A response to John Kosowski

After a week of online discussion with John Kosowski (an Engineer from Illiois and – clearly – an amateur climate scientist in his spare time), I am posting this, my latest reply to his questions, as a new blog post in its own right; to bring it to the attention of a wider audience. John and I have had our moments, each accusing the other of suspicious behaviour and/or feigning injury but, although at times extremely annoying, I believe John’s questioning has made me raise my game and become clearer and more concise in my responses. Here then, in response to his most recent attempt to resist what climate scientists are telling us, is where I think we have got to: ———– As I have repeatedly said to you John, I have no interest in playing numbers games with you. The purpose of this blog is not to discuss the science upon which concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is based, it is to focus attention on: — the ideological prejudice causing many to delay us all taking mitigating action; and — the politics and psychology causing people to deny the reality of what is now happening. I too am capable of reading; and am fully aware of the limitations of Doran and Zimmerman’s (2009) work. However, have you read all 19 of the references on the ‘Surveys of scientists’ views on climate change’ Wikipedia page? What about all the Papers and Presentations contained on the ‘4 Degrees and Beyond International Conference’ page? Have you read (and dismissed) all of them as well? This stuff may be complicated, but it is not Rocket Science! (N.B. You need to read to at least 3rd paragraph of this (19 August 2011) post to see why I am linking to it here). So, in a word, YES, I do believe a firm majority of those whose opinions should concern us do now acknowledge that Hansen has been proven right (because his modelled predictions match what happened when you look at the emissions scenario that turned out to be the right one). In addition, I do believe that the same majority accept there is sufficient probability of his being right about interpreting what is now happening for it to be imperative that we move to a zero-carbon global economy as fast as possible. As I have said before, I think you are basically out-of-date; a very great deal has changed since 2007. The debate should be over – not because I want to silent dissent but because the evidence is overwhelming – the only people who want you to think otherwise are those who will be hit the hardest by rapid investment in renewable energy and a cessation of fossil fuel burning. However, when you are in a hole, it is always a good idea to stop digging: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11). In the course of the last week, we (you and I) have discussed palaeoclimatology, politics, philosophy, and now climate modelling. On each and every front, I have answered your questions or directed you to sources that I believe could do so. Your response has generally been to come back with more questions; and when I ask you to logically justify your “scepticism” you just play numbers games (which I have specifically asked you not to do). Is it any wonder that I have occasionally, regretfully, lost my patience with you or become suspicious? For example, why are you still taking any notice of Roy Spencer? At what point in Barry Bickmore’s presentation did you put your hands over your ears and start shouting “La-la-la, I can’t hear you!”…? If you are not open to accepting that we may well be at a fork in the road right now; that the Earth may well have reached a tipping point it has not been at before, then you are wasting my time. End of story.

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Cognitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias, Maketplace of Ideas, Philosophy, Politics, Scepticism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to A response to John Kosowski

  1. jpgreenword says:

    “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” What a wonderful quote! Rick, I have actually “visited” to present my official response to your nomination. Please follow the link: http://jpgreenword.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/thanks-martin/

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks JP. My other favourite quote is: “‘Everything is permissible for me’- but not everything is beneficial.” (I Corinthians 6:12a) However, this a bit naughty because it is hereby taken out of context (as St Paul was writing about sexual immorality) but I won’t say anything if you don’t! (Ooops)

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  2. Rick Altman says:

    Dear John, Can you at least confirm that you have read this post; and that you are currently working your way through all the information and/or research papers to which it refers. If you do not respond, I may be tempted to conclude that you were indeed just “pulling my chain”

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    • Hey Rick, Yes, I have read your article. I don’t know to what information and/or research you refer, as you indicated you aren’t interested in discussing the science, and that is what I am interested in researching. And, from your posts, you aren’t even interested in discussing what exactly is the “consensus.” From what I am reading, the consensus isn’t what you think it is. The rest of your article is just silly name calling that warrants no response. Calling me a fool with my hands over my ears shouting “la la la?” [I did not personally call YOU a fool; and I merely questioned whether you have actually taken on board what Bickmore said – ML] Really Rick, is that how you engage a topic as serious as is this one? And, you “ban” me from engaging in the issues that we were discussing in other areas of your blog to come to this page for this? What is the point? Your assertion that “on each and every front” you have answered my questions or referred me to the answer is just not honest. Instead you just send me on time wasting tangents that have little to do with what we are really discussing, or you throw tantrums when I actually discuss the topic that you presented. The discussion in the other blog topics speaks for itself; no one needs to take my word for it. If anything, Rick, I have taught you much about your own position. I can tell from your answers that you didn’t even realize how much of Hansen’s projections rely on positive feedback from things like water vapor and how little of it relies on the greenhouse effect of the CO2 itself: “I do not see any point discussing water vapour, etc……. what is your insistence that we talk about things other than CO2…?” Because, Rick, that is what your theory says. So, if there are scientific or philosophical issues you would like to engage specifically, I would be more than willing. There certainly is plenty to discuss in the world of climate change. This article, however, raises nothing new, nor does it raise any substantive issue that you are willing to actually discuss.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Well I’m sorry that, yet again, you choose to be offended rather than deal with the implications of what I have said; and I am genuinely sorry if my attempts at humour (to lighten the mood of despair that this underlying message might otherwise engender) are unwelcome. When you have finished reading through all the scientific research papers to which I have referred you (via my own previous posts and/or Wikipedia), perhaps you will come back and share with me your findings (although if you uncover flaws in the scientific consensus you really will deserve a Nobel Prize)? As for me, I have spent a year reviewing the science, I am not ignorant of it. I just don’t wan’t to have idle debates with people who think climate scientists are either stupid, sloppy, or suspicious. To me, the only people who are suspicious are those whose research is funded by the fossil fuel lobby. Therefore, you cannot and will not make me feel guilty for refusing to engage in spurious debate over climate science, which is one of the most well-attested aspects of our scientific knowledge today. This is because the only people that seek to spread doubt about this are the fossil fuel lobby. They take your money and they make your choice. I only hope your children and grandchildren will forgive you for the time you are wasting following all their false trails. So, if you still feel the need to work it all out for yourself and double-check all the calculations of 1000s of experts, that is your decision and I would genuinely like to know what you eventually conclude. However, if you think that it is me who is wasting your time, please don’t bother coming back here; I clearly cannot help you.

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      • Hey Rick, it is not so much that I am offended by your name calling or your fossil fuel lobby rants, it is that they don’t have much to do with AGW. I only really responded to this one because you asked. The scientific “consensus” breaks down right at the doorstep of the main issue, the feedbacks. There is little “settled” about it. Again, I can tell you that the idea that we are headed towards a mass extinction event is not found anywhere near the current consensus. And that is Hansen’s projection – the sixth mass extinction. I guess the offensive part is your feeling that we should just go to a zero carbon economy without really getting this right. Have you not really considered the consequences? I ask nothing of you other than questions. You, however, want me to stop using fossil fuels, which is not an insignificant thing to ask. That is how I get to work to support my family. That is how I keep my family from freezing to death in the winter. That is how food is delivered to my family. That is how electricity is delivered to my computer so that I can discuss issues with someone across the globe. But, Rick, you and I live in very advanced, modernized societies where it might be possible to go to a zero fossil fuel economy. It would be very difficult, costly, and involve a complete change of life. Many that are already barely able to make it each month would be more miserable. But, you and I might be able to survive without fossil fuels. But, Rick, what about the world’s poor? As we touched upon in previous discussions, poverty is a real problem in the US, but only relatively. No one dies from starvation here other than as a result of criminal activity or mental illness. 99.99% of the people have electricity. Not so in the rest of the world. 13 – 18,000,000 per year die of starvation. Do you have any idea why, Rick? Check out the map on this FAO web page (visible on the right). Do you see a pattern on where the people are dying? Perhaps you should do a chart of “CO2 output vs. starvation deaths”. From the site: “The majority of the people who don’t have enough to eat live in poor, rural communities in developing countries. Many have no electricity and no safe drinking water”. No electricity, Rick. 1.6 billion people live without electricity. No environmental blogs for those people. That is like 20-25% of the world’s population. For these people, a coal burning powerplant is the difference between life and death. That is why China is building them as fast as they can. That is, in reality, one of your biggest problems in going to a zero CO2 economy. China is trying to save their people from starvation. No matter what lip service they give Al Gore, they have people that are dying, and they have the means to save them. That ‘means’ is fossil fuels. Same with India. You are a father, right Rick? Some 15,000 fathers will lose a child to starvation today. Tomorrow too, Rick – 15,000. They have no other way to save them, as a windmill is just not going to do it. Sending them money in some cap and trade scheme is not going to do it either, no matter how good it makes people feel. They need to be able to take care of themselves. So Rick, nothing is going to be done about the increase of CO2 emissions except in the very slightest of ways by only a very few countries. And, Rick, I sure hope you aren’t going to tell me that those people are starving because of our CO2 output. They were starving worse 50 years ago, and even worse 50 years before that. Take another look at that hunger chart, and think about two of your other concerns. Which countries tend to have cleaner environments? Which countries have the biggest population growth problems? I say all this not as some kind of proof that there is no AGW, but just to highlight the importance of really knowing what we are doing. So Rick, I am not closing my eyes to anything. They are wide open. That is why I don’t just buy in to what someone else tells me about “consensus”. BTW, where does one sign up for this “fossil fuel lobby” funding? Spencer has had an open invitation for such funding, but isn’t having much success. There is hardly any funding towards studying natural causes of climate change. I am going to agree with you that this is coming down to a matter of trust. I just don’t trust those extreme ideologues that are feeding us this “consensus”. You should look a little into that because they are not so fond of your nuclear power alternative either.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Yet more reality inversion, John; I’m sorry. Probably originally put out by the fossil fuel lobby; ditto. I’ve certainly heard it all before numerous times. If the truth hurts, it ain’t my fault (ditto once more). Climate change mitigation is not causing starvation and death, but failing to mitigate it certainly will. In case you hadn’t noticed, hundreds of millions have died of starvation in the last 40 years; are you going to blame that on the diversion of funds to ban CFCs and tackle the hole in the ozone layer? For the record, I did not call you a fool. The quote from Proverbs is just another way of alluding to the fact that we have enough information to make a prudent decision… Stop digging when in hole; ditto… Stop burning fossil fuels, ditto… Do you get the idea now? One of the main reasons children are still dying of starvation today is because rich countries have made poor countries dependent on aid and/or food imports rather than growing stuff they can eat themselves. Indeed, the EU is quite possibly the most guilty party. Jared Diamond’s book is another that you need to read. It contains no computer models or references to palaeoclimatology; just an appeal for humanity to learn from its own history: Civilisations that do not heed environmental warnings do not survive. https://anthropocenereality.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/collapse-or-ecocide/ I think we still have a choice, but time is running out; and globalisation means no one society is independent anymore. If one falls we will all fall; like a pack of dominoes (more on this tomorrow). Finally, please try and be more concise or I may be tempted to start behaving like a newspaper Editor; and edit your comments for publication.

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      • You are not listening Rick, Climate change mitigation is not causing starvation; the lack of access to cheap energy for 20% of the world’s population is causing starvation. That is why India and China are building coal powerplants as fast as they can. They want to have access to electricity that we take for granted. Are you saying that the fossil fuel lobby has control over India and China?

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks for being brief, John. Poor countries tend to be hot. We have caused climate change but they will be the first to suffer. Therefore, we must help them adopt low-carbon development policies. Building 24/7 solar power stations would make a lot more sense for them than importing coal. To me, you seem to be using a classic ploy of trying to shift the blame for what is happening somewhere else. Starvation is caused by a lack of food. Period. Hansen is not alone in fearing environmental catastrophe. The 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference puts paid to that piece of FFL propaganda, so please stop repeating it. High altitude Himalayan glaciers may not have melted much in the last 10 years, but everywhere else it is a different story. Funny how the media focussed on the former and ignored the latter? I wonder why that was?

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      • Rick, Why do you suppose that China and India are building coal plants instead of solar? Is it the devious FFL striking again? Those people seem to be everywhere. Everything in my post was factual, not “FFL propaganda.” These are real problems that you have to solve if you want your agenda to gain any traction at all. Of course, your point is that if there really is a mass extinction event on the way, it is worth whatever measures are necessary. That is the question though. It also wouldn’t hurt if you got all the far left environmentalists on the same page: http://modernserenity.com/2011/07/opposition-to-topaz-solar-project-highlights-the-need-for-pragmatic-environmentalists-to-unite/ Here is another question for you. What societies will be developing the technologies to eventually replace fossil fuel use? I bet you anything that it is the very places that are producing the most CO2 now.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        With regard to China, they are pursuing solar: One of the biggest, if not the biggest solar companies in the world is in China. However, they have a problem with air pollution, which would limit its effectiveness. Coal is cheap; but only because the environmental damage burning it does is not factored into its price. This must change, otherwise China will do as it currently plans to do – take 30 years to phase out coal. As for the high probability of our facing a real and present danger of ecological collapse? Well, I did suggest that reading 7 or 8 posts on this blog (starting here) would be quicker than reading Hansen’s book and, since you seem so dismissive of his concerns, I suggest you give up on his book. Unfortunately, Jared Diamond’s book is much longer… However, I have come to your rescue again – today I have summarised the entire thing in about 800 words. Please read it.

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      • Rick, You know that China is going to be growing CO2 output each year over the next 5 years. They are experimenting with electric cars like KND, but those all end up being coal powered. Yes, I already know Hansen’s position. Again, it is not the consensus view. I have found him misrepresenting the truth, however. In this recent video on youtube, Hansen says “When there have been warmings of several degrees Celsius, which is what we will get if we will follow business as usual, the earth lost more than half of its species” (at approx 1min 20 secs): http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zi12lZIdGjQ That just isn’t true. There have been many warmings of several degrees Celsius higher than today without mass extinctions. Losing half of the earth’s species would clearly be a mass extinction event. As you may know there have been 5 mass extinction events that we know of.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        “[Hansen’s] is not the consensus view” I do not see how you can possibly substantiate this statement without widening the pool of supposed experts to include non-climate scientists. However, this is the numbers game I don’t want to play but which people who want to deny the truth (i.e. not necessarily you) love to play… As I am sure I have said before, Hansen is not denying it has been warmer in the past. His point is that humans were not around then and the animals that were are all now extinct. There is a good reason for this – it is called mutual incompatability. All existing life on Earth is adapted to the way things are now. The fact that they were once different is irrelevant. Furthermore, species are already going extinct at unprecedented rates due to habitat destruction. We already know that ocean warming and acidification are an inevitable consequence of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. The oceans need only get very slightly warmer and more acidic and corals will die, and shellfish will literally dissolve (or not be able to form their shells): See Peter Sale’s Our Dying Planet.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        “I have found him misrepresenting the truth” = Groundless, self-opinionated slur on Hansen’s character. What has he to gain from being unduly alarmist? Warning – you are likely to invoke a “warmist” UN/WMO/IPCC conspiracy to defend this accusation. Are we now seeing your true colours, John?

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      • Rick, so what then, Hansen is just ignorant? I notice that you didn’t defend the erroneous statement.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        How is it – indeed why is it – that I must defend the reputation of the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist against the insults of an Engineer from Illinois? Even though it is now widely accepted that the IPCC are way behind the curve on this, and may well remain so because of political interference in the reports they produce, you are unable to substantiate your accusation that he does not represent the consensus because it is not true: Any hope of limiting warming to 2 Celsius has already evaporated; and we are on course to gain 4 to 6 Celsius average global temperature by the end of the Century. But no, I am not going to bother providing the links again, because you do not seem to be interested in researching anything other than FFL propaganda. With regard to extinction events, I see nothing erroneous in Hansens’s remarks. Yours, on the other hand, come pretty close to libel and/or defamation of character. I know you are just an Engineer but, maybe just may be, you would care to rectify your self-opinionated ignorance on the ‘Big Five mass extinction events’ via the BBC’s Natural History unit: The most severe occurred at the end of the Permian period when 96% of all species perished.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Sorry, John. Yes I did totally “lose my rag” there. Congratulations, you have achieved what I suspect to be your aim – to make me lose my temper with you. Clearly, you are not just an opinionated ignorant Engineer from Illinois. However, by making these attacks on Hansen you have, in my view, lost any and all legitimacy for claiming to be objective. I think your position is little better than Lord Monckton (who also resorts to flinging insults when caught out). It simply is not fair to criticise Hansen or question his integrity without finishing reading his book. There just is no evidence for his being anything other than painfully honest about how and why he has come to the conclusion that, unless Humanity takes drastic action now, Earth is heading for a Venus-like future. I really don’t know why I am bothering to defend Hansen (I should not have to) but, he is pretty-much retired now – he has nothing whatsoever to gain financially from being an alarmist. The FFL, on the other hand, have a great deal to gain from painting him as such, like the perpetuation of their entire modus operandi. It is such a shame that they will not just admit they are misguided and change course. The time to invest in humanity’s future (i.e. renewable energy) is now. If we wait until we have exhausted every last drop of fossil fuel, it will be too late.

