Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Conversation with a Friend

My friend, William Whitesell, is the author of the recently published book, Climate Policy Foundations: Science and Economics with Lessons from Monetary Regulation. On a recent visit with Bill I was the astonished recipient of a gift copy of this book. I had read a draft of the the text and given him some recommendations on how it could be improved. I never imagined though that my modest efforts would be included in the printed acknowledgments in the book or that Bill would buy a copy of this very expensive book (it's list price is $80) as a gift for me. Bill and I share our strongly felt position that global warming is a systemic problem of profound proportions. Bill and I talked about those issues and the vast disconnect in government decision making from what is scientifically known.

There is currently unrest in many countries that has either toppled governments or threatens to topple them soon. One of the major reasons for the unrest is hunger. The cost of food has gone up relentlessly in recent times. Russia had drought and fires that reduced its wheat crop by 25%. They had been a major wheat exporter and they are now cutting off all exports because they need to feed their own people. Crops in Australia have been much diminished because of massive flooding. Few people in our government are making the logical connection between these events and global warming. However, this is exactly what the global warming models have predicted.

A warmer climate will evaporate more water and provide the basic source for more precipitation. However, that precipitation will not necessarily fall where it is needed. The precipitation will fall in larger amounts when it does fall and the greater evaporation and heat when it does not fall will create more droughts and fires.

Bill and I did not talk about Queensland, Australia, now being hit with 186 mile per hour winds from cyclone Yasi. It was not happening yet when we had our conversation. Yasi is happening very shortly after the flooding has receded. According to Reuters “The ocean around Australia is now warmer than at any time in history. Warmer ocean temperatures increase the frequency and intensity of cyclones.”

We did talk about the fact that many of the areas with the most dramatic increases in population are also ones with the greatest vulnerability in the food supply. Egypt has doubled its population over the last thirty years and it has relatively little arable land. Afghanistan is another example with very rapidly increasing population and great risk to its agricultural productivity.

While Bill's book reviews the potential negative effects on agriculture that we discussed it only asserts net damage to worldwide agriculture if average world temperatures rise more than three degrees centigrade. There are many studies that suggest that this is excessively optimistic. The scientific predictions about the long term effects of global warming on the food supply are not in full agreement but the impact in recent times has been horrendous.

Republican leadership is fond of spouting factually false statements such as, “We know that government spending cannot create jobs because if it could we would have a furiously growing economy.” Never mind the fact that Federal stimulus money being spent almost exactly counterbalances the money removed from state budgets. There is no respected theory of economics which would actually predict anything much different than the lackluster jobs recovery we are now having.

Bill's Ph.D. Is in economics. He noted that America was coming out of the Great Depression until 1937. That was when people being concerned about debt and budget deficits sharply cut back on the deficit spending. This is exactly the type of nonsense that Republicans are pushing now. Our country went back into the economic depression and did not get out of it until World War II. We agreed that government spending certainly created a lot of jobs at that time.


Anonymous said...

Don, Could you put the disclaimer at the top of the page, together with your mention of WASH support. The disclaimer is now located at the end of the blog and I am afraid nobody will read it. I think it is very important that WASH remains officially neutral concerning the ideas expressed in the block.


Anonymous said...

An example of opinion that WASH should not support officially is the inflammatory comments above about the Republicans. I am not a Republican myself but WASH should not discourage Republicans from joining our group. There should be no political exclusion.