You are browsing the archive for 2019 August 23.

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This 1920s Inventor Sped Up Climate Change With His Chemical Creations

August 23, 2019 in History

By Joseph A. Williams

Thomas Midgley

Inventions through history have often made everyday tasks easier and some, like trains, the . Jackson describes how an industrial-scale refrigerator on display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair caught fire and eventually exploded, killing 17 firefighters.The domestic refrigerators that followed around 30 years later used sulfur dioxide, which although not flammable was highly toxic. Leaks of this gas killed families in their sleep.”

GM’s refrigerator division, Frigidaire, had been showing losses for years. Midgley with a team of scientists undertook a search for a non-toxic, non-flammable refrigerant. In 1930, they found a solution in dichlorodifluoromethane, which they sold under the brand name freon-12. This was the world’s first CFC. To demonstrate its safety, Midgley inhaled the stuff and blew out a candle.

Freon caught on and became ubiquitous in refrigerators, cooling units and aerosol spray cans as propellants. What Midgely did not know is that CFCs deplete the Earth’s ozone layer which protects life from ultra violet and other forms of radiation. Even worse, CFC’s are super greenhouse gases which contributes to global warming and climate change at a much greater rate than even carbon dioxide.

Even though CFC’s like freon-12 were banned or severely restricted starting with the Montreal Protocol in 1987, they linger in the atmosphere. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, CFCs have an atmospheric lifespan of up to 140 years.

Lauded, Midgley won almost every prestigious award in his profession. He was given the Willard Gibbs Medal, the Nichols Medal, the Priestly Medal, and the Perkin Medal. Aside from TEL and freon, Midgley also held about 170 other patents. It is only in recent decades that the damaging consequences of his inventions became known.

Midgley is not solely responsible for all the environmental ills generated by TEL and CFCs. Businesses of the day often disregarded the potential impact of pollutants in the environment either by underestimating the impact of those pollutants or thinking that it was a negligible problem. Neither was there any appreciable regulation of potential pollutants.

In the case of CFCs, he believed them to be less harmful than exploding refrigerators. “I think it would be unfair to criticize Midgley for his work on CFCs,” says Jackson. “They were an inelegant solution to a commercial problem, but one that Midgley and others thought was safe.”

On the other hand, Jackson says that since the toxic effects of lead were already known …read more


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A Bigger Welfare State Makes the Wealth Inequality Labour Bemoans Worse

August 23, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

In a speech in Corby this week, Jeremy Corbyn made reducing
inequality central to his pitch to be the next prime minister.
Certain polling emboldens the Labour leader. When asked in the
abstract, the UK public expresses strong concern about the gap
between rich and poor.

Brexit, the NHS and now crime, remain more important concerns.
But US evidence during the last crash suggests inequality rises in
the public consciousness in a weakening economy. It spiked here
last year too when the economy slowed. A messy Brexit or the threat
of Corbyn’s agenda slowing growth further could produce
fertile ground for egalitarian sentiment in a coming election.

A reawakening of this age-old debate though provides opportunity
to highlight inconvenient truths for the Left about the trends and
causes of inequality. Contra claims it’s spiralling out of
control, UK income inequality has been pretty much unchanged
for a quarter of a century
. Wealth inequality — an
aggregated measure comprising physical, financial, housing and
private pension wealth- has risen somewhat over longer periods, but
likewise has been near-flat for at least a decade.

Labour retorts that both are still too high. Wealth inequality
is the bugbear de jour, being (as it always is given the life
cycle) more unequally distributed than income. Scary-sounding data
from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest the richest
10pc of Britons hold 44pc of aggregate private wealth, while the
bottom 10pc own nothing. In Corbyn’s world, this justifies
more “Robin Hood policies” that take from the rich and
spend on the poor.

Yet there’s another unhelpful observation you won’t
find Corbyn and Co admitting. Heaps of evidence around the world
shows the sort of big welfare state he favours actually widens the
same wealth inequality measures he deems obscene.

How can “progressive” programmes make countries more
unequal? Quite simply, taxpayer-funded state pensions, health and
social care spending, housing subsidies, unemployment benefits and
subsidised student loans, all reduce our need to save or build up
personal financial assets. Broad-based higher taxes to finance them
also reduce the means for ordinary households to save and invest
for themselves. Across time and countries, these government
programmes and transfers have therefore crowded out private savings
disproportionately for those of modest means.

Unlike private wealth, the resources for government programmes
are not heritable either. Contrary to popular belief, inheritance
tends to be wealth-equalizing. While the wealthy can save and
invest in business and financial assets to pass on to their heirs,
a big welfare state means poorer households have less need or means
for saving, and less often see unexpected windfalls. The welfare
state thus widens wealth inequality, and Corbyn’s plans to
expand it further …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The G7 Should Pressure China but Find a Solution with Russia

August 23, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Another G7 summit impends, in Biarritz, France, with few
achievements likely. Although the gathering might avoid last
year’s dramatic photo of President Donald Trump staring down
the other attendees, expectations are low. No effort will be made
to draft a final statement, a first for the group, which began in
1975. Given the members’ divisions, the attempt would be
“pointless,” observed French President Emmanuel Macron,
who blamed “a very deep crisis of democracy.”

The G7 no longer has the heft it once had. Its members still
dominate the world’s economy, but not to the same degree.
During the 1980s, G7 members accounted for about 70 percent of the
world’s GDP. That number now is below half. Moreover, the
members have only about a tenth of the world’s population.
And turning the G8 into the G7 by expelling Russia meant losing a
member that was more important than its economic role alone would

Attendees this weekend also might have trouble making their
decisions stick. The newly-installed British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson might be out of a job in weeks. So could Canada’s
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who trails in polls for elections in
October. Meanwhile, Italy’s ruling coalition just collapsed
and Germany’s long-serving Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a
lame duck. Finally, Macron endures even lower poll ratings than
Trump, who faces an election next year. Only Japanese leader Shinzo
Abe seems secure politically.

However, the G7 meeting offers the most important leaders of the
most important Western nations an opportunity for serious
discussions of important issues, conducted privately though not
secretly. Indeed, this grouping has the advantage of being more
personal, about the leaders, than institutional, about the
countries. Members can more easily focus the meeting on what they
want, irrespective of the formal agenda.

Trump should pursue
‘America First,’ but without publicly attacking Washington’s

Even before the summit’s start, Trump roiled the
proceedings as is his want by proposing that Moscow be invited next
year to the meeting hosted by the United States. Trump apparently
offered this without much diplomatic preparation and—rather
like his off-the-cuff comment about buying Greenland before his
aborted trip to Denmark—it sparked European opposition.
However, Macron commented favorably on the idea, though adding that
it would be a “strategic error” to do so before
resolving the Russo-Ukraine conflict.

In fact, adding Russia is a surprisingly good idea. President
Vladimir Putin, suspended in 2014, has not transformed himself into
a liberal Western democrat. However, keeping him outside the club
isn’t going to cause him to become one either. And Moscow’s
permanent estrangement only serves the interest of China, an even
more authoritarian, powerful, and dangerous opponent of Western
liberalism to …read more

Source: OP-EDS