Source – marketwatch.com
– ‘…Our “faith in the future is based on an unsubstantiated track record that technology has lead us out of past problems and will solve today’s problems without creating new ones,” says Jared Diamond. But “actual experience is the opposite”
Why we like our cars and our jobs more than our planet -By Paul B. Farrell
America needs more jobs, more GDP growth not costly rules
C’mon, admit it, we humans really are the cause of our own climate suicide. But so what? Freedom of choice is a core American value. And we love our cars. And they need gas. So let’s vote no on Big Oil environmental rules.
Besides, Americans don’t see climate as a big issue. Just last year Gallup polls found only 24% of Americans think climate change is a big problem, near the bottom of 15 national problems. Plus support for a carbon-pollution tax was lukewarm. Worse, turns out only a small percentage of Americans are even aware that 97% of the UN’s 2,500 scientists agreed global warming was a major problem. Americans believe it won’t affect them.
Yes, humans are predictably irrational. Jobs are rational. And Big Oil’s nine million jobs generate over $1 trillion in annual revenue. The IRS needs the cash. Even trusted Vanguard owns over billions of Exxon Mobil across almost 200 funds, 20 million shareholders. And Congress gives Big Oil $4 billion a year back in tax-free loopholes.
Who’s to blame? Big Oil PR, their lobbyists, and GOP allies? No, the public. We love our wheels, big trucks, little Minis, Nascar, car pools, they’re our soul. Over a billion vehicles on the planet. We need them. Maybe we hate Big Oil, but need gas pumps. Remember, Gallup says the vast majority of Americans, over 200 million, say the environment is not our nation’s top priority.
So what does worry Americans most? Topping Gallup’s list are big pocketbook issues: The economy, deficits, unemployment, Social Security, jobs, federal power, health-care affordability. If climate is a problem, we’ll deal with top priorities first, climate later.
How about you? Do you care? Or have you tuned out? One of the 76%? Welcome to the human race. Basic psychology. Behavioral economics. Common sense. The drama reminds me of that famous Wall Street CEO in my favorite Robert Mankoff New Yorker cartoon: The CEO’s at the podium warning shareholders: “While the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors, we believe that the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit.”
Admit it, real pocketbook issues, money in-and-out of our pockets today, always tops “saving the world.” That can wait, Gallup warns. So here are our 10 best excuses distracting the American mind from real long-term priorities like climate change and global warming, 10 great excuses being used to attack Obama’s new EPA rules and continue uncontrolled carbon pollution:
1. America needs more jobs, economic growth, not costly EPA rules
Our brains are split: We want tomorrow’s GDP to be like yesterdays, full of promise, hope, prosperity, the good ol’ American Dream. Since 1776 we’re believed in Adam Smith’s vision of a Land of Prosperity. Powered by the Industrial Revolution. And our brains tells us, “Yes we can get back to those glory days!” With 3%-plus GDP rates. Economist Robert J. Gordon’s warns: “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?” As inequality accelerates, the rich get richer, many question capitalism. Gordon sees America’s GDP dropping below 1% by 2100.
2. Global population is out of control? Sorry, not America’s problem
Scientific American says global population growth is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” Yet, by 2050 world population will explode from 7 billion to 10 billion. China’s economy will be three times America’s. Five years ago Bill Gates “Billionaires Club” met: Buffett, Soros, Rockefeller, Oprah, Bloomberg and others. What’s the world’s biggest time bomb? Overpopulation, said billionaires. Unfortunately, we can’t feed 10 billion.
3. Today’s public is apathetic: Instead they’re ‘me-first,’ climate later
Experts at Earth Policy Institute and Worldwatch Institute agree with Gallup, asking: “Peak Production From a Planet in Distress: Can We Keep It Up?” No. Our economy is “programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress … A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed, and short-term thinking by policy makers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits.” Warning, later will be too late. No time to prepare.
4. Population? China’s one-child policy is dead. The pope want more kids
In “The Last Taboo,” Mother Jones editor Julia Whitty hit the nail on the head: “What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population.” Unfortunately, these hot-button issues ignite powerful reactions from fundamentalists. So politicians go deaf, won’t touch them. Nor will U.N.’s world leaders. Even if it’s killing us.” By the time we wake up, it’ll be too late to act.
5. GDP is capitalism’s Invisible Hand, helps us get back up to 3.5%
Anthropologist Jared Diamond says public-health advances have “increased life spans in the Third World. But life span is not a sufficient indicator … about 80% of the world’s population” still survive on a few dollars a day. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, author of “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future”: “There’s less equality of opportunity in the U.S today than in almost any advanced industrial country.” Since 2008, the top 1% has captured 93% of all income growth. We need to recapture the real spirit of Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments,” renew the American economy’s moral compass.
6. Economists are using the principle of perpetual growth, trust it
Our civilization is at a crossroads, facing an ultimate no-win scenario. And yet, the “myth of perpetual growth” is blindly accepted to support GDP assumptions, economic expansion, the population explosion. It’s also wasting the planet’s nonrenewable natural resources, will eventually destroy Earth. We’re damned if we grow. Damned if we don’t. Traditional economists work for organizations with short-term views. All our brains are convinced: If we can’t grow this quarter, long-term is irrelevant.
7. Big Oil has a public conscience, with America’s best interests at heart
The world has “1.4 trillion barrels of oil, enough to last at least 200 years,” says U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, quoting Big Oil stats … “2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to last 120 years … 486 billion tons of coal, enough to last more than 450 years.” Yes, 200 years of oil. Too bad it’ll kill us in 50 years says environmentalist Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone. How? We may have “five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn.” Suicide by 2065.
8. Capitalism is working, even as it helps climate deniers get richer
Even Exxon Mobil’s $40 million-a-year CEO Rex Tillerson admits climate change is real. But just an “engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.” We’ll “adapt to a sea-level rise,” humans “spent our entire existence adapting.” Even with the UN’s 2,000 climate scientists 95% certainty that climate change could wipe civilization off the planet, like the dinosaurs. We forget why Big Oil is the world’s biggest climate-science denier, and gets $4 billion annually in tax subsidies, fights all regulations, invests over $35 billion annually in exploration and spends millions buying votes of politicians.
9. Who says the planet can’t feed 10 billion? Trust God’s in charge
Jeremy Grantham, whose GMO firm manages $105 billion, looks ahead to 2050, warns of an “inevitable mismatch between finite resources and exponential population growth” with a “bubble-like explosion of prices for raw materials.” Warns of commodity shortages that are becoming a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion.” Bottom line, it’s “impossible to feed the 10 billion people.” Sen. James Inhofe says God’s in charge of energy, and apparently food too.
10. Technology will solve all problems, with the Invisible Hand of God
Our “faith in the future is based on an unsubstantiated track record that technology has lead us out of past problems and will solve today’s problems without creating new ones,” says Jared Diamond. But “actual experience is the opposite.” In Gordon’s provocative paper predicting decline of growth we learn that not only will America’s GDP drop under 1% by 2100, but also Gordon says that new innovations, new technologies will never match the rate of GDP during the Industrial Revolution, because Silicon Valley’s optimism isn’t enough