Tuesday, September 29, 2015

George Will - The One with "Fact Free Flamboyance"

Some would say WaPo columnist George Will is a media tool. Maybe, but let us at least concede that he is a knot head.  I already illustrated this in one extensive post I wrote concerning his claim of a "global warming pause", e.g.


In a recent diatribe('Francis' Fact-free Flamboyance'. Washington Post, Sept. 18) Will writes:

"Supporters of Francis have bought newspaper and broadcast advertisements to disseminate some of his woolly sentiments that have the intellectual tone of fortune cookies. One example: “People occasionally forgive, but nature never does.” The Vatican’s majesty does not disguise the vacuity of this. Is Francis intimating that environmental damage is irreversible? He neglects what technology has accomplished regarding London’s air (see Page 1 of Dickens’s “Bleak House”) and other matters.  "

Is he serious? The "vacuity"? Is Will unable to process pastoral language and translate it into plain English? The Pope clearly meant that in many cases, as in the damage done via global warming - because of the specific parameters (e.g. CO2 molecules with a lifetime of 100 years and large forcing component) there is no means of dialing it back.  We are being confronted by an ultimate entropic process especially if the Earth is subjected to a continuous positive feedback cycle involving a lowered albedo (reflectance of solar energy).  Sure technology has accomplished a lot, no one denies that and the reduction of smog in places like LA is an example, but in global warming we are dealing with an entirely different 'critter' and no techno-fixes will easily remedy it, see e.g.

Will, undeterred and high on his pompous horse goes on:

In his June encyclical and elsewhere, Francis lectures about our responsibilities, but neglects the duty to be as intelligent as one can be. This man who says “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions” proceeds as though everything about which he declaims is settled, from imperiled plankton to air conditioning being among humanity’s “harmful habits.”  The church that thought it was settled science that Galileo was heretical should be attentive to all evidence.  Francis deplores “compulsive consumerism,” a sin to which the 1.3 billion persons without even electricity can only aspire.

Newsflash, Georgie! The Pope has been attentive to "all evidence" and the preponderance of it discloses we are deep in the midst of global warming driven by increasing CO2 concentrations. Of interest is the paper: 'New Study for Climate Modeling, Analyses and Scenarios' appearing in Eos Transactions of the AGU, Vol. 90, No. 21, 26 May, 2009, page 181). The paper references the new European ENSEMBLES project - which is the first international multiclimate model intercomparison. The intercomparison model, which incorporates ocean warming and CO2 outgassing, shows a peak in the CO2 equivalent concentration in the atmosphere of ~ 535 parts per million by 2045, before eventually stabilizing at around 450 ppm during the 22nd century.

Alarmingly, the former figure is perilously close to the threshold concentration (~ 600 ppm) believed necessary to trigger the runaway greenhouse effect. All the climate models employed in the ENSEMBLES study were improved or extended models from the IPCC sets. A good proxy indicator of the problem is seen in the data for increasing sea ice melt (EOS, Vol. 90, No. 37, 15 September, 2009, p. 322). This graph is shown at the top, as extracted from that paper. The enhanced sea ice melt can be directly traced to warmer ocean temperatures and preceding higher CO2 concentrations.

As for the effects of air conditioning I have already covered that, showing you are as ignorant as you are impetuous, e.g.

Will then blabs, or queries:  And the Earth is becoming “an immense pile of filth”?
Errr... have you seen the vast fracking fields from the air? Have you seen the excavated landscapes where massive giga-tons of soil have had to be extracted for fracking,  leaving giant open scars on the land? E.g.

Then don't talk shit, Georgie Porgy!

Oh, have you also seen the giant waste pits of cast off detritus in nations around the world?  (Including mammoth landfills over flowing with cast off baby diapers, e.g. Pampers, loaded with baby shit).

Will continues:

Matt Ridley, author of “The Rational Optimist,” notes that coal supplanting wood fuel reversed deforestation, and that “fertilizer manufactured with gas halved the amount of land needed to produce a given amount of food.” The capitalist commerce that Francis disdains is the reason the portion of the planet’s population living in “absolute poverty” ($1.25 a day) declined from 53 percent to 17 percent in three decades after 1981.

