October 10, 2018

US lags in reacting to longterm trends in energy, pollution, and global warming

After the American Century

The times are out of joint. The short term outlook is good, if by this one means unemployment is low, interest rates are low, economic growth stronger than it has been in years. But the long term outlook is terrible, if by this one means global warming, species extinction, political polarization, and overuse of the earth's resources.
Image result for cartoon - man tripping and falling

So the question becomes, at what historical moment will these short and long-term trends intersect? When will pollution become so severe that it hurts the economy, for example? When these two trends meet, pulling and pushing in opposite directions, the short-term ones will lose the battle.

Some countries are far more ready to weather this storm when it comes. Holland builds dikes; the US builds on the flood plain and offers FEMA support to rebuild there after hurricane winds destroy homes schools, prisons, etc. Holland obviously is smarter about this than the US. Some countries are going in for recycling in a big way. Some countries are reducing their use of fossil fuels, requiring effective insulation of all new houses, building mass transit, etc  But the US is not doing these things

Instead, the Trump Administration is allowing pollution levels to rise, denying the existence of global warming, pushing for greater use of coal, and opening new lands to oil and gas exploration. These actions are setting the US on the course toward failure. When the long term trends overtake us, as they must, the effects are going to be more strongly felt in the US economy because we did not get ready.

I could produce statistics to back up all these points, but those who don't believe in any of these long term trends are not going to be convinced. So we drift on, embracing the failed policies of the past. Assuming humanity survives for at least several more centuries, the chapter on how the US faded away as the world leader will make for melancholy reading. After the American century, indeed.