Funding for Research and Development of Energy Island (1) and other Large Projects to Combat Global Warming
by Thomas Manaugh
A low level of public support and commitment toward combating global warming seen today in the U.S. is comparable to that which was seen re war preparations prior to the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the U.S. into WW2 in late 1941. The lesson to be learned from this historical comparison is that increased commitment and support for efforts to combat global warming will become manifest as the threat becomes ever more clear — but not until events make the threat crystal clear and imminent. Increased — but still strikingly inadequate — support and commitment toward combating global warming has developed because of record-breaking weather events, including Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it created.
Revenues derived from individual income taxes increased about 800% between the years prior to the U.S. entering the WW2 until the war years between 1942 and 1945. (See Reference 2.) That increase was tolerated by citizens because of a clear existential threat to the U.S. That level of support and commitment would not have been possible had the Japanese not bombed Pearl Harbor.
One of the major projects undertaken during the war years was the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The $2.2 billion cost of that project represented a yearly cost to taxpayers equal to 0.4% of GDP. (See Reference 3.) A comparable commitment to solving global warming would , given today’s GDP, produce a budget of $600 billion per year, based on the U.S.GDP of $15.1 trillion in 2012. (See Reference 4.)
Will the U.S. commit to spending $600 billion per year or more to combat global warming in 2013? No.
Will it eventually commit to spending at that level? Yes.
Unfortunately, it may be the case that large parts of Florida and Louisiana will be under water before sufficient support is committed to combating global warming. Though a vast majority of climate scientists predict catastrophic consequences of global warming, the public is not now sufficiently alarmed to demand immediate action from a government paralyzed by partisan interests and influence from fossil fuels companies.
It would be foolish to ignore imminent tipping points that might cause the problem of global warming to become unsolvable by any known methods. That seems to be the most likely course of events if we project into the future the current level of inaction. More fossil fuels are consumed every year and the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise. (See Reference 5.)
Public concern about global warming needs to change so radically that government officials are forced to fund projects that are large and ambitious enough to deal with the problem.
Rapid changes in public consciousness can happen. During the time from 1950 to 1990, the public radically changed its consciousness about acceptance of smoking. An even more abrupt change occurred in public consciousness about acceptance of gay marriage from 2000 (mostly not accepting) to 2013 (mostly accepting).
Government scientists and university researchers need to be given research budgets to study the feasibility of using known technologies in very large projects to rein in global warming. Projects shown to be feasible should then receive first-priority funding for their implementation.
The U.S. could do its part by funding projects at the level of how the Manhattan Project was funded. If the U.S. devoted just half of the money it now spends on its military services, the money would be adequate.
The U.S. should do that and challenge other countries to transfer half of their military budgets to an effort to halt global warming. That would be a rational step to take, and no loss of security would result if other nations reduced their military budgets in concert. Any nation that sought to take advantage of relative weakening of another nation could face sanctions. Complying nations could combine forces to resist aggression from any nations that did not abide by their commitments to reduce military spending. The United Nations could take a role in monitoring compliance and sanctioning non-complying nations.
The United Nations could also take a leadership role by requiring member nations to collect a tax on carbon emissions and to devote proceeds toward development of renewable energy. There would be more than enough money available to transition away from use of fossil fuels if both a tax were levied and half of military and security budgets were re-directed toward halting global warming.
When public consciousness about the threat of global warming has sufficiently changed, none of the above suggestions about technology and funding will be seen as impossible or impractical. Rather, the public will eventually come to the conclusion that failure to take prompt action is folly. We can hope that we take action so that our great grandchildren will not look back and ask “What were they thinking?”
1) USPTO notice of patent for Energy Island awarded to Thomas Manaugh, retrieved from the Internet on 5/11/2013 at http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=8097218.PN.&OS=PN/8097218&RS=PN/8097218
2) Data re percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributed to funding the federal government by individual income taxes, retrieved from the Internet on 5/11/2013 at http://www.truthfulpolitics.com/http:/truthfulpolitics.com/comments/u-s-federal-government-revenue-current-and-inflation-adjusted/
3) Data showing percent of GDP in the U.S. devoted to Manhattan Project, retrieved from the Internet on 5/11/2013 at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34645.pdf
4) Data on GDP for the United States in 2012, retrieved from the Internet on 5/11/2013 at http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp
5) Data on concentration of CO2 in the air, retrieved from the Internet on 5/11/2013 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/10/carbon-dioxide-highest-level-greenhouse-gas