Trillion-Ton Icebergs and Record Stock Prices

The strange happenstance of record-breaking stock markets and record-breaking icebergs is something to behold and wonder, what the hell is going on in the world? Is there a relationship between high stock prices and crashing, splintering icebergs? Probably, yes.

In point of fact, as capitalism’s grand experiment of neoliberal tendencies (privatization/commoditization of everything in sight, let free markets reign supreme) progresses and registers enormous stock market profits, Antarctica splitters apart ever faster in lock step. In bizarre fashion, high stocks equate to faster loss of major ice icons, the Arctic-to-Patagonia-to-Antarctica, a worldwide phenomena. Is the linkage mere coincidence?

In short, does unfettered capitalism bring forth trillion-ton icebergs?

The answer is Yes! Indubitably without a doubt, unfettered capitalism, colloquially known as neoliberalism, impacts tremendous losses of classical bodies of ice. Indeed, the connection is stronger than mere coincidence. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 2,000 when Dr. James Hanson testified before the Senate in 1988:

Today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.1

Today, with the DJIA up 10-fold at 22,000 global warming/ice loss tracks along with its own records. According to Earth Observatory, NASA: “How is Today’s Warming Different from the Past? In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed… roughly ten (10) times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.” Thus, the strangest of coincidences as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and global warming are up 10-fold, although it took the climate more time. Still, hands down, it’s an all-time paleoclimate record for climate change. What used to happen in 5,000 years now only takes decades.

After all, the planet is handicapped, a big lumbering spinning terrestrial sphere that travels 584,000,000 miles per year around the Sun. Whereas, by way of comparison, high frequency algorithmic automated traders plop down residence within blocks of the New York Stock Exchange to gain an edge over other high frequency traders, accounting for roughly 50% of all stock trading (absurdity upon absurdity w/o economic benefit) like rigged slot machines.

Forget stupid, useless, empty economic high frequency trading. Trillion-ton icebergs make stock trading look like kids’ stuff. According to scientists, the trillion-ton iceberg breakoff of July 12, 2017 from Larsen C Ice Shelf fundamentally changes the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. National Geographic will redraw its Atlas.

But, behind the scenes there’s a festering problem: Ice shelves which extend over the water serve as giant buffers, holding back the flow of glaciers on land. For example, when Larsen B Ice Shelf 10,000 years old — oh, really, only 10,000 years old — splintered in 2002, the flow of glaciers on land behind the ice shelf headed for the sea, accelerating sharply. Additionally, Larsen A collapsed in 1995. Ipso facto, glaciers flow to sea and sea levels rise.

Researchers remain puzzled and deeply concerned by the speedy pace of big time humongous icebergs, out of the ordinary and kinda spooky. Remarkably, Larsen C represents only one of three big whoppers to crash in little over a decade. Curiously, icebergs and stocks simultaneously break records like there’s no tomorrow, leading to the conclusion that if unfettered neoliberal capitalism remains the main game in town, there may not be many tomorrows, other than of the dystopian variety.

All of which begs the question of how the stock market setting new record highs relates to record-setting climate change/global warming and much-bigger-than-usual icebergs, aside from identical timelines, which is insanely coincidental.

The answer is simple enough: Record stock prices around the world reflect record world gross domestic product growing from $19T in 1988 to $75T today (it’s the Great Acceleration, in spades) which equates to lots and lots and lots of fossil fuel energy powering a 4-fold increase in economic activity, emitting greenhouse gases blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat and ominously inclusive of the potently dangerous latency effect, meaning today’s CO2 will register as higher temps over the next decade.

The earth’s atmosphere like a home heating oven turned to 450 degrees does not immediately heat up to 450 degrees. It takes a while to creep up to 450. Likewise, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today take years upon years to achieve maximum temperature impact, resulting in unrecognized risks haunting society at large. For example, annual CO2 atmospheric ppm increased 50% over the past decade, locking in imbedded trouble over mucho years ahead.

According to Dr. James Hansen, America’s preeminent climate scientist:

One cannot recognize the imminent danger without understanding the science. It is not difficult science. The urgency of action arises from the slow response of the climate system to changes of atmospheric composition. This slow response means that there is more global warming “in the pipeline” without further increase of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Delayed warming is due mainly to the large thermal inertia of the ocean.2

The delayed response is dangerous in one sense, because it allows greater climate change and consequences to build up before effects become large enough to awaken the public to danger.3

Interestingly, when stocks swooned badly, crashed in 2007-08, greenhouse gas emissions slowed. Therefore, there is a distinct relationship between stocks and global warming, meaning bull markets reflect increased global warming whereas bear markets mean less growth of CO2, slower warming.  But, on the other hand, nobody likes bear markets, recessions, especially depressions, narrowly missed only a few years ago if not for the Fed behaving like Pac-Man, scooping up debt securities nobody else would touch, by the trillions.

So then therefore, the big question is what to do to prevent Earth turning into another Venus, scorching hot temps 864 F degrees on average. After all, Whew! Most of Earth’s carbon is still in the ground or very tenuously under ice whereas Venus’s carbon is all in its atmosphere at 96%. That’s global warming on extra-strength steroids. Even Mercury with an average temperature of 332 F, and much closer (36M miles) to the Sun, is cooler than Venus (67M miles away). Mercury does not have a carbon-based atmosphere.

Assuming the neoliberal brand of capitalism remains the world dictate economic order, which is a sure-fire lock, the only plausible way (maybe?) out of a very big jam is to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere by converting fossil fuel energy to renewables that do not emit greenhouse gases.

However, that only solves part of the problem, as Dr. James Hansen believes the only chance of avoiding some kind of catastrophic end game is geo-engineering removal of carbon from the atmosphere. But, within scientific circles geo-engineering is very controversial, big positives as well as possibly equally big, or even bigger, negatives. Who knows? Will it work at scale? What about unintended consequences?

But then again, reality today is the Trump administration re-emphasizing coal, crowning King Coal, ahem, which is the dirtiest and worst fossil fuel on the planet. “Clean coal” is the biggest oxymoronic exaggeration in the history of the English language, as Trump’s henchmen work towards dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan to goose up coal usage, proving beyond all doubt the hidden powers and dangers of pure idiocy at the control panels.

Trump’s agenda not only dismantles the establishment political order but along the way it speeds up humongous ice shelves crashing, thereby threatening his shoreline golf courses. And, he knows it!

Hark! Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland filed a sea wall permit to protect its golf course from “global warming and its effects.”  Trump’s permit application specifically refers to global warming and its consequences, increased erosion due to rising sea levels as the chief justification for a permit to build a sea wall.

Hey World! When Trump’s golf courses are at stake, he’s suddenly hip to climate change/global warming. He morphs into an amateur atmospheric scientist that understands, in his own words, “global warming and its effects.” Assuming, of course, this article is not fake news.

  1. Philip Shabecoff, “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate”, The New York Times, June 24, 1988. []
  2. James Hansen, North Dakota Conviction Paper, October 11, 2017. []
  3. Ibid. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.