Georgist Proposals and
the Global Warming Controversy

Chuck Haughey

[Excerpts from a letter to Nadine W. Stoner, President, Common Ground, U.S.A., 9 July, 2007, responding to a proposal for a letter lobby by Edward Lawrence of Fairhope, Alabama. These proposals were drafted in response to bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 2069) and Senate (S. 280)]

Your recent Letter Lobby Action Alert of June 29, 2007 on these two bills gives me great cause for concern. It "severely misreads the facts" and inaccurately presents a "Georgist" view. Following is information that would give balance to Ed Lawrence's letter.

Both bills presume a problem of global warming and seek to solve it.

  • Global warming has been well documented in a recent (2005) book "Thin Ice" by Mark Bowen, and has been shown to have started long before the major effects of CO2 production by man. His work presents a historical review and the results of studies of ice cores from glaciers.
  • Within the last month ice cores from Greenland have shown earlier (hundreds of thousands of years) cycles of warming far greater that the current cycle without any man-made influence.
  • R. Timothy Patterson, professor of geology and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre of Canada's Carleton University, in June 27, 2007 issue of Investors Business Daily and in the July 2, 2007 issue if the Washington Times, stated that studies of 5,000 years of mud from Western Canada's fjords, studies of tree rings in Russia's Kola Peninsula, and studies of water levels of the Nile show "a direct correlation between variations in brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called proxies)" and "CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet's climate on long, medium, and even short term scales."
  • The recent book "unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years" by S. Fred Singer, and Dennis T. Avery, based on extensive research, holds that the slight global warming now on Earth is part of a long established cycle associated with activity on our sun, is not dangerous, and is not something we could do anything about even if there were a need to, which there isn't. This book teaches that "The Earth continually warms and cools. The cycle is undeniable, ancient, often abrupt, and global. It is also unstoppable. Isotopes in the ice and sediment cores, ancient tree rings, and stalagmites tell us it is linked to small changes in the irradiance of the sun." It also teaches that the Earth goes through heating and cooling cycles about every 1500 years and these are in no way related to the CO2 levels.
  • Some of the Earth's warmest periods, including the period of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, took place long before man produced significant CO2 gases, and even in the 20th century global temperature rise did not track well with levels of man-made CO2 gases.
  • Professor Singer is a climate physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and distinguished research professor at George Mason University, and was the founding dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences at the University of Miami and was the first director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service and served five years as Vice Chairman of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmospheres. Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former senior analyst at the State Department.

Both bills presume that the global warming is due to man-made CO2 activity.

  • Much work over the past decade has shown the high probability that sun cycles of heating and cooling are far more likely to cause our climate variations. BBC News Nov. 8, 1997 published joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) reports of giant flares from the sun which affect communications and heat on Earth; and BBC News Tuesday, Jan. 27 1998 published discovery by Dr. Richard Harrison, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, Oxfordshire, of "Blinkers" on the sun which release short bursts of flashes, over 300 at any one time, which contribute to heating the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, to a million degrees C when the sun's surface is only 5,500 degrees C. surface of the sun.
  • Professor Patterson also noted that "It is global cooling, not global warming, that is the major threat to the world, especially Canada."

Your letter accepts the premise of global warming as a man-made problem and proposes a choice between the two Congressional bills as solutions to the problem.

  • The IBD article referred to in 2.b above shows the high probability that global warming is not a man-made problem and that global cooling is a much more difficult problem that may have been somewhat delayed by our man-made CO2 activity. Recall the "Little Ice Age" of the middle ages which caused so much cooling that whole summer growth seasons were actually lost. The Vikings were frozen out of pastoral Greenland; and a few years back some WWII fighter planes were discovered on the beach of Greenland due to melting of the ice there - showing that we are now back to the ice conditions of WWII.
  • Both the Congressional bills would impose taxes and controls on use of fuels which would greatly handicap business in the USA without affecting other countries such as China, who recently passed the USA in CO2 production, is generating CO2 gasses from coal fired power plants and is still greatly accelerating the use of coal burning power plants with no such handicaps. These bills would create very severe problems in our economy and our ability to compete in the world without affecting the "problem."

You reference the letter from Ed Lawrence as justification for Georgist action as a Georgist problem needing a solution.

  • The argument for taxing use of fuels as Georgist is false. George would have taxed land use, including extraction, and this is now in effect with heavy taxes on fuel extraction. Ed proposes to now tax and control or regulate commerce in the use of the extracted product, precisely contrary to George's teaching as taxing the work products of man (after extraction), thus discouraging man's efforts.
  • Ed also justifies these taxes as causing changes in people's ways of living and by proposing that the tax revenues could be given to the poor - not a Georgist idea. George wanted to give to the people free trade and that land rental value which their community generated - increased land values. George proposed his ideas as ways for everyone to benefit with increased prosperity due to their presence and business without penalizing the industrious and productive people. I do not recall any suggestion by Henry George that the many prosperous workers should be taxed disproportionately for the benefit of the poor and non-working people. Did I miss that one?

The fact is that global warming appears to be happening now, but will probably turn to cooling within a dozen years, which is a much greater problem than the warming.

  • Per the IBD article, solar output varies as much as 0.1% over regular 11 year cycles known as "Schwabe" cycles. 6,000 years ago the earth's temperature was six degrees Celsius warmer than it is today. Ten thousand years ago, coming out of a cold period, temperatures rose six degrees in a decade, 100 times faster than in the past century! Our next earth Schwabe cycle will start cooling about the year 2020. Is it wise to screw up our economy by taxes and controls which will only have the ecological effect, if any, of advancing the cooling cycle and thus greatly reducing the food productive capacity of our earth?

Man's activities have a small, and not easily measured effect on our climate.

  • Our techniques for measuring the earth's temperature are improving, but are sadly not very good for averaging such minute changes. Recent reviews showed placement of pertinent temperature measuring and recording devices on a roof top within a few feet of an air conditioning exhaust, and in areas that were rural when placed, but are now urban.
  • Most accurate temperatures are inferred from other measurements such as chemical analysis of trapped air in ice cores and in decaying material at the bottom of the cores, growth bands in old trees and fossils and sediment bands in rock and ice (See 1.b). How many measurements, and where, would be needed to average the temperature of Asia?