When Thinkers Get It Wrong — And Escape Blame

On Climate Change Deniers, Budget Hawks and 'Democratizers'

Remember Him? Former FEMA leader Michael Browne won infamy when President George W. Bush congratulated him for doing a ‘heckuva job’ after Hurricane Katrina. Others deserve similar plaudits.
getty images
Remember Him? Former FEMA leader Michael Browne won infamy when President George W. Bush congratulated him for doing a ‘heckuva job’ after Hurricane Katrina. Others deserve similar plaudits.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published December 24, 2012, issue of December 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

In the end, once deregulation had burned its way through to the core and brought things tumbling down, with jobs dried up, homes foreclosing, teachers and cops laid off and kids going hungry, it was time for those spending cuts. Can’t sell them anymore as a way to boost growth? Peg them to the debt we’ve spent 30 years accumulating.

This year was their comeuppance, sort of. After a presidential campaign centered squarely on the question of raising or lowering taxes, voters decisively rejected the doctrine of cutting taxes to spur prosperity. As if to reinforce the voters’ decision, two ground-breaking studies were released, one in September by the bipartisan Congressional Research Service, the other in December by the impeccably conservative International Monetary Fund, both examining decades of data for the first time and both concluding that raising top tax rates actually doesn’t hurt growth in any significant way. What will stunt growth, the IMF sternly warned, is slashing government spending.

And yet, in perhaps the greatest alchemy of all, the conservatives are still going to get their budget cuts. Oh, they tried empirical demonstration. They tried persuasion. Now they’ve turned to blackmail. Kudos, penny-savers. You took a hit this year but dodged the big one. Heck of a job.

Finally, a (very) warm salute to those independent thinkers who don’t believe human activity is changing the earth’s climate — and don’t want the rest of us to do anything about it, either. Upwards of 95% of climate and earth scientists concur that burning fossil fuels is raising the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, trapping the sun’s heat and warming the globe. They say we’re approaching a tipping point, after which there will be no turning back from a disastrous future of droughts, floods and spreading wasteland. Skeptics counter that the science is unproven, and warn that measures to slow carbon emissions would raise fuel prices, kill coal jobs and stall the economy, costing billions.

This year the science struck back. Average global temperatures for the year reached a record high. July was the hottest month on record in the continental United States, and the 12th consecutive month of record-setting highs for the given months. Drought covered a record 63% of the lower 48 states.

Most significant, the annual summer melt of the Arctic Ocean ice cap reached a record expanse, 50% greater than the average for the previous decade, peaking September 19 when just 24% of the ocean’s surface was ice-covered. Scientists used to fear the summer ice would disappear completely by 2100, followed by increasingly weak winter recovery. The latest forecast is 2020. That’s a critical tipping point: As dark ocean surface replaces white ice, the sun’s heat is absorbed rather than reflected back to space, warming oceans globally and agitating the Arctic air mass.

In early October, several federal agencies warned independently that the Arctic melt could bring unusually extreme weather events by January. That same week the world’s largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re, reported that “weather catastrophes” caused by global warming were coming with increasing frequency, costing insurers tens of billions of dollars per year. Hardest hit, the firm said: North America.

The predicted catastrophe hit barely two weeks later, on October 29. A hurricane system the size of Europe, moving northward along the East Coast, met a rare barrier of Arctic air wandering south over New England that blocked it from drifting normally out to sea. Instead it slammed headfirst into the nation’s most populated region. Total damage is now estimated at $71 billion. Munich Re says that’s just the beginning.

And that’s before we tally the hundreds of billions we’ll need to build sea walls, retrofit power and sewage plants against the coming storms and replace the croplands ruined by the coming decades of droughts and floods.

On the bright side, coal is still cheap. Heck of a job.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.