Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 17, 2015

Why neither Walker nor Santorum can become President

Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin and is widely viewed to be a leading contender for the GOP’s nomination  for President in 2016.  Rick Santorum is a former Senator from Pennsylvania who was the GOP’s second choice for their Presidential nomination in 2012 and is considering another go for 2016.  The likes of these guys have very little chance of becoming President, however, for one very simple reason.  That reason is that scientific leadership cannot be an optional characteristic for any of our future Presidents and Americans are savvy enough to detect this shortcoming in any candidate.  That is, on average, the general public is not as scientifically challenged as some of their Presidential candidates are.

By their own words, both Walker and Santorum have made their lack of knowledge, trust, and interest in important fields of science very clear.  Sure, we have a few scientific dunces and wingnuts in Congress and at the state levels of government, but in those positions, their influence can be balanced by many others who recognize that science provides our very best explanations of what Mother Nature has done in the past and is likely to do in the future.  Indeed, that function has historically provided the very definition of science and the majority of Americans know that.

My suggestion that Walker and Santorum have a few screws loose in the left side of their brains is clearly demonstrated by their views concerning the origins of life on this planet.  On that subject, most intelligent people today recognize the validity of our theories concerning natural evolution for very good and common-sense reasons.  By our observations of the nuclear clocks (that is, radioactive elements) and fossilized remains embedded in our Earth, we have accumulated an enormous and redundant amount of evidence showing how with the passage of time the fittest of species tended to survive better than others and that the features of these individuals were then carried on to subsequent generations –  within all living species including human beings. In the last decade, advances in DNA analysis have additionally ensured that evolutionary biology will remain the cornerstone of all of the life sciences.

Walker and Santorum do not like or accept those scientific conclusions, however, and, therefore, subscribe to alternate views of the type we used to call “creationism” but now commonly go by the name of “intelligent design”.  No matter what these alternate views are called, they all have the common characteristic of not being “testable” by the normal observational methods and, therefore, lie outside the domains of science. Their proponents simply choose to believe in these ideas for their own personal or philosophic reasons even though they have no connections to the physical realities of our existence.

Let me hasten to add that I have no problem with individuals who harbor these alternate notions of their origins.  I am old enough to have known a multitude of very fine and intelligent people who have held such views –  usually because they were exposed to little else during their lifetimes.  When it comes to picking a President who seeks to preside over the most powerful country in the world in 2016, however, standards and expectations for intellectual awareness and preparedness must be much higher. Claiming to be ignorant just because you have chosen to remain so might get you somewhere within the GOP party, but I am pleased to predict that this attitude will not cut it with the majority of Americans in future Presidential elections.

So why does a candidate’s view of  his origins or even of science, in general, matter, one might ask.  “Plenty” is the obvious answer.  For example, if the question on the table is whether or not we should address climate change, those who harbor some sort of intelligent design scheme will be on a totally different page than the scientists who providing needed insight.  If the news from science is not so good, for example, why not then simply hope for a better outcome orchestrated by the all-powerful “great designer”.

In addition, a candidate’s view of science will have a profound influence on his approach to education.  Specifically, with a President with Walker’s or Santorum’s persuasion, we might expect to see faith-based alternate views on subjects such as  evolution and climate change taught in the science classes of our public schools even though those views have no basis whatsoever in science. This, of course, would erode our youth’s confidence in real science at a time when the future of all countries depends so much on excellence in science and associated technologies.

So finally why, one could ask, might the GOP provide us with such backwards- thinking candidates.  The answer to that question was indicated in their nominating process of 2012.  Of the several contestants in that race only Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney admitted that they thought climate change was occurring and that this was due at least in part to the impacts of mankind.  Huntsman then finished dead last among that intellectually woeful set of candidates and Mitt Romney received a very low level of support from white evangelicals, a traditional mainstay of the GOP.  Thus, it appears that GOP candidates have to either be dumb or play dumb in order to get their party’s nomination.  I genuinely hope that the GOP improves in 2016 by showing more respect for its intellectually astute and honest candidates.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 4, 2015

A letter to the Daily Inter Lake

The Daily Inter Lake is the main newspaper of Kalispell, Montana. where I recently lived for several years. While there I noted that the DIL’s editor, Frank Miele, did as much as he could to undermine regional efforts to combat man-caused global warming.  Nevertheless, while I lived there Editor Meile published many of my letters to the editor in which I objected to various stances taken on his opinion page.  Since moving to the neighboring state of Washington, I have continued to read Montana newspapers including the DIL.  Now, however, my responses to what Editor Meile prints no longer seem to be welcomed in his newspaper.  Therefore, I will post my most recent one here.  The brief story it relates applies to many other newspapers, I suspect, of the distinctly conservative persuasion and, therefore, should be of general interest.

