti, there is again no claim by him that California’s water supply is about to run out within 12 months. The LA Times later ran a retraction, of sorts, pointing out that the original headline suggested that California only had a year’s supply of water left and that what they meant was that there was only a year’s supply in storage. So, the editor changed the headline. And also apologized to Dr Famiglietti for calling him James instead of Jay. This aspect to the apology ran first, followed by the bit about storage. True.

3. Google the scientist to see what they actually believe. Normally I would do this but it hasn’t been necessary as a week later, on March 20th this year, the LA Times itself published a second report which allowed correction by Dr Famiglietti of the original article’s misrepresentation of his views. The key bit is: “he never claimed that California has only a year of total water supply left”. Say what? Now that’s quite a difference, a huge difference, and a point of view that does not serve an alarmist agenda. But it won’t stop the scores of thousands of sharers of the original false report spreading their alarmism via social media and other media, all with the imprimatur of a (non-existent) Nasa scientific source.

The LA Times article continues:

“He (Dr Famiglietti, the Nasa scientist) explained that the state’s reservoirs have only about a one-year supply of water remaining. Reservoirs provide only a portion of the water used in California and are designed to store only a few years’ supply. But the online headline generated great interest. Famiglietti said it gave some the false impression that California is at risk of exhausting its water supplies. The satellite data he cited, which measure a wide variety of water resources, show “we are way worse off this year than last year,” he said. “But we’re not going to run out of water in 2016,” because decades worth of groundwater remain”.

Decades worth of groundwater. Okay?

4. Be rational in considering political responses. No-one disputes that California is experiencing a severe drought, one of the worst in its history. Like Australia, that’s the way it has been for a very long time. Severe droughts are part of the landscape of America’s west coast. California has a pressing problem to do with stored water – “way worse off than last year” – during a period of extended drought. Practical responses are needed.

Why is it that no Californian government has built a large dam for water storage since the mid-1970s? The State’s population has increased by 15 million since then. I have a feeling that those who spread false alarmism also oppose the construction of large new dams to capture the rain that does fall (and that has fallen over California since the last dam was built in the 1970s). This is a logical outcome of a ‘green’ world outlook that opposes progress through mastery of Nature and development and that seeks harmony with Nature through sustainability. It is the opposite of a Marxist-influenced left-wing outlook.

Oh yes, and some good news. While southern California is still in a bad way, northern California has had a reasonable soaking. Rainfall levels are at 100 percent of their historic average or above in nearly every city, and reservoirs, while still not back to normal, are steadily filling.

New dams anyone?

5 thoughts on “Alarmism – it really frightens people and it sucks

  1. A bit like the recent drought here. We built a de salination plant and had to accept that it wasn’t a drought but the new normal. We also had to accept that we would run out of oil iron coal etc.

    The fact that it was indeed a “normal” drought is just forgotten and they move onto the next doomsday scenario, which in this case was the floods that follow a drought. It is always a moving target. Like all religions they believe what they need to and try to insulate themselves from reality. They are happy to jump on the next bandwagon or witch hunt and this is related to the ASADA post as to how easy it is to get people to join a witch hunt if they think there might be something in it for them.

    Given the inevitable economic crisis that is looming there will be numerous crazies advocating heaps of crazy programs most of them fascist. While it will quickly be obvious that most of them are indeed crazy the more sophisticated fascists will appeal to these people.

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  2. ‘Given the inevitable economic crisis that is looming’

    The world is in a deflationary spiral, where Sharia interest rates rule. The Chinese dictatorship (occasionally referred to as fascists) will do their best to create a new world order.

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  3. one could call it deflation but I think it is much more serious than that. It is a revaluation and they know that this would mean a crash if allowed so they desperately try to fight deflation with inflationary policies. This seems to working for the minute but will only make the inevitable crash that much worse and it might in fact be massive inflation that takes over.

    china is in no position to shape anything including their own economy. They are on the verge of economic collapse and this is a concern as dictatorships generally start a war to try to rally support for the regime under the guise of nationalism.

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  4. Printing money doesn’t seemed to have caused any obvious problems in the US, quantitative easing is the new norm, apparently. Greece might be the catalyst for a universal meltdown, I think that unlikely.

    On China there is talk they are preparing for war, but I have my doubts. They are ostensibly traders and Xi is on record as saying we don’t want war because its wasteful and of no benefit.

    In Australia the final signing of the FTA with China has just taken place and in a flash the PM surrounded by senior Ministers announces massive infrastructure in the Top End. This is no coincidence, we embrace the red menace on our terms and conditions.

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