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August 6, 2010 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Columns, Sustainable Planet No Comments

“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Dick Cheney to Paul O’Neill, November 15, 2002, (Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty, 2004).

“… a philosophy is influenced by facts. So there is a constant interplay between what do I think and why do I think it….Now, if you gather more facts and have more experience, especially with things that have gone wrong – those are especially good learning tools – then you reshape your philosophy because the facts tell you you’ve got to… Ideology is a lot easier, because you don’t have to know anything or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It’s not penetrable by facts. It’s absolutism.” O’Neill (Suskind, The Price of Loyalty, 2004)

Among the first casualties of war is not only truth but also sound finance.” Liaquat Ahamed, Lords of Finance, 2009

Nothing” President Bush responding to a reporter’s question about what Saddam had to do with the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. – Press conference August 23, 2006.

In the same press conference President Bush acknowledges that Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. You can see for yourself in this youtube video [1].

It is clear and unambiguous that Bush and Vice President Cheney did not tell the truth about the Iraq War. Bush admits that himself, unfortunately three years late. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al Qaeda, nothing to do with the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bitter enemies. The war, to quote Bush, was about “nothing” unless perhaps it was about the oil. Iraq does have lots of oil, an estimated 114 billion barrels. Many think even more. And it is very cheap, high quality, easy-to-produce oil. The problem for Bush and Cheney was that it didn’t belong to us. Like all wars the Iraq war appears most likely instigated for control of resources, in this case oil. The US military has become in the words of Michael Klare an oil protection force and a hugely expensive one [2]. Bush himself famously pointed out Americans are addicted to oil.

Tea Party folks are right to be concerned about federal deficits, in fact all debt, but they need to think more clearly about where to place the blame for those deficits [3]. Bush’s tax cuts for-the-wealthy which conservatives want to extend cost the country an estimated $1.6 trillion over the last 10 years. The lowest estimate for the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars was over $1.2 trillion as of October, 2007 [4]. It is certainly over two trillion now (a CNN report on Tuesday morning August 3, 2010 suggested $3 trillion for the Iraq war alone). Defense spending has been running about $600 billion per year during the Bush administration ignoring the two wars which are being funded off-book. According to Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes [4] all of America’s recent federal and trade deficits can be blamed on the Iraq War and maintaining hundreds of garrisons around the world to protect the flow of oil. To finance these wars while cutting taxes for the already wealthy, Greenspan lowered interest rates, allowing newly deregulated banks to create money from nothing and seemingly give it away. Home prices skyrocketed at a time when they were already overvalued relative to people’s incomes. In fairness both men thought the war would be a mere $200 billion lark and the oil would pay for it. The loss of home values in the United States since the bubble burst is about $6.5 trillion from $20 trillion to $13.5 trillion, while the total debt on these homes remains above $11 trillion. If we add these loses and costs together we find that the conservative cost of conservative policy in the United States, which does not include the cost of not telling the truth about global warming, is conservatively 1600+2000+6500 +4800 = 14900 Billion dollars, all of it wasted. Imagine if that money were instead invested in America’s future, light rail, high speed rail, education, health care, alternative energy or simply not spent at all.

Paul O’Neill, then Secretary of Treasury in the Bush administration told Ron Suskind that one of the most significant things Ronald Reagan had proved was that deficits do matter. I think the tea party people do understand that.

Bush’s gamble lost. We did not get Iraq’s oil and we took on crippling debt. The Afghanistan War is now the longest running of all of our wars and the Iraq war is now the most expensive. Iraq is still a member of OPEC and America is still addicted to a diminishing resource. If it was not about oil, if Bush really did invade the country because of non-existent WMD then it was the most insane foreign policy initiative in world history. Without any proof, Bush risked the entire US economy, not to mention hundreds of thousands of lives. Together with the tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, and Greenspan’s FED policies, and the military spending, the two wars created the perfect economic storm.

