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    By Ed Chen | September 18th 2009 01:35 PM | Print | E-mail
    A high school student I mentor, Augustus, once brought up the matter of dying -- specifically from cancer.  "Dying of cancer is like the feeling you get when you are stuffed into a closet, except you never get out." 

    Indeed, I had the same fear when I was younger, sometimes anxiously checking my lymph nodes and wondering if their hardness was anything like the hardness of tumors (they are not).  "That isn't entirely true," I answered.  "Once your dead, your out of the closet."

    "I guess so.  But you're going to be in there a long time." He replied still a bit horrified by the thought.
    "Don't worry.  We're lucky we live in the modern world. They will just give us a lot of analgesics -- a vocabulary word -- go look that up."  I demanded, never missing a teachable moment.  But he was already well schooled.
    "No, you can't do that.  You have to suffer through it, and be perfectly clear.  Otherwise you will forget to pray."
    "I'm sure you won't forget to pray the whole time."  I said, still adamant about the miracles of modern medicine.

    "You can't pray at the last moment." He shot back, still young and unswayable in his beliefs.  I could not reply, because logically, I also believed it to be true.  Praying once right before you die, just doesn't count.  It seems logical that only real diligence and daily devotion would work in a situation like that.  

    The majority of people would likely agree, praying alone will not stop you from crashing into a car, or perhaps falling off a cliff.  Praying is not guaranteed to stop a fire from burning down your house, or guaranteed to stop the flu -- avian, swine, human, or otherwise -- from crippling you.  This is why we buy insurance.  We pay money today to guarantee that if these things happen to us, we will not be ruined as a result.  Of course there those who would disagree, and live perfectly happily without any sort of insurance, relying on faith alone; and out of those people, there might even be a significant number who live their entire lives without having to faced even one unfortunate situation which their prayers did not prevent.  However, "Money talks", as an money can testify, the majority of people buy insurance as a backup plan to praying, which most also do at least sporadically (group prayers at dinner count) if not religiously.

    One thing that has been making me pray a little more these days is the trend I've been noticing in scientists' "consensus" agreement of the degree of climate change.  While IPCC is composed of many brilliant scientists, they still use linear distributions for a system that even the National Science Foundation has acknowledged in their recent report, is most likely dynamically coupled, and non-linear.  We've just witnessed another system that is dynamically coupled and nonlinear, obliterate a consensus view that was far too rosy because of the gaussian normal distribution which backed up their assessments -- the financial system.  Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, as we might now have a few extra years -- and perhaps we are now wiser when it comes to taking excessive risk with our futures. 
    Though this is cold comfort in a climate history which has consistently crashed (see figure 1) in its history.  These crashes occur in timescales of thousands if not hundreds of years, and the history shows some unexpected results.  With each spike in COand temperature, there has been a concurrent drop in CO2 along with global temperature.  Sharp unexpected drops.  But back to the topic -- insurance. 
    Climate Crash
    Figure 1. In 3100 BC there was a climate event focused around Greenland caused surface temperatures to increase dramatically. Source: Hulme, Mike. “Abrupt Climate Change: Can Society Cope?” Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, Vol. 361, No. 1810 (Sep. 15, 2003) 2001-2021.

    The headline on September 17th was that climate cap and trade legislation would cost each american $1700 dollars per year.  That is quite a sum.  From 300 million Americans?    

    That is $480 billion dollars.  What do they need all that money for? 

    Same reason we pay $10,000 per year for health insurance, $2400 a year for car insurance, and thousands more dollars to insure everything else we care about in our lives.  But climate insurance?  $1700.  We're going to pass on that.  Its too expensive.  

    But Banks, and don't forget Insurers -- those are really important.  $2000 per American -- just this year.  $800 billion dollars.  What do they need all that money for? For one thing, I don't want my kids to live in a world without Citigroup and AIG.  So I understand.  I'd gladly pay insurance to insure my insurance.  If we had only paid insurance for the insurance before the whole thing went down, we might have had to pay much less.  Maybe this is a teachable moment.  Buy insurance!

    But back to the topic -- the kids.  The kids know climate change is real.  The kids know its not sunspot cycles.  The kids know its not el nino.  They know that climate doesn't just change, and we should all just go along with it because that's how God planned it. But they don't believe that there is still time to stop it. 

    The kids -- they know who the real procrastinators are: the ones who pay the bills, or don't.