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Students Implore Commissioners to Leave Them a Planet


By Leslee Kulba- It wasn’t billed as a climate change conference; it was a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Buncombe County Commissioners. But, instead of weighing and considering proposals about how to reduce crime, upgrade infrastructure, or design more effective public safety nets; twenty people, mostly high-school and college students, pled with the commissioners to vote in favor of making Buncombe County totally free of carbon emissions. The commissioners had recently rejected the proposal, taking the politically-correct course of requesting more information.

None went into the science, implying every moron fully understood it. Unfortunately, some in the room, were old-timers. Don Yelton, having lived through global warming, global cooling, and now just plain climate change, told how science changes. He told how bumper stickers used to advocate for sooty wood-burning to stave off nuclear power generation. He didn’t mention the ozone hole, which nobody talks about anymore, its disappearance evidently not considered newsworthy. Back in the day, university curricula defined climate as long-term patterns which were known to gradually transition between ice ages and thaws. These were explained in terms of tectonics, solar magnetic activity, and vicious cloud-cover cycles.

The science the students were referencing is based on computer modeling. Now that kids are building and programming robots in second grade, it is not a stretch to accept all the youthful speakers had indeed collected reams of data on insolation, hydrologic cycles, land use histories, vulcanism, cumulative land-water-air heat exchanges, chemical reaction rates, etc.; modeled realistic continuity equations with accurate parameters for atmospheric pressure gradient, Coriolis force, changes in chemical concentrations, etc.; developed flux integrals for all, giving due consideration to feedback loops; and applied best practices in statistical analyses to validate series regressions and see the planet is in danger.

Gone are the ancient days of laboratory experimentation on matter where good and careful students came up with ranges of data with numeric uncertainties. Now, kids watch computers come up with perfect numbers. Science is no longer defined as the challenging and refinement of prevailing assumptions; it is acceptance of authority, the oxymoronic “scientific consensus.” And authorities are telling these kids downright frightening stories about how the incidence of hurricanes, wildfires, and rising tides will destroy the planet if people don’t lay off fossil fuels.

Could there be another explanation for extreme earth science data points, outside confirmation bias applied to stochastic norms? Folks cautious about jumping on bandwagons have described climate change as an ergo-propter-hoc religion. But it’s more like an addiction. Whatever the weather is doing, fossil-fuel burning is the go-to culprit.

If we’re going to tolerate diversity of opinion, Christian faiths have long talked about planetary upheaval as a sign of the times. There are, after all, Biblical verses about the mountains being laid low and the valleys filled, great earthquakes, and a sea in commotion. Ask a believer, and they’ll likely say the end-times scenario is as inevitable as death, and the only way to save the soul is some combination of faith, repentance, and grace.

Whereas climate science is based on some assumptions, Christianity requires so many leaps of faith it is banned from public discourse as offensive to nonbelievers. Students of eschatology are, as prophesied, laughed to scorn. A Yale study released last year observed persons believing climate change was a sign of the times tended to be Tea Party members, conservative Republicans, Trump supporters, Fox News watchers, African-Americans, evolution-deniers, old, drop-outs, and from low-income households; the presumably enlightened crowd were wealthy, educated, liberal Democrat, atheists and agnostics who listen to NPR.

Back to the meeting, another repeated talking point was that the federal government, by backing out of the Paris climate accord and easing up on other environmental regulations, had let the citizens down. Furthermore, the state government, because it is now full of Republicans, could only let the people down. So, the only recourse left was to turn to local government.

Dr. Kat Houghton, speaking for Community Roots and the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition, asked what else the commissioners needed to change their minds. She had sent them a copy of “North Carolina Clean Path 2025,” a 113-page roadmap for the state to, as the banner Community Roots hung Green-Peace style from the Bill Stanley Building parking garage put it, “go 100 percent renewable.” The report gives a cost analysis, comparing the status quo with a shift to solar-battery power.

While most green technologies do pay for themselves over time; they are resisted because of the frontloaded costs of financing any major technology shift and concerns about the efficacy and reliability of fledgling ideas. The report addresses the first issue, suggesting the transition be funded through incentives from government and utility companies, perhaps financed by private lenders. Participation would be opt-out, and upfront costs could be reduced with tax credits, the balance being paid as a tax assessment or through on-bill financing.