That is prelude to the real point of my narrative this week. On June, 2009 a letter was sent to Congress [5] from Robert H. Austin, Professor of Physics, Princeton University, William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, Princeton University, S. Fred Singer, Professor of Environmental Sciences Emeritus, University of Virginia, Roger W. Cohen, Manager, Strategic Planning and Programs, ExxonMobil Corporation (retired), Harold W. Lewis, Professor of Physics Emeritus, University of California at Santa Barbara, Laurence I. Gould, Professor of Physics, University of Hartford, and Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, In it they write about global warming that “THERE IS NO SUCH EVIDENCE; IT DOESN’T EXIST.

For the benefit of the authors of this letter I’m including the actual temperature record. The line labeled Broecker 1975 identifies the date when in an article published in the Journal Science the climate physicist Wally Broecker first estimated that the Earth surface temperature would increase 0.8 degrees C over the twentieth century because of anthropogenic global warming [6].

Figure 1. Global temperature up to June 2010 according to the NASA GISS data. Grey line is the 12-month running average, red dots are annual-mean values. The thick red line is a non-linear trend line. (9)

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [7], Anderegg et al show that more than 97 percent of publishing climate researchers support the consensus view on global warming and less than 3 percent hold a “skeptical” or “denialist” view. One of the latter is Pat Michaels. In the Cato Institute handbook for policy makers Michaels writes [8]: “Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975.” Within the scientific community, even deniers admit that there is evidence of global warming. Austin et al’s research exhibits a rather remarkable economy of effort. Kerry Emanuel, a friend of Lindzen’s, wrote a searing critique about this letter to congress in and article published by the National Association of Scholars[10]: “Among other untruths, it [their letter] contained the sentence, referring to evidence of anthropogenic global warming, “There is no such evidence; it doesn’t exist. I confronted the sole climate scientist among the authors with this statement, and he confessed that he did not hold that to be the case.” Richard Lindzen is the sole climate scientist of the six authors of this letter. The letter also contains this statement: “The Earth has been cooling for ten years.” A more sober Ken Caldiera writes [11]: “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.” Caldiera is a member of the 97 percent of climate scientist who accept that anthropogenic global warming is happening. The “skeptical” Michaels remarked [12]: “You’ve all seen articles saying that global warming stopped in 1998. With all due respect, that’s being a little bit unfair to the data.” Austin et al find themselves awkwardly skeptical of their fellow skeptics as well as mainstream science, hardly the cleverest position to hold. Figure 2 is evidence of global warming impact on the heating of the oceans.

Figure 1: Total Earth Heat Content anomaly from 1950 [13] (Murphy 2009). Ocean data taken from [14] Domingues et al 2008. Land + Atmosphere includes the heat absorbed to melt ice.

Figure 1: Total Earth Heat Content anomaly from 1950 (13) (Murphy 2009). Ocean data taken from (14) Domingues et al 2008. Land + Atmosphere includes the heat absorbed to melt ice.

A recent report published by NOAA [15] identifies as evidence ten signs of global warming.

  • Less heat escaping to space
  • Cooling stratosphere
  • More fossil fuel carbon in the air
  • More heat returning to Earth
  • More fossil fuel carbon in coral
  • Nights warming faster than days
  • 30 billion tones of CO2 per year
  • Less oxygen in the air
  • Riding tropopause
  • Shrinking thermosphere

Lindzen, the only climate scientist in the bunch, did admit that he had lied, sort of, and knows in fact there is indeed some evidence [10]. Austin et al’s letter to congress addressed as it is to a body of people noted for their keen inability to think critically and their gullible embrace of the ideas favored by their donor population is welcome relief from less obvious acts of dishonesty. They further opine that “The proposed legislation would cripple the US economy, putting us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors.” To which we wonder, haven’t we already done that? Figure 3 shows total credit market debt as a function of GDP. The unprecedented level of our total debt is quite obviously beyond any level ever experienced by any segment of humanity before, a significant accomplishment. It is so far beyond human experience that economists and politicians are struck dumb trying to explain it and guess at what it might mean.

