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 George Reisman's Blog on Economics, Politics, Society, and Culture

July 2007  

This blog is a commentary on contemporary business, politics, economics, society, and culture, based on the values of Reason, Rational Self-Interest, and Laissez-Faire Capitalism. Its intellectual foundations are Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and the theory of the Austrian and British Classical schools of economics as expressed in the writings of Mises, Böhm-Bawerk, Menger, Ricardo, Smith, James and John Stuart Mill, Bastiat, and Hazlitt, and in my own writings.

The contents of the blog are copyright © 2007 by George Reisman. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute individual articles below electronically and/or in print, other than as part of a book. (Email notification is requested). All other rights reserved. George Reisman, Ph.D., is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

 

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gore: Ignorant or Dishonest?

In his July 1, 2007, New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Moving Beyond Kyoto,” Al Gore states:

Consider this tale of two planets. Earth and Venus are almost exactly the same size, and have almost exactly the same amount of carbon. The difference is that most of the carbon on Earth is in the ground — having been deposited there by various forms of life over the last 600 million years — and most of the carbon on Venus is in the atmosphere.

As a result, while the average temperature on Earth is a pleasant 59 degrees, the average temperature on Venus is 867 degrees. True, Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, but the fault is not in our star; Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury, which is right next to the Sun. It’s the carbon dioxide.

No, Mr. Gore, it’s not the carbon dioxide. If you take the trouble to do an internet search on Google for “carbon dioxide” + “Martian atmosphere,” you will learn that the Martian atmosphere is 95 percent carbon dioxide, yet the average surface temperature on Mars is -63° C (-81° F). (It's true that the atmosphere on Mars is only about .6 percent as dense as that on Earth, but it's also true that its relative concentration of carbon dioxide is about 2400 times as great as that of Earth, which appears to make up for the thinness of the Martian atmosphere about 14 times over.)

But even putting this decisive objection aside, there is simply no informed or honest way for you to suggest that the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth is or ever will be comparable to the amount on Venus. According to The Encyclopedia Britannica, the atmosphere of Venus is 96 percent carbon dioxide. The atmosphere of the Earth, in contrast, is less than .04 percent carbon dioxide. That’s not .04, but .0004, i.e., four one-hundredths of one percent. To be precise, carbon dioxide is presently 383 parts per million of the Earth’s atmosphere. All of the brouhaha going on about the subject is over a projected increase to perhaps as much as 1000 parts per million by the year 2100, i.e., to .1 percent, which is 10 one-hundredths of one percent.

It is on the basis of such ignorance or dishonesty that you declare that
we should demand that the United States join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth. (Italics added.)
The “global warming pollution” you talk about is the production of the energy that lights, heats, and air conditions our homes, powers our automobiles, trucks, trains, airplanes, and ships, runs our refrigerators, television sets, computers, and all other electrical appliances, and powers the machinery and equipment that produces all of the goods we buy. You want to cut this by a staggering percentage!

You conclude by describing this suicidal program as one of a “privilege”:
The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge.
Such mindless, rabid enthusiasm for a cause so self-destructive calls to mind the equal moral fervor and rising to “spiritual challenges” of the generations led by such madmen as Lenin and Hitler. It is also very much in the spirit in which suicide bombers depart on their missions.

You feel free to make your calls for unprecedented economic destruction from the comfort of a home that consumes more than 20 times the electricity of the average American home. You apparently have no awareness of the extent of your hypocrisy because you have purchased “carbon offsets,” in such forms as paying for the planting of a few trees here and there that will supposedly absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to that emitted in powering your home. (Mark Steyn, “Rev. Gore Doesn't Practice What He Preaches,” The Bulletin, March 8, 2007.) Yet your “spiritual challenge” does not include such offsets for the rest of the American people, so that they too might go on enjoying their lives.

If you understood in personal terms what you are talking about, you would know that your supposedly glorious “spiritual challenge” is a call for Mrs. Gore to scrub your laundry (if you would still have any) against a rock on the bank of a river, the way women do in Third World countries. That’s the actual meaning and measure of your “spiritual challenge.” You want to turn our glorious economic system into a poverty-stricken hell-hole.

You need to calm down, Mr. Gore, and give yourself and the world a rest. Along the way, you should try to understand the extent and depth of the horrors you want to unleash.

Copyright © 2007, by George Reisman. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

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