FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Climate and Money: a Tale of Two Accounts

Pulp mills, Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

In 1908, Charles Abbot and F.E. Fowle gave a presentation titled “Income and Outgo of Heat from the Earth, and the Dependence of Its Temperature Thereon.” A lot’s been learned since then, but the importance of income and outgo on Earth’s temperature has been proven again and again.

The basics are as straightforward as the income and outgo of a checking account. In one case, it’s all about income and outgo of money. In the other, it’s all about income and outgo of radiant energy in the form of incoming light and outgoing heat. 

Incoming solar radiation in the form of sunlight is a deposit in Earth’s radiation account. In the September 1970 issue of Scientific American, scientist Abraham Oort reminded readers that when this radiation reaches the surface of Earth in the form of sunlight, it is “stored,” or deposited, as heat. 

As he said then, the outgo begins as the deposited heat rises away from the heated surface, now heating the atmosphere “from the bottom up.”

Just as we affect our checking account balance if we limit the outgo of money, we affect the radiation balance if we limit the outgo of radiant energy. In either case, an unbalanced account can be trouble. 

But there’s a big and important difference between these two accounts. Limiting the outgo of money can be good  for the balance of a checking account. Limiting the outgo of heat can get us in trouble.

Oort said, ”The most likely way the climate could be influenced by either natural or artificial means seems to be through a trigger mechanism that ultimately changes the radiation balance.”

So, what can pull the trigger on the radiation balance? Volcanic eruptions are prominent in the list of natural triggers. They’ve done it before, and can do it again. But we can do nothing about those. 

There is, however, a trigger under human fingers. We pull it as a matter of daily routine.

The same September 1970 issue of Scientific American that published Oort’s analysis also published one by Fred Singer.

Pinpointing the outgoing heat — a.k.a., infrared radiation — rising from Earth’s surface, Singer said, ” The molecule of carbon dioxide has strong absorption bonds, particularly in the infrared region,” and that “carbon dioxide reduces the amount of heat energy lost by earth to outer space.”

In other words, CO2 limits the outgo of heat, so that Earth becomes a hotter place to live. This has been known for decades, has been going on for decades, and we’ve reached the point where the world of money is at risk of head-on collision with a threatened radiation balance.

American Banker magazine, for example, has already warned that, “The planet is warming at an alarmingly rapid rate, and unless swift action is taken to curb the emission of greenhouse gases, the economic costs will be severe.”

Specifically citing “huge costs seen in climate inaction,” Business Insurance magazine points directly to what we all face if we fail to limit “the potential dire economic consequences of climate change.”

The Bloomberg Climate Changed newsletter summarized the situation on February 7, 2019: “Climate change isn’t just an expanding threat to the environment; it’s already a massive drag on the economy.”

It would pretty clearly be a drag on many states’ balance sheet if and when, for one quick example, increased outgo for firefighting joins up with reduced income from tourism spending in fire season.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 07, 2020
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail