And more on global warming.
Washington, abetted by President Barack Obama's scheduled lecture to Congress on Thursday, is abuzz with schemes for government to light a fire under the economy.
Forget it. Government can't do more. It has injected some $1 trillion into the economy to ignite the fire, but it's far from smoking. And the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates about as far as they can go, unless the Fed wants to start paying people to borrow.
That leaves corporate America, which by many account is sitting on $1 trillion that could produce jobs and restore confidence in the economy.
We keep hearing about how the economy rests on the backs of consumers; they must become more confident so they spend more. Although how they should spend more isn't quite clear.
Then how about corporate confidence? Don't corporations have the same burden as consumers to restore confidence by spending more? Businesses sitting on $1 trillion don't have to go begging to tight-fisted banks, like consumers. It's time for corporate America to get off its duff and spend some of the money it has been hoarding.
Having spent some time in corporate America, I understand the reluctance of businesses to go out on a limb in an uncertain economy, especially in the face of uncertain government regulations and tax policies. But even in good times, I've heard excuses about how there's never enough money to spend on research and development, renewal of manufacturing infrastructure, long-term planning, installation of the latest information technology, employee training and all the rest that would boost productivity, increase market share and inspire creativity. What's the excuse now that they're wallowing in money?
The private sector has no choice but to take a flyer. It's either that or face new government regulations, investment disincentives, more spending and higher taxes, all imposed based on the misguided belief that government must do something. It's time for American business to show the spunk that fashioned the world's greatest economy.
More on global warming
Judging by the tide of mistaken and negative responses to my column last week about the danger of declaring man-made global warming indubitable, I guess I didn't explain myself well enough. Having been a newspaper science writer and public relations executive for the research and development center of a Fortune 500 company, I know that communicating science can be a tricky business.
So, here's what I believe about global warming: The Earth is warming. Man-made greenhouse gases are contributing to the warming. Plenty of research supports the idea of anthropogenic global warming. It is wise to control greenhouse gas emissions, to a reasonable extent.
Here's what I don't know. Just how much is the Earth warming? Will it speed up or slow down? Is global warming and cooling cyclical, caused by natural variations of "natural" factors? Or has mankind set Mother Earth on a near-irreversible course by overloading the atmosphere with destructive amounts of carbon dioxide? Science, not a plebiscite, should answer those questions.
Open-minded and wise people would say in all humility that such questions are so complex that the "evidence" has to be clearly supported by facts (not just theories or models). We can replicate experiments that demonstrate, for example, that an antibiotic kills a certain germ. Harder to replicate is a cosmic-size process. That's why the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, experiment I described is so important; it is a first step on the way to advancing beyond theories and models to better understand the climate.
A "preponderance" of global warming "evidence" must be given its due, but whether it constitutes a "consensus" is irrelevant. Sufficient numbers of peer-reviewed studies call into question some critical assumptions of global warming. Anyone who denies it has not examined the literature. Who funded the research also is irrelevant; good research will stand on its own legs.
Also irrelevant is where the evidence leads one on the political continuum. And "endorsements" of politically charged positions by professional organizations amount to just that — endorsements, not actual science. Only the naive believe scientific bodies and scientists are immune to politics.
The authentic scientific debate about global warming centers on myriad questions, including whether man-made greenhouse gas emissions trump a plethora of "natural" influences such as cosmic ray flux and solar irradiance in controlling our climate. I'm not content to let politicians, "activists" or commentators dictate the answer.
This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune where comments are posted.