By Dave Johnson and James Boyce
Last week Al Gore released a very thought-provoking book The Assault On Reason. Vice President Gore’s book has been very well-received and it quickly reached Number 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list and now theNew York Times best-seller list. The Assault On Reason is a remarkable look at where we are as a country, and where we might end up if we don’t alter course. It also is remarkable for this day and age because it was written entirely by Mr. Gore, without the aid of a ghostwriter – something that has not been noted much. “The Assault On Reason” is an important book that examines how decisions are made in American politics in our day and age. It discusses how changes in our world have made us less reliant on reason and logic and this, in turn, has that led to serious policy mistakes like ignoring global warming, and the Iraq war and occupation.
This Sunday, Al Gore will probably win an Academy Award for his global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, a riveting work of science fiction.
The main point of the movie is that, unless we do something very serious, very soon about carbon dioxide emissions, much of Greenland’s 630,000 cubic miles of ice is going to fall into the ocean, raising sea levels over twenty feet by the year 2100.
Where’s the scientific support for this claim? Certainly not in the recent Policymaker’s Summary from the United Nations’ much anticipated compendium on climate change. Under the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s medium-range emission scenario for greenhouse gases, a rise in sea level of between 8 and 17 inches is predicted by 2100. Gore’s film exaggerates the rise by about 2,000 percent.
Except that the UN report specifically said they were leaving out a prediction of how much sea levels would rise from melting polar ice because they could not be precise,
The panel said that because there is no scientific consensus about how fast ice in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting, its estimates of sea-level rise are based only on the fact that ocean water expands when it warms.
A follow-up UN report says there is a 50% chance that the melting ice will raise sea levels by 13-20 FEET.
I’m just a Fellow, not a Senior Fellow, and not even in “environmental studies,” but I knew that. I wonder if this clown got a $10,000 check for writing this stuff.
[Co-written with James Boyce, originally at Huffington Post]
Jimmy Carter is not remembered as a great President. Most folks might even consider him a failure, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. But why exactly do we hold one of the two Democratic Presidents of the last 38 years in such low esteem?
Isn’t this the man that held the country together in the years after Watergate? Didn’t he bring decency and honesty back to The White House?
Isn’t it a great American success story for a man to come from such humble beginnings, serve in defense of his country and then ascend to the highest office?
Isn’t it remarkable that back in 1979 he declared “The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.” Isn’t that leadership and vision?
Yes. But it was legacy destroying as well. Our memories of Jimmy Carter are memories laced with the poison of a right wing smear campaign because when Jimmy Carter encouraged us to face the facts of the energy crisis, he faced off against the Oil Companies and as the decades passed, it has become sadly clear that the nuclear physicist Naval Officer peanut farmer came out the worse for it. He was portrayed as naive and as a simpleton. He was routinely mocked. A good man’s legacy was taken down.
Senators Rockefeller and Snowe have written a remarkable letter to the Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, (and cc’d the Board of Directors), asking Exxon to stop funding the global warming “denial industry.”
From the letter, “It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the “deniers.”
Here is the text of the letter:
Mr. Rex W. Tillerson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, TX 75039
Dear Mr. Tillerson:
Allow us to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your first year as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the ExxonMobil Corporation. You will become the public face of an undisputed leader in the world energy industry, and a company that plays a vital role in our national economy. As that public face, you will have the ability and responsibility to lead ExxonMobil toward its rightful place as a good corporate and global citizen.
We are writing to appeal to your sense of stewardship of that corporate citizenship as U.S. Senators concerned about the credibility of the United States in the international community, and as Americans concerned that one of our most prestigious corporations has done much in the past to adversely affect that credibility. We are convinced that ExxonMobil’s longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy.
I’ve just finished a very interesting book, Capitalism 3.0, A Guide To Reclaiming The Commons, by Peter Barnes. The book talks about ways we can restructure our laws and rules of ownership to cover who should pay for polluting and other harmful things — costs that our current system ignores and even encourages. The change is based on our realizing that we all own certain things in common.
Here’s a quick way to understand the ideas in this book:
Suppose you live next door to a sawmill operation. The owner makes lots of money, but aa waste product, sawdust, is building up on his lot. This big pile of sawdust is getting bigger and bigger, and it’s getting to the point that he’s going to have to shut down his profitable operation if he can’t find some place to dump some sawdust. So one day he comes to you and asks if he can dump some sawdust in your back yard. You answer, “If you give me $25,000 a year, each year you can dump 5 truckloads, but no more, in my yard.” You are $25,000 richer, you limited the sawdust to a level you could tolerate, and the sawmill can continue to operate and make money.
This happened because you “own” that property and have the “right” to refuse to let others make money by dumping their waste in it – or to negotiate for some of the resulting profits. This sounds so basic – but there is a reason I put quotes around the words “own” and “right.” The concepts of ownership and rights only exist because they are granted to us by law, and laws are nothing more than creations of government. It didn’t used to be that way, that regular people could “own” things and have “property rights,” but people thought it would be a good idea, and made it happen. And in America it is set up that we can do things like that because, guess what, WE’re the government. (It says that in our Constitution.) More on this later.