Hi Frank,

I noted Thomas Sowell’s column and the cartoon you picked to go with it in your Feb 3 issue of the Daily Inter Lake and must reprimand both of you for indulging in this scientific misrepresentation.  For the benefit of others, that column and cartoon can be seen at  http://eeditions.shoom.com/doc/daily-inter-lake/03feb15dil/2015020301/#4 .

In that column and cartoon, the question is asked “if we could not more accurately predict the magnitude of the recent storm in NYC, how can we predict the climate change we might experience 100 years from now?” Really, Frank, haven’t you learned the answer to that one yet?  While I suspect that you are just playing stupid for the financial welfare of the fossil fuel boys of Montana, here we go again – having to explain the obvious in order to ensure that the public sees through your deception.  

If you understood just a bit about “weather” versus “climate”, you would know that local weather is very much more difficult to predict than long-term  global average climate changes. Local weather prediction is done via the science of  meteorology  which requires complex models in order to include the multitude of variables involved.  Its object  is to predict how the existing heat of the Earth is spread via its atmosphere and oceans. Because of its great complexity, the weather expected even tomorrow at any given location is often in large error.

The science of global climate change, however, concerns changes in the total heat content of the Earth over time and this is largely determined by only three relatively well-understood variables. These are:  the solar flux at our position in our solar system, the albedo (refection of incoming sunlight) and the insulating effect of the greenhouse gases and clouds. Of these three variables, the last one listed has changed remarkably over the Industrial Age due primarily to large increases in carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere. By tying weather uncertainty to that of energy balance, I think you and Mr. Sowell are being intentionally devious –  I find it difficult to believe that you don’t know better.

Thus, I suspect that the intent of your cartoon and Mr. Sowell’s article was simply to spread “doubt” concerning our scientist’s ability to predict the detrimental effects of long-term global warming by your inappropriate use of the large uncertainties associated with weather predictions.  The “info” Sowell provided only concerned the recent storm in the NE and from that you naughty boys suggested that long-term predictions of global warming are suspect!  

Frank,  neither of us is so stupid as to not know what’s going on here, but one of us is sufficiently devious as to allow it to go forward.  How long must the issue of global warming be on the front pages of our newspapers before the Editors stop publishing and promoting the most worn-out and infantile  misrepresentations of  it?

Eric

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 25, 2015

Funny perhaps, if the last one wasn’t so tragic

2015 Toon 3

The age-old anti-science arguments such as those shown above have typically come from the well-established, well-healed portions of society – whether those influential folks found their voices in the churches, commercial organizations, or governments of their times. So why have the rich and powerful among us so often been the most scientifically backwards? Wouldn’t you expect them to have greater access to new ideas and intellectual developments than the rest of the population? This contradiction of expectations obviously has a lot to do with the fact that the rich and powerful generally made themselves rich and powerful via the financial systems in which they lived and learned to dominate. For these prosperous folks, great changes were often not welcomed because of the possibility that those changes might alter the business-as-usual games they had learned to play so well.

We have a clear example of this phenomenon today, of course. If the rich and powerful of the USA were to agree with essentially all of our professional scientific organizations that the combustion of fossil fuels poses a major threat to human civilization, that change of attitude would ensure that most of our remaining fossil fuels would be left in the ground, as they should be. This obvious and essential solution to our global warming problem is unlikely to happen any time soon, however, because of the enormous wealth our rich and powerful would thereby forfeit. “What’s this?”, they would say, “leave our black gold in the ground? – Never!”  For this financial reason alone, the rich and powerful will do anything required – including declaring all-out war on science – to become even more rich and more powerful by the continued extraction and use of our enormous reserves of fossil fuels. For this purpose, they will also become or pretend to become scientifically illiterate in order to allow a continuation of  their business-as-usual life-styles without having to explain themselves. “Gosh, I’m not a scientist – let the scientist argue about it” they say as they continue to ignore what those scientists have already told them – for the last 10 years.

As the cartoon above shows, this has happened throughout history whenever smart people (known as “elitists” by the dummies) learn new things about the world in which they lived and this will continue to happen for at least the next two years as that last fellow shown in the cartoon above holds forth to his GOP peanut gallery (that is Senator Inhofe, is it not?). Senator Inhofe is from the oil-rich state of Oklahoma, and provides scientifically childish books, op eds, and speeches on the subject of climate change for his scientifically brain-dead comrades within the GOP. He has thereby become the in-house scientific “expert” for the GOP and has recently been appointed Chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.

Therefore, because of the urgency of the climate change problem we must redouble our efforts to contest the great power of the rich, powerful, and scientifically illiterate during the next two years. We don’t have time to simply wait until these “fossilized brains” of the GOP die off.

Thanks go to Skeptical Science for their “Toon of the Week”.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 22, 2015

The Litmus Test for global warming

The most commonly used measure of global warming, to date, has been the average of temperatures measured over vast portions of the Earth’s land and ocean surfaces.  The main reason why this measure has been used so extensively is that it is relatively easy to obtain – we live on or regularly travel over those surfaces.  Thus, direct temperature measurements of this type go a long way back – to 1880 and beyond. The latest compilation of such measurements between 1880 and 2014 was shown and discussed in my previous post.

Nevertheless, surface temperatures measurements do not provide the very best and most direct indicator of global warming. This is because only about 3% of the total increased heat of our planet goes to those surfaces described above.

A much better measure of changes in the Earth’s heat content is provided by the changes in the heat content of our oceans – where more than 90% of the increased heat goes.  With that introduction to its importance, I will refer you to the figure shown below recently provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the USA.

Ocean heat content data to a depth of 2,000 meters, from NOAA.

This figure shows the total heat content of our oceans measured from the top down to a depth of 2000 meters relative to the arbitrarily chosen reference year of 1978 during the period from 1956 to 2014.

This graph clearly shows that the heat content of this large portion of the total oceans has increased greatly over the 60-year period of measurements and has continuously increased every year over the last 25 years. These data clearly put to rest the often heard but erroneous claim that we are presently experiencing a “hiatus” of warming.  The heat content of the Earth has been increasing continuously over the last couple decades and is sure to continue to follow the same trend in the coming years if we proceed with business-as-usual energy policies.  Only the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions can cause this trend to level out and then, many years later, begin to return to pre-industrial levels. All of this will take some time, of course – what is slow to heat up is also slow to cool off.  Since a major portion of our future heating is already in the pipeline due to our already elevated and long-lived level of CO2, it is imperative that we begin to aggressively cut CO2 emissions immediately. Given that fact, our current search for ever more sources of fossil fuels is nothing short of madness and abject stupidity.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 18, 2015

Gosh Senator Inhofe, 2014 was awfully hot!

I wonder what the Deniers of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will say about the recently released average global temperature for last year. Turns out that 2014 had the highest average surface temperatures ever recorder by standard direct methods over the last 130 years. The figure below shows that data for both annual and decadal averages. For a more detailed explanation of data, see http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/01/16/3612351/noaa-nasa-2014-hottest-year-on-record/decadal-avgs.png (1080×797)

Since the Deniers I am now wondering about are never constrained by either facts or scientific knowledge, I am sure they will come up with something – such as a return to  ”but these temperature increases were not caused by either mankind or the 40% extra CO2 he has added to the atmosphere”. They will say it is due, instead, to natural forces, right? In which case these natural forces apparently laid dormant for several thousands of years and then decided to kick in coincidentally just as the Industrial Age began in about 1850. And never mind the fact that there have been no natural changes over the Industrial Age that could account for these temperature increases.

I could go on and on about why the Deniers of AGW are either complete idiots or scientific prostitutes – servicing the needs of the fossil fuel industries – but will not do that again here because we now have this new figure shown above that is worth thousands of words. Also note in this figure how silly is the oft-heard claim from Deniers that surface temperature have now stopped rising and that we are presently in a “hiatus” of temperature increase, right? Furthermore, the Deniers claim that there is no need to fear even greater temperatures as we go forward with our Business-as-Usual practices, right?
The reality and imminent threat of AGW is now so apparent that one wonders where the Deniers of it are now finding any refuge and isolation from the obvious. The answer to that question appears to be within the set of GOP Senators and Representatives now in Congress.. Last I heard, the subject of climate change was not even included as an area of concern in the GOP Platform. To be in good standing within that group, one is advised to be a staunch Denier. With these folks now in the majorities, our two congressional houses are the only governmental organizations in DC that thinks this topic should be ignored. Even our military branches hold the opposite view.

So for your amusement, if nothing else, stay tuned for the “explanation” of the figure shown above that is likely to be offered by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Amazingly, he is both a first rate and proud Denier of AGW and now the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee! Senator Inhofe appears to be a Denier for both of the reasons I cited above. That is, he is, perhaps understandably, a prostitute for the fossil fuel corporations of Oklahoma and the book he has written on the on the subject of climate change shows that he is a scientific retard. If he were alive today, I think Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers, would modify one his most famous quotes to “we have the dumbest Congress money can buy”.
So, if you happen to know or have access to one of our elected GOP Senators or Representatives, please show him or her the figure shown above. And if required, please also help that elected official understand the meaning of its contents. If what I just said appears to be a bit condescending to the GOP, so be it. The GOP must be literally forced, it appears, to recognize and acknowledge that science provides our best means of predicting what Mother Nature will do in response to the impacts of mankind – and then behave accordingly.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 13, 2015

Of course, the President will veto the Keystone XL bill

Powerful political forces now seem to be aligned for passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline. A study by the US State Department inexplicably concluded that the KXL pipeline would not cause additional CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere. The Supreme Court of Nebraska has decided not to block the pipeline in that state. And most importantly, both houses of congress have now passed resolutions for its construction and have urged President Obama to sign off on it. That bill will be on the President’s desk in a few days.

I am sure that President Obama will not sign it, however, for several very good reasons.

First, unlike so many of our politicians of both parties, President Obama has considerable respect for the field of science and its understanding of the forces of nature. He knows that the level of CO2 in our atmosphere is already much too high and that we already have way too much of the cleaner forms of fossil fuel, that is, gas and oil, waiting to be used. The dirtier forms of fossil fuels simply must be left in the ground. In a previous post on this blog (November 2014), I explained these points in greater detail.

Another reason is that the power of the veto was intentionally put into our governing system for very good reasons and other presidents have used it often- much more than Obama has. This weapon of the Executive Branch is perhaps the major reason why we fuss so much over presidential elections. In the last two presidential elections, Obama received a great deal support from environmentally conscientious citizens and relatively little from the fossil fuel industries. So he is not likely to now go against those who helped put him into his office and, instead, do the bidding of those whose stated number one goal in their “service” to the public was simply to ensure that the man who was fairly elected in the 2008 presidential election would not win another. Because of this near-treasonous behavior of the GOP for the past six years, President Obama owes the present majority of both houses absolutely nothing.

In desperation, the GOP is now trying to label President Obama an “obstructionist”. Considering how the GOP has endeavored to obstruct every move the President has made, their use of this term against Obama is downright laughable and is sure to be dismissed by President Obama. Let’s just recognize the powers granted to our Legislators and the President by our Constitution. The former individuals each have one vote in their respective houses and the latter has the veto power of any legislation that reaches his office. The label “obstructionist” has no meaning in this case. It is the President’s right and obligation to use his vote power as he chooses to.

And then there is that ever-present cry for the “jobs, jobs, jobs” that will supposedly be created by the construction of this pipeline. In fact, the KXL would provide about 4,000 jobs but only for two years and a negligible number thereafter (unless one includes the jobs that will be related to the cleanup of subsequent spills along its 1,200 mile length through the heartland of America). These numbers of jobs pale in significance relative to the approximately 900,000 jobs that were lost in 2011 by the big cuts in federal spending that Republicans extracted by threatening to push America into default. THe number of pipeline jobs are also tiny relative to the number of jobs that would be created if we began to attend to the dire needs of our country’s aging infrastructure. Yet we don’t hear the GOP crying “jobs, jobs, jobs,” when those issues are on the table. No, the Keystone XL Pipeline is not about jobs, it is about paying back the fossil fuel companies for their generous donations to the elections of our exiting set of legislators. About 87% of fossil fuel donations in recent years have gone to the GOP and they are now obliged to return those favors. We are most fortunate, therefore, that our sitting President got to his present position without the help of the fossil fuel corporations and owes them nothing.