Either way, taxpayers or ratepayers would be paying more somewhere, so the commissioners did well to avoid the fatal conceit of silencing nonbelievers into funding government’s high and holy ideas. One takeaway from these public hearings is if we could kick Republicans out of office, we could live happily ever after under benevolent dictators who force people to do green things. Just like the marijuana lobby, the environmental lobby floods public hearings with, in Commissioner Mike Fryar’s words, emotion, to override a reasoned analysis of opposing viewpoints.

Alan Ehrenhalt, in The United States of Ambition: Politicians, Power, and the Pursuit of Office, wrote that the political process attracts and rewards those most-likely to believe it is the way to solve problems. Since the Democrat Party embraces a philosophy of change, it is a bigger magnet for believers in the process than the Republican Party. Government naturally expands its control over the economy because those who believe in the market are burning the midnight oil or tinkering in their garages when rent-seekers are lobbying their representatives.

Why argue? DOA would be the suggestion that, instead of legislating social engineering, people consider going into business researching and/or marketing green energy until it is the most accessible and delightful alternative out there. Public schools are selling the line, “What’s the question? Government’s the answer.” The only way to achieve economic justice, they preach, is for exalted leaders and their immaculate lobbyists to force righteous decisions on the masses. Only somebody wanting to be called a racist would try to explain the evil against which America’s founders were trying to protect future generations was the propensity in human nature to abuse power.

Then, there’s the language barrier. Institutions of higher learning teach that “free markets,” instead of being economic democracies where people vote with dollars are crony capitalists pulling food out of babies’ mouths, “freedom of worship” instead of living and letting live is a paternalistic imposition of hypocritical white-trash incestuous ways on the masses, “liberty” instead of allowing the well-behaved individual to live free of government meddling is white supremacy, and “government” instead of being the force with which malefactors must deal to keep the public peace is the solution to all problems – even if it means forcing nonbelievers to render obeisance to climate change.

So, what would you do if you were elected to represent a population where 25 percent say the way to save the world is through embracing traditional marriage, worshipping the Creator. keeping the Sabbath holy, and working hard to build character and have a little extra to help your neighbor; and another 25 percent considers the greatest sins to be driving a car and heating the home with poor-folk fuel?

As some students told the commissioners, just about everybody likes clean air, unpolluted water, and healthy trees and animals. Whether or not burning fossil fuels will usher in an end-times scenario, it does make life uncomfortable for asthmatics. In addition, independence from politically-unstable nations, avoidance of extraction methods correlated with earthquakes, and ending black lung disease once and for all – are good trade-offs. More obtusely, global destruction from burning fossil fuels is a common enemy, like a Sweet Meteor O’Death, around which all the children of the earth can lay down their differences and unite.

Advocating to reduce pollution doesn’t require prophetic or scientific insight, and it doesn’t need government leadership. If anything, government could hasten the day of carbon-neutrality by ending crony relationships. That is, it could stop providing incentives that prop up antiquating technologies in exchange for campaign contributions. It could also stop drafting legislation and regulations that make lateral entry into the energy industry almost impossible.

In Other Matters –

The commissioners considered changing their rules to prevent the chair from unilaterally placing items on the agenda. From what had gone before, it appeared they were trying to prevent Chair Brownie Newman from being wooed into agenda-ing another beast of a climate-change proposal. Requiring three supporters would make lobbyists work a lot harder.

But elaborations in other media outlets following the meeting explained some things to which Fryar had alluded. For example, the commissioners had been meeting with the former county manager before meetings. To comply with open meetings laws, she met with Republicans and Democrats separately, and she reportedly was providing each party with a different set of facts. Open meetings laws prevent a majority of a public body from meeting without a public invitation, with an enumerated list of exceptions that includes discussing lawsuits and economic development incentive packages.

In another “housekeeping” consideration, the commissioners approved putting a firewall between tax assessment and tax collection. The functions will henceforth be conducted as separate divisions, with Keith Miller in charge of the former; Jennifer Pike, the latter.

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