So then it's okay to reap higher (slightly) living standards at the expense of all the humans depending on the planet? When coal is one of the primary agents driving global warming and leading us to the runaway greenhouse effect? In other words, it's okay to get a slightly better life at the edges now - thanks to coal and fertilizer that releases methane- but don't cry when the human family roasts in super greenhouse heat. This is almost like the arguments of the GMO-ers, patting themselves on the back that GMO foods are the answer to feeding the hungry masses: "Hey, don't knock it! The poor folks get their food and they can worry about stomach and liver tumors, and Alzheimer's disease later!"

And then there's this bit of fossil fuelers' propaganda:

Even in low-income countries, writes economist Indur Goklany, life expectancy increased from between 25 to 30 years in 1900 to 62 years today. Sixty-three percent of fibers are synthetic and derived from fossil fuels; of the rest, 79 percent come from cotton, which requires synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. “Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides derived from fossil fuels,” he says, “are responsible for at least 60 percent of today’s global food supply.” Without fossil fuels, he says, global cropland would have to increase at least 150 percent — equal to the combined land areas of South America and the European Union — to meet current food demands.

The truth? The biggest scarcity now is water to not only drink but grow crops. Much of the water loss arises from prolonged drought associated with climate change. The real problem then is just that the human population growing in excess of the planet to support it. One of the best indicators for this is provided by the Global Footpoint Network, at:


According to this site, we currently need not one but one and one half EARTHS to sustain our current rate of consumption. This means it requires on average 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the resources humanity uses in one year.

As for the use of nitrogen fertilizers in soils, they are in fact degrading soil quality and hence food output. Those like Will can learn more here:


Will again:

Francis grew up around the rancid political culture of Peronist populism, the sterile redistributionism that has reduced his Argentina from the world’s 14th highest per-capita gross domestic product in 1900 to 63rd today. Francis’s agenda for the planet — “global regulatory norms” — would globalize Argentina’s downward mobility.

Sorry, response disqualified on the basis of Will using his own inherently prejudiced right wing positions to attempt to negate those of Francis.

The imperturbable Georgie strikes again:

As the world spurns his church’s teachings about abortion, contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage and other matters, Francis jauntily makes his church congruent with the secular religion of “sustainability.” Because this is hostile to growth, it fits Francis’s seeming sympathy for medieval stasis, when his church ruled the roost, economic growth was essentially nonexistent and life expectancy was around 30.

Funny, I thought Will supported all those church teaching positions he lists as "world spurning" - based on his prior conservative Post columns. (e.g. See his diatribes against Planned Parenthood, and Barbara Boxer on abortion). So what's he grousing about now?  You can't on the one hand invoke conservative moral positions "many reject" (but YOU believe in)  then on the other use that as a basis to attack the Pope, criticizing his challenge to the unsustainable growth models advocated by capitalists!

Also, it's a gross error to argue that merely because one doesn't jump on the all possible growth bandwagon one is in favor of a "Medieval" world with life expectancy of 30 years. That is rubbish. The truth is that a sustainable growth pattern is possible and has been articulated by eco-economist Herman Daly.

In 1999, in a sterling paper delivered at Trinity College in Ireland, Daly's topic was Uneconomic Growth: in theory and in fact.

Focusing on the U.S., he laid out the work of Nordhaus and Tobin which seemed to suggest that as long ago as the late 1960’s the welfare costs of growth had exceeded the marginal benefit. He also proposed that the use GDP as a measure of economic benefit and progress was not efficient and so suggested the use of the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW).

Daly criticized the fact that when it comes to "counting all the beans in the United States the only cookbook that matters is the Gross Domestic Product or GDP". If the Gross Domestic Product is going up, people say the economy is growing. And if the GDP is falling, they say we're in a recession.

