The Climate Enforcers

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) struggled a long time with how best to present the ´good news´. Global warming has been stagnating for 15 years.
In fact, this is bad news for the IPCC, because in 2007 they hit the alarm button on dramatic global warming. Politicians, civil servants, activists and journalists surfaced to cover the theme.
The former American Vice-President Al Gore crowned himself a climate prophet. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, as did the IPCC. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated: ´We have less than 50 days to save our planet´. The end seemed near. Science was 'solid' as a rock. Those who didn’t believe in the doomsday scenario were depicted as climate-deniers, just as bad as holocaust-deniers.

I also believe that the climate is changing. That’s how it has been for as long as there has been a climate. According to the IPCC report, global sea levels were 5-10 meters higher around 120.000 years ago than they are today. The report also says that ice in Greenland will melt in 1000 years, bringing with it a sea level increase of 7 meters. But why was the IPCC wrong in its predictions about the period of 1998-2013? The reason is that climate science lacks maturity. The German climatologist, Hans von Storch, is a prominent scientist who believes in climate change. He said in Der Spiegel: ´The biggest mistake of climate scientists is that they give the impression that they have a monopoly for the final truth about climate change. Some of them behave like preachers.´ Furthermore: ´If the lull in global warming lasts around 5 years, we need to admit that there is something fundamentally wrong with our climate models.´

Auntie Merkel

Looking ahead at the upcoming German elections on Sunday, one might think that everything is in auntie Merkel's safe hands. She is the auntie of Germany and of Europe. Merkel is now riding the same electoral high as ´Einheitskanzler´ Helmut Kohl at the start of the 90s. Merkel is feeling sure of her position. But is that on the mark?

Merkel is the embodiment of German euro-politics. In 2010 she pointed out that it is possible to expel a country from the Eurozone, following widespread anger in Germany over Greek budget fraud. But Merkel, born and raised in the DDR, performed a U-turn because she was convinced by West-German politicians who still carry war guilt, like Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble. Merkel converted: ´Scheitert der Euro, dann scheitert Europa´. In other words: 'If the Euro fails, Europe fails.' That’s the curse of those who criticize Merkel´s Euro policy: to criticise is equated to wanting war.

But among the German people there is a feeling of euro scepticism. 55 % of Germans think that the Eurozone should be reduced to a smaller group of countries with like-minded policies. 60% thinks that any new bailout should be subject to a referendum in Germany. Only 30% is in favour of a European Banking Union. Such voices are rare within the German Parliament. Some Members of Parliament dared to openly criticize the euro policy, like Christian-Democrat Wolfgang Bosbach and liberal Frank Schäffler.  They were chastised by the party leadership and consequently marginalised. For 2 years I have been visiting Berlin looking for euro-critical voices, but I only found some professors and middle-class entrepreneurs. Scepticism about the Euro lacks political representation in Germany.

The Real Madrid Bale Out

On the first of September 2013 the Spanish football team Real Madrid made public its acquisition of Gareth Bale, for a record price of 100 million Euros. Real Madrid has a debt of close to 600 million, financed in large parts by Caja de Madrid, a regional bank which is now part of Bankia. Bankia, a bank recently saved through the ESM for no less than 18 billion Euros, now backs this purchase by Real Madrid as well. Certainly these European funds cannot be used as a backstop for these unsustainable practices.

Is the Commission aware of this situation and if so, how is it going to respond to European taxpayer's money being used in such deals?

The West abolishes itself

The powerlessness surrounding the Syria situation brought the West its biggest defeat since the political crisis of the Suez Canal in 1956, when British and French troops had to retreat after a failed attempt to remove Egyptian leader Nasser from office. The U.S. took over the role of "organising power", but President Obama has squandered the U.S. position with his policy of "leading from behind ". America resigned as a world power. The ever-wavering Obama is stuck with poor options in home-made dilemmas.

In 2008 Obama, presidential candidate at the time, spoke in Berlin to the "citizens of the world". As the intended successor George Bush he wanted to make America popular again. America avoided power politics and became a glorified spectator. Obama has been overtaken by events. In the Middle East he created a void that was filled by others. His only consolation is that Europe has been piling up mistakes equally. The crises in Egypt and Syria are paragons of a humiliating flop.

Shortly after taking office Obama tried to talk to "moderate Muslims" in Egypt. After the departure of President Mubarak, America demanded elections that subsequently brought to power not moderate Muslims but the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, praised the new president Morsi in the "transition to democracy". However Morsi was working on a transition to theocracy: he decreed proxies, locked up journalists and came up with a radical Islamic constitution. Millions of Egyptians saw an Islamic state looming and demonstrated. Obama saw nothing. Morsi was eventually stopped by the Egyptian army.

Krugman the charlatan

If one is to believe New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, public debt and budget deficit are minor side issues. In his August 9th column, he speaks of the 'false fear factor' for debts. On May 31st, he embraced the notion that it does not matter much for growth whether a country has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 50% or 150%. Krugman reminds me of the former Belgian Budget Minister, the Walloon socialist Guy Mathot, who in the early eighties said that "debt comes naturally and automatically goes away again." Mathot went away, his mountain of debt remained.

Mathot was a charlatan and Krugman, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008, is starting to become one. During that period, some Nobel Prizes had a political character: protest against the Bush administration. In 2007, former Vice President Al Gore re-born as an environmentalist received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2009 it was Barack Obama, who had just assumed office as president. Officially Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize for economic research on trade flows, but his columns against Bush allowed him to gain fame. He became a gunner of progressive America.

Krugman believes that only a big government with its spending can provide for sufficient employment through the Trinity: high deficits, high debt and high taxes. Krugman was obviously pleased with President Obama as world champion debt creator. When Obama took office in early 2009 the U.S. debt was 65% of GDP, now it's 105%. The Republicans in Congress wanted to slow the debt explosion by means of "automatic cuts". Krugman was furious: "That's a lie. We should not cut spending, we need to spend more", he wrote on February 22nd. Republicans were "fools". Krugman predicted a disaster. "Cuts destroy jobs and cause economic contraction." But the disaster did not occur. Meanwhile, the debt explosion slowed, the budget is somewhat under control and employment is increasing. There are limits to make debts.