Howl, ye winds…crack, ye thunder…blow, ye professors and scientists!
In America the principle concern most people have is international terrorism. As extraordinary as that is, Europeans have an opposite and equally absurd worry – global warming.
We see it everywhere. Britain’s newspapers reported this week that the United Kingdom was having its warmest January in 50 years! The U.K. press warns of rising seas…scorching temperatures…tornadoes and hurricanes. And here in Paris, scientists have gathered from all over the world to drink champagne, gobble down fois gras, and frighten the masses with lurid tales of Worlds Gone Wild. Drought, desertification, storms, intense heat, melted glaciers, air-conditioning overloads!
One of the reports out this morning says that temperatures will rise from two to eleven degrees by the year 2100. What? Is that all? Hardly seems worth getting lathered up about. As for rising sea levels…the scientists have actually reduced expectations. Maybe only a few inches…from here to the end of the century.
But what is more shocking…that Paris bunch concluded that this climate change will continue for centuries into the future…and that there is nothing we can do about it. Still, there are calls for reducing ‘greenhouse gases’ in the hope that, maybe they’re not right on that point.
What to make of it all? Probably nothing. It may or may not be true that humans are causing the world’s climate to run hotter than usual. It is undoubtedly true that some people would like to get their hands on the thermostat…or merely use the issue to chivvy up their positions…their fortunes…or their social status.
Meanwhile, the price of crude oil – a prime suspect in the global warming story – nudged up again yesterday, to $57.30. Of course, a number of things went up – the Dow, for instance, hit a new record high of 12,673. And gold rose $5.10 to $663.
We’re getting a little bored with it all. While scientists, media, politicians and commentators all warn about the remote and sketchy dangers of global warming…we are almost alone in warning of the real and immediate dangers of economic cooling. Our Crash Alert pennant still flies, but investors ignore us – bidding up stocks…buying bonds…even plumping down big money for houses. We might as well be a lifeguard alerting the beach crowd to a dangerous undertow…while they frolic heedlessly in the surf ignoring us.
And consumers – the poor schleps should be running for high ground. Instead, they are enjoying the sun and liquidity. The latest numbers tell us that they continue to spend more than they earn – by a wider and wider margin. In December, personal spending went up 0.7%, while incomes rose only 0.5%.
And look at this: U.S. manufacturing is failing. The Financial Times says it is, “on the brink of recession.”
We know they must be on the brink of recession in Detroit. Toyota and Daimler are both selling more cars in America than Ford, according to yesterday’s headlines. And Ford just registered a breathtaking loss of more than $1 billion per month, for 2006. And now comes word that sales are off 19%.
Oh well…what to worry about? World Gone Wild? Or Market Meltdown? Take your pick.