Golf and Climate Change

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Next week the U.S. Open Championship, one of the world’s marquee golf events, will come to Wisconsin for the first time in history at the Erin Hills golf course in scenic Washington County. The weeklong golf extravaganza is expected to bring thousands of visitors and have an estimated economic impact of $130 million. Wisconsin has officially become a golf destination.

Erin Hills is 652 acres of gorgeous pristine land that was scraped into the elegant curves, peaks, and valleys that distinguish the area known as the Kettle Moraine. The towering nearby Holy Hill will sentinel the visitors and the innumerable pockets of shade will provide a welcome respite from the warm (I hope) sun. Wisconsin welcomes the U.S. Open, but the inescapable fact is that this would never have happened had it not been for global warming.

The area we know as the Kettle Moraine is said to have been formed during the last Ice Age when a vast sheet of ice covered Wisconsin as far south as Walworth County. As the earth warmed, the ice melted and scampered back into Canada leaving behind a Wisconsin landscape teeming with biodiversity and sculpted into regions perfect for farming, fishing, and yes, golfing.

The mania over the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord indicates that some folks are no longer capable of having a rational discussion regarding climate change, what it means, and the costs and benefits of various public policy options regarding climate change. Various factions have galvanized into reactive shock troops that are divorced from reason and defend their positions with the religious fanaticism of David Koresh.

Let us start with the basics. The earth’s climate changes. It always has. It always will. It changes because of many forces at play including the sun’s activity, volcanic eruptions, celestial collisions, and the activity of organisms on it. The approximately seven billion humans on earth are part of the picture — particularly with our capacity to manipulate our surroundings to our benefit. It is common sense that the climate is changing and that human activity has an impact on that change.

The next question we need to answer is how is the climate changing? Many climatologists argue that the climate is warming and will continue to do so. Much of that research is in doubt because of numerable reports of fraud, manipulated data, and the fact that much of that research is funded by governments and people with a vested interest in reaching that conclusion (always follow the money). It is also worth noting that the global warming adherents have been almost universally wrong when making predictions.

But given that the climate is changing, there is some chance that it is getting warmer. Let us stipulate to that probability and move on to the next question, is it good or bad that the climate might be warming?

The answer to that question depends on one’s frame of reference and perspective. Any change has positive and negative consequences and climate change is not any different. If the globe warms significantly, scientists predict that many islands will be submerged and coastal areas flooded as the oceans rise. Conversely, vast areas of tundra in Russia and Canada that are now locked in permafrost would melt and become farmable, thus helping provide jobs and food for billions of humans. There are undoubtedly millions of additional consequences if the globe warms, but nobody can categorically predict whether the net effect of those consequences would be good or bad.

So if the globe might be warming and that might be a bad thing, what public policies should we enact to “combat” it? And at what cost? Therein lies the rub. There is broad agreement in America, if not yet in other nations, that we want to take reasonable measures to make our environment as clean and sustainable as possible. We are even willing to pay more and sacrifice some comforts to achieve those ends. We want that not really because of anything to do with climate change, but because we do not want to breathe toxins, spread diseases, or drink unclean water.

What we do not all agree upon is that we should surrender our way of life and cripple our economy in order to combat the possibility that the earth may be warming and that might be a bad thing. Humans have proven tremendously adaptable and are capable of weathering moderate changes in climate. Simply put, the cost of the Paris Climate Accord was too high for the perceived benefits rendered. President Trump was right to pull out of the deal, and the baying of foreign liberals has far more to do with the fact that they will not be able to fleece American tax payers (always follow the money) than it does with how warm the earth might be in the year 2200.

After golfers from all over the world come to Wisconsin to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and lush foliage of the Kettle Moraine, let us hope that some of them return to their homes thankful for the warming planet that made it all possible.