Accuracy in Media

In its unending efforts to expand the range of things we should fear from global warming, the New York Times took a new tack this week – a feature in the upcoming New York Times Magazine on the Pinkertons and how they are cashing in.

“Climate Chaos is Coming – and the Pinkertons Are Ready,” read the headline on Michael Gallagher Shannon’s piece. “As they see it, global warming stands to make corporate security as high-stakes in the 21st century as it was in the 19th.”

Setting aside how one measures “high-stakesness,” the story chronicles how Pinkerton – the venerable security firm that once was known as Andrew Carnegie’s personal militia – has adapted to modern times.

“Over the last decade or so, Pinkerton began noticing a growing set of anxieties among its corporate clients that distinctly contemporary plagues – active shooters, political unrest, climate disasters – and in response began offering data-driven risk analysis,” he wrote.

If there is a drought, if a client has food and water and “all the other stuff, then they can become a target.”

Risk had to be mitigated, insured or defended against, Shannon wrote, and “even if the Pinkertons couldn’t predict the specific risks of the future, they had a general sense of what it would look like.”

Shannon then provided some of what Shannon thinks it will look like.

“According to the World Bank, by 2050, some 140 million people may be displaced by sea-level rise and extreme weather, driving escalations in crime, political unrest and resource conflict.

“Even if the most conservative predictions about our climate future prove overstated, a 1.5-degree Celsius rise temperature during the next century will almost certainly provoke chaos, in what experts call climate change’s ‘threat multiplier:’ Displacement begets desperation begets disorder. Reading these projections form the relative corners of the C-suite, it wasn’t difficult to see why a company might consider enhancing its security protocols.”

Only temperatures have increased just 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, and, according to NASA global temperature data, global averages fell 0.56 Celsius in just the last two years – the biggest two-year drop in the last century.

Shannon then mentions Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico, to imply this hurricane occurred only because of global warming, and how the hurricane left executives “blindsided” and led them to essentially write “a blank check” to Pinkerton to secure their assets on the island.

Later, without making the connection, he deals with the fact that Pinkerton benefits when things go bad. “The best outcome for these new data-driven Pinkertons is that this century lapses into the kind of lawlessness and disorder that makes it look more like the 19th – which many scientists and economists think it could.”

He then contends all 20 of the warmest years in human history occurred since 1980, even though the 1930s were warmer than any decade since, and no year this century breaks the top 15.

Then Shannon claims 3.7 degrees of warming “could contribute to an additional 22,000 murders and 1.3 million burglaries in the United States,” even though there is no evidence 3.7-degree warming, or anything close, will occur.

The predictions themselves could become profit centers, Shannon suggests. If a hurricane strikes a facility once every 20 years, “you bake it into your risk,” he wrote. But if such disasters start occurring every year, it would make more sense to spend the extra money to have Pinkerton on hand.

And “with the environment increasingly weaponized against the poor … the sectors that rely on cheap labor will face more unrest among workers; the state will struggle to keep up with crime; and in the aftermath of storms, with landslides blocking first responders, regional offices will be cut off. And this, of course, is exactly the sort of environment in which the Pinkertons thrive.”

Only it is not the environment in which they find themselves. Hurricanes haven’t increased – in fact, research shows fewer are occurring and fewer still can be expected in the future.

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