The GDP is supposed to measure the total production and consumption of goods and services in the United States. But the numbers that make up the Gross Domestic Product by and large only capture the monetary transactions we can put a dollar value on. Almost everything else is left out. And that's why some economists have a problem with this influential accounting system.

Ignoring these "externalities" leads us into a fool's paradise where we come to believe things are much better than the GDP numbers show.

For example:

We see the "unemployment rate" declining, but forget that this may well be due to more unemployed dropped from the BLS stats after 6 months.

We look at utility bills, but don't recognize that unlisted in them is the damage to our water, forests, air etc. Those externalities again. How much of a cost to put on forests (which absorb CO2), or clean air? Who knows, but some guestimate is needed.

We look at nursing homes and the number there, and those paid to care for them. But we blithely ignore the more than 12 million people that are cared for by their own families, without remuneration!

We behold productivity increasing but don't realize that has nada to do with work, or labor - but rather corporations reducing their costs (increasing "efficiency") by moving jobs to cheaper places offshore, like Bangalore.

We focus on tax cuts at the "growth end" but forget that there has never been any proof that tax cuts cause job growth. And even if they did, the degenerate effects are ignored - e.g. continued collapse of the infrastructure because no tax dollars are going to maintain it.

When all our water mains have burst, along with the sewer lines, and bridges -roads collapse, will the public works effort finally get onto the GDP radar? Doubtful!

All of these factors can skew the GDP to artificially higher values, once ignored.

Daly noted that the concept of the GDP was developed to help steer the US economy out of the Great Depression, and through World War Two. It was for another time and place, and is no longer relevant to this time and place. It needs to be dunned and ditched in favor of the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare.  The problem at root is the concept of “growth” is bogus on its face. Only a congenital moron would continue to pander to unchecked growth in a finite, zero-sum environment or planet – in which wealth created by extracting resources necessarily impoverishes the remaining resource base.

How hard can this be to grasp?

Will one more time - unable to surrender his fact free flamboyance:

The saint who is Francis’s namesake supposedly lived in sweet harmony with nature. For most of mankind, however, nature has been, and remains, scarcity, disease and natural — note the adjective — disasters. Our flourishing requires affordable, abundant energy for the production of everything from food to pharmaceuticals. Poverty has probably decreased more in the past two centuries than in the preceding three millennia because of industrialization powered by fossil fuels. Only economic growth has ever produced broad amelioration of poverty, and since growth began in the late 18th century, it has depended on such fuels.

The problem is that first, our planet is not infinite so cannot support the unending growth capitalists and Will fantasize can occur- or needs. Second, we simply cannot excavate ALL the petroleum in the ground to support such growth - or partial major growth. In this last respect there are two numbers that bear special significance as noted by climate scientist Bill McKibben ( UTNE Reader, Jan-Feb, 2014, p. 18):

- 565 gigatons or 565 thousand million tons

- 2, 795 gigatons

The first number represents the peak of humanity's usable carbon budget. It's the most carbon we can afford to pour into the atmosphere without triggering the 2 C temperature increase.  (Note: most experts believe this has already been exceeded and we are well on our way to a 4C increase with all that implies, see e.g.


The second number is perhaps the most worrisome of all and the one that instills fear into most who know what the future portends if we don't stop our reckless foolishness -including the fracking craze. It represents the total stored reserves of carbon held by coal, gas and oil companies. It was first highlighted and brought to global attention by the Carbon Tracker Initiative - a group of London financial analysts and environmentalists.  It is what the fossil fuel industry plans to exploit in the future by its whole spectrum of methods, whether deep sea drilling, oil shale fracking or natural gas fracking.

It is, in other words, five times more carbon than will already blow a gasket in our world and send it toward runaway greenhouse perdition. Can you picture this scene unfolding everywhere and never ending?:
Tim Holmes

In other words, as the UTNE piece observes:

"Burning those fossil fuels we would enter a world of science fiction dystopia: a rise in sea levels not seen in human history, species extinction, droughts, super storms, heat waves from hell....and consequences you cannot imagine".

Is George Will an unreconstructed  dolt and a knot head? You better believe it!

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