Figure 3 Total Credit Market Debt as a percentage of GDP [16]

Figure 3 Total Credit Market Debt as a percentage of GDP (16)

Dr. Marc Faber of the conservative investment advisory company Agora Finances remarked recently: “We had a colossal misallocation of capital [from 2001-2007].” Let me pointedly remind our select group of professors of physics that this misallocation did not include, unfortunately, any investment related to mitigating global warming, developing alternative energy sources, health care, education or taxing anybody for anything. Instead conservatives allocated all of our present and future resources to paying for two lost wars, our obscene pork barrel military budgets, Bush’s tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, the machinations of bankers freed from the chains of the Glass-Steagall Act by the Gramm Leach Bliley Act as well as a multitude of other conservative policies. And we know this for a fact from empirical evidence. Meanwhile our competitors unfettered by conservative ideologues, Germany and China, invested heavily in alternative energy and efficiency and are eating our lunch from a competitive perspective. We outspend China 5 to 1 on the military and find that we cannot complete with them. Both Germany and China have greater exports. Our competitors without the crippling military and war debts are investing their resources in the future [2], while we favor bankruptcy.

Figure 4 Case-Shiller housing index

Figure 4 Case-Shiller housing index

Figure 4 shows the Case-Shiller housing index for the United States. This metric reflects the cost of the average home indexed to inflation. Note that since housing prices have collapsed starting in December 2006, to a considerable extent, they still are twice as high as the historic norm. With unemployment high and wages low, one should wonder how these prices can be sustained even at 1995 levels. The bankers have already fleeced everybody they could. Conservatives seem to think there are more citizens to be fleeced and the tea party people appear to be volunteering. Good luck to them. So while there is quite literally no evidence, and none offered, that addressing global warming and resource depletion and income and wealth inequality would hurt the US economy and significant evidence that it would help, there is considerable empirical evidence that these six physicist know as much about economics as they do about climate physics or how to tell the truth. The real question is, and this would be a challenge, is there anything at all left to our economy with which to address the quite significant problems conservatives have already inflicted on us let alone the environmental problems looming menacingly in our very near future. Tony Noerpel

We have all just flunked our big test of dealing with the climate catastrophe because we couldn’t even agree on the science. Everyone feels entitled to their own science now. And it’s no big surprise that we can’t understand climate science, since we’re still arguing about EVOLUTION after 150 years! Good luck, science teacher.” –Tom Toles

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_A77N5WKWM
[2] Klare, M., Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency, 2005
[3] David Stockman, “Four deformations of the apocalypse”, New York Times, July 31, 2010. http://climateprogress.org/2010/08/01/david-stockman-how-gop-destroyed-the-economy/#more-30855 See also War is making you poor Act http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0_TtYQEDTo&feature=player_embedded
[4] Stiglitz, J. and L. Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War, 2008
[5] http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2010/05/16/global_warming_debate_makes_climate_tough_on_friends/?page=full
[7] Anderegg, W., Prall, J., Harold, J., and Schneider, S., Expert credibility in climate change, June 21, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/22/1003187107.abstract
[8] Michaels, 2009, http://www.cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb111/hb111-45.pdf Murphy, D. M., S. Solomon, R. W. Portmann, K. H. Rosenlof, P. M. Forster, and T. Wong (2009), An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D17107, doi:10.1029/2009JD012105.
[9] Temperature recon http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/happy-35th-birthday-global-warming/ and here: http://clearclimatecode.org/all-python-ccc-gistemp-release/, where you can download python code to do the data analysis for yourself.
[10] Kerry E. letter http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doc_id=1444
[11] Ken Caldeira http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/26/global-cooling-myth-statisticians-caldeira-superfreakonomics/
[12] Sinclair http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/2/QwnrpwctIh4
[13] Murphy, D., Solomon, S., Portmann, R., Rosenlof, K., Forster, P., Wong, T., An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 114, D17107, 14 PP., 2009, doi:10.1029/2009JD012105
[14] Domingues, C., Church, J., White, N., Gleckler, P., Wijffels, S., Barke, P., & Dunn, J., “Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise”, Nature 453, 1090-1093 (19 June 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07080
[15] NOAA http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100728_stateoftheclimate.html
[16] http://www.uselectionatlas.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=91933.0

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