And one more thought: the Republicans have been trying to get President Obama to admit that the USA is presently in an all out “war” against “radical Islam”. If that is true, then why would the Republicans also want to provide the terrorists of the world with such an easy, juicy target as the KXL pipeline would be? Just a few Ryder trucks loaded with kerosene-soaked ammonium nitrate fertilizer would plow up any sections of it selected by suicide bombers whenever they wished to do so. What a grand mess that would make! I don’t believe the KXL plan is to encase the pipeline with some sort of magic shield. Therefore, it appears that the US government would have the impossible and exceedingly expensive task of guarding this 1,200 mile long, 3-foot diameter tube containing a highly flammable and toxic liquid, 24/7, every day going forward. All of the terrorists in the world must be rooting for the GOP on this one. So while our President may not be as adept as the GOP at launching meaningless labels at our potential enemies, he is evidently much more aware than the GOP of our future need to minimize the exposure of our infrastructure to potential terrorists.

For all of the above reasons, I am sure that President Obama will do the right thing – that is, veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill that will soon be placed on his desk. In the words on Nancy Reagan, whose husband vetoed about 35 bills during his presidency, it is a very good thing that our President will simply say “no” to this conduit of harmful and addictive substances. You will be able to knock me over with a feather if I am wrong, but I think and, of course, hope it’s a done deal. The next challenge will be to ensure that some lackey of Big Fossil Fuels is not elected President in 2016.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 11, 2015

Krauthammer wises up !

In June of 2012, one of my first posts on this blog was entitled “Our Smart Idiots”  and related the documented fact that that among the politically conservative, those who have achieved higher levels of education are more likely to doubt the notion of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) than conservatives with less education. A prime example of this phenomenon used to be the Fox News commentator, Charles Krauthhammer, who is considered by many to be a leading visionary on many topics by the Right.  He is indeed highly educated and has achieved a multitude of professional accomplishments not only in journalism but also in his field of psychiatric medicine.  However, a bit more than one year ago in an issue of the Washington Post, he mistakenly held forth on the subject of global warming (see it at  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-obamas-global-warming-folly/2013/07/04/a51c4ed0-e3fc-11e2-a11e-c2ea876a8f30_story.html.  In that article, Krauthammer used his cleverness to cast as much doubt as he could on the need for addressing man-caused global warming. He was then such an excellent example of this phenomenon that I declared him the winner of my “Smart Idiot Award for 2013″ in a previous post (December 2013).

Therefore, I was exceedingly pleased to read his latest opinion piece dealing with the subject of climate change (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-raise-the-gas-tax-a-lot/2015/01/08/5b4b407c-976f-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1) which was entitled “Raise the gas tax.  A lot”.  The plan he proposes in that article is essentially the same as the Carbon Tax / Dividend plan that has been promoted numerous time on this blog (see description posted on December 2014).  His plan includes a stiff carbon tax in order to increasingly discourage use of CO2-emitting technologies as well as a return of the revenue thereby collected to individual citizens via the IRS system.

So I say “Halleluiah!!” Perhaps we can get more of the intelligent leaders of the GOP to recognize the prevailing views of science concerning this all-important issue.

With this change, I will now award another conservative columnist, George Will, the “Smart Idiot Award for 2014″ in the hope, however faint, that this might also help him wise up. In his very recent piece (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-climate-changes-instructive-past/2015/01/07/2ae70ee6-95d2-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html), Will continues to spread doubt concerning man’s effect on climate by displaying his lack of respect for or knowledge of existing science concerning the forces of nature. Unless Will is talking about the history of baseball, he typically provides only tiny thoughts using the largest words he can find in his dictionary – leaving the reader wondering what exactly he is trying to say, if anything. I have therefore sent him a copy of my book, “Thoughts of as Scientist, Citizen and Grandfather on Climate Change”, and hope that the words I use in it are not too short and simple as to be dismissed by his peculiar thought processes. With the relentless advance of global warming, I hope that he will also wise up in the coming year just as Krauthammer appears to have done in the last.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 21, 2014

Don’t Eat Meat!! Uffda, what’s next?

Partially because of the fear of public backlash, governments and environmental groups have been reluctant to push policies that require major shifts in consumer behavior. An excellent example of this is one included in the art work I showed in a recent post ((see it at http://www.mindmapart.com/solving-global-warming-mind-map-jane-genovese). One of the messages on the painting provided there was “Eat less meat”. At the risk of being mocked as an unpatriotic, back-to-the-earth hippie type, I will make a few comments about this specific issue here.

First of all, is it real – are cows and cattle major producers of the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change? Unfortunately for the steak lovers among us and the huge international agricultural entities that provide those steaks, yes, it does indeed appear that all of this is true. Climate-impacting emissions are produced not just by the animals’ digestive systems (methane), but also by the fertilizers and manure (nitrous oxide) used to produce feed and the deforestation taking place to provide grazing lands. In addition, livestock animals consume large amounts of water and agricultural / land resources that could be used for other more energy efficient means of food production that are not accompanied by such huge emissions of greenhouse gasses.

A new research paper entitled Livestock—Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector (see it at http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20141203LivestockClimateChangeBaileyFroggattWellesley.pdf?dm_i=1TY5,30JL0,BHZILT,AUGSP) explains why it may be necessary for a lot more people to go vegetarian or at least dial down their consumption of meat and dairy products. Global greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, the study says, account for about 14.5 percent of the global total, more than the total emissions of the transportation sector and more than all the emissions produced by the USA. And, they conclude, it’s probably impossible to keep global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius, the commonly cited goal to prevent unstoppable global warming, without addressing livestock production—and global dietary trends.

So there you have it. One of our favorite foods appears to be contributing very significantly to global warming. Call me a trouble-maker if you like. But since I have spent about 40 years of my life in the fossil fuel and cattle-rich state of Montana, I have become used to being ignored or worse. So I will be OK, I guess – as long as the government keeps their hands off my Lutefisk!

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 18, 2014

The Government’s Role in Promoting Entrepreneurialism

In the descriptions I previously provided on this blog of the Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend Energy Plan, I might have implied or even mistakenly said that the only role the government would have to play in this scheme would be to set the magnitude of the annually increasing fee on fossil fuel use. In case I did leave that impression, I will correct it here. On the contrary, our government must also continue to perform the essential function it has served so very well in the USA during my lifetime that I have to admit that I have come to mistakenly take that service for granted.

That all important function of government is to create an environment in which private entrepreneurs can step up to the plate and have a reasonable expectation of getting to first base – especially when competing in an arena of high technical difficulty and high risk. Without that environment, private businesses would not generally have the talent, knowledge, and infrastructure required to be competitive in many important areas. Perhaps the most important element of this government provided assistance is our vast array of schools, colleges, and universities that turn out people with the skills necessary to work on intellectually demanding projects. Another is the financial support of new ideas – even those that do not have any financial outcomes envisioned at the onset. The new knowledge such support has generated has resulted in countless payoffs later when the applications of it became more apparent.

The funding for basic research of this type and the education of participants that comes with it seldom comes from the private sector – which generally requires more obvious and more immediate returns in order to attract investors. Only a progressive and far-sighted central government is likely to provide support for such effects – as it has in the USA via organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Our foundations for entrepreneurism have also been assisted by the public’s support of our military and space exploration programs.

This essential role of government in promoting entrepreneurship has been elegantly described recently by Mariano Massucato in her book entitled “The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths”. In it, she does, indeed, debunk that myth – so often considered to be truth within the business world – of a lumbering, bureaucratic state in conflict with a dynamic, innovative private sector. With use of many specific examples, Mazzucato argues that the opposite is actually closer to the truth. The private sector finds the courage to invest in technically challenging projects only after a progressive government has made the initial long-term investments in the required people and background knowledge. Examples of this abound spanning from the green revolution to biotech and from pharmaceuticals to Silicon Valley.

In addition, Ms. Massucato correctly argues that whenever we fail to adequately acknowledge this assistance provided by government, we are likely to make the grave error of socializing only the risks of new undertakings while privatizing the rewards. That is, the general public should reap some of the benefits of those successes. Thus, it is imperative that the private sector honors its obligations to the public by way of the taxes they are assessed for their profits and does not outsource the production and sales components of their successful products to other countries that offer cheap labor and lower taxes but played no part in creating the entrepreneurial environment that made it all possible.

Ms Mazzucato, who is a Brit, says that the most successful entrepreneurial state can be found in the most unlikely place: the United States. Americans, she says, have traditionally been divided between Jeffersonians (who think that we govern best when we govern least) and Hamiltonians (who favor active government). The secret of the USA’s success lies, she suggests, in talking like Jeffersonians but acting like Hamiltonians. Whatever the rhetoric, it is a fact that the USA has invested heavily in public education and scientific advancement since the beginning of the 20th Century and the fruits of those investments have made the USA the financial center of the world. Going forward, it would be a mistake to deny either our Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian instincts. The combination of State and private forces in the USA have resulted in a level of success that would not have been possible without the participation of both.

So under Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend Plan, yes, the government does have a far greater role to play than simply adjusting the magnitude of the Fee to be applied each year. As in the past, it is the government’s responsibility to create an environment in which our entrepreneurs have the basic tools required for participation and success in all aspects of American life including, of course, the means by which it derives and uses its energy.

Acknowledgement: for prompting the thoughts laid out in this post, I have “Paul Ann” to thank for their comment placed on “Why we don’t have the NFPTFCPFM energy plan yet”.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 13, 2014

An artistic blueprint for civilization’s survival

Maybe some artwork will help me get my major point across more effectively. Jane and Sharon Genovese (see http://www.mindmapart.com/solving-global-warming-mind-map-jane-genovese) have provided some excellent paintings concerning climate change and I particularly like to use the one that is shown first at that web site indicated above. So have a look and then please return.

I particularly like this painting for several reasons in addition to the fact that is it pleasing to the eye. One is that it effectively summarizes the myriad things that we should be doing in order to combat global warming. The topics shown include the sources of energy we should be using, what type of food we should eat, how we should travel and how we should become more politically active. Take a few minutes to inspect all of the details provided.

I also like to use this figure in public presentations when I ask the difficult question: “Ok, but how are we going to get people to accept all these “goody-goody” suggestions? Many people and perhaps a majority just don’t seem to be sufficiently interested in and serious about “doing the right things”. Also, it seems unlikely that people will do all of these things just because some “tree-hugging greenies” or even our federal, state and local governments ask them to. It would also seem to be futile and perhaps unwise to have some sort of “carbon tsar” trying to direct all of the complex traffic represented in the figure.

Nevertheless, there is, indeed, a very simple solution to effectively promoting these lifestyles and that is the Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend Plan that was described on this blog three posts ago. People are strongly influenced by the costs associated with their chosen lifestyles and every one of the suggestions made in the figure will follow the implementation of an appropriately large waste disposal fee for the extraction of fossil fuels from the Earth.

In addition, a carbon fee will encourage entrepreneurs to develop carbon-neutral methods of doing some of the things shown in the figure that are too dear to abandon. For example, can you envision a future in which all travel via aircraft is terminated? Don’t think so. So how then would some be able to fly when they need to. For travel by aircraft a portable fuel is required and that fuel will likely become biodiesel made from plants (note that burning and thereby turning biological material into CO2 is OK with respect to climate change- because it does not increase the net carbon content of the biosphere). However, if these types fuels and engines are to be developed and become financially viable, the full cost of the old way of flying with fossil fuels must be applied.

I suspect that this new mode of flying would likely be more expensive than the old- fashioned way. If so, would encourage the development of the other lower-cost, but still carbon-free modes of travel shown in the figure, including cars, busses, and passenger trains that are also propelled either by electricity or biodiesel.

In short, the reason we have painted ourselves into the formidable corner we now live in (by increasing the total carbon content of the biosphere by about 40% over the Industrial Age) is that we have not charged the producers and users of fossil fuels the full cost of their product’s use. Instead, we have given them free use of our atmosphere for dumping fossil-fuel-derived CO2. Only by charging an appropriate fee for this, can we will bring all of the systems and personal lifestyles represented in the figure back to sustainable levels. My thanks to Jane and Sharon Genovese for showing us how we can “unpaint” ourselves out of our corner.

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