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      • Rick, There have been many warmings of several degrees C without mass extinction. Hanson is wrong on this one. For you, however, it is as if I am blaspheming your god. Is this really your religion? Whenever I see any outrageous claims by an AGW advocate or skeptic, I check. The facts are the facts.

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      • “It simply is not fair to criticise Hansen or question his integrity without finishing reading his book.” It is fair to check his factual statements though. I was only even watching that video to see more about what he has to say. And is “alarmist” really the wrong word for Hansen and you? (Not that I used it, you did). If I saw a mass extinction event coming by the end of the century, I would be raising all kinds of alarms as well.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Please do not try and lecture me on the subject of palaeoclimatolgy, John. Yes there have been many warmings without extinctions. However, what invariably causes the latter is the speed of the former. Despite the fact that you seem desperate to smear him, Hansen is not wrong about this. And you have still not produced any evidence to suggest that, amongst his peers, he is seen as anything other than a courageous advocate of the need for humanity to take radical action to avert disaster. Whenever I catch you out, you just ignore me. Why is this? You accuse Hansen of being an “extreme ideologue” even though he is a registered Independent voter. Whereas you consider Spencer to be objective even though he is a registered Republican voter. You repeatedly state that you would be alarmed if an environmental catastrophe was looming and yet you seem to be on a personal crusade to prove that all those who say it is coming are misguided.

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      • Rick, discussing one simple fact as it relates to AGW shouldn’t cause all of this emotional trauma. Mis-statements in the world of AGW are made every day. We need to cut through them and get to the truth. If we can’t do that, we can’t have a discussion about anything. No one is lecturing you about anything. Hansen made a specific statement which I proved false to you by citing all the other several degree C warmings that have occurred without a mass extinction event. Do I need peer reviewed papers to do that? You did not take exception. You merely attempted to add qualification to Hansen’s statement which he did not choose to do. So at a minimum it is reckless for Hansen to make such statements without appropriate qualifications. At a minimum.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        I think this particular debate is over because, at a minimum, you are over-interpreting what Hansen said: Due to what we know about palaeoclimatology, there is a very great deal of evidence to suggest that, starting from where we are now, an additional gain in temperature of 2-4 degrees Celsius will be sufficient to trigger runaway greenhouse effect. Yes, that’s right, this is genuinely alarming; and denouncing Hansen as an extremist and/or mendacious does not make it any less likely that he is right. Your insistence that we need to quadruple-check all the facts in the hope that we can uncover some misdemeanour or mistake is the greatest folly in human history (of which there have been many). Furthermore, we need to learn from our own history and we need to be quick about doing so.

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  3. jpgreenword says:

    If I may, I’d like to throw in a few arguments into this John and Rick debate. First of all the idea of “cheap energy” does not exist. It is an illusion for two very good reasons. First of all fossil fuels subsidies added up to around $400 billion dollars for the year 2010. That is six times more than what renewable energy got. Fossil fuel subsidies are set to reach $600 billion a year by 2020. (Why in the name #$@!$ do we subsidize one of the oldest, and most profitable industries on the planet?) Second, even if you were to ignore the subsidies, the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels causes untold hundreds of billions of dollars in environmental and health damages around the world every year. Think of oil spills, air pollution-related illnesses, the acidification of oceans (fisheries), acid rain (forestry and agriculture). Fossil fuels “look” cheap because those extarnilities and subsidies are paid through taxes, rather than being reflected in the cost of gasoline of heating oil. Then there is the financial impact of climate change. But we can set that aside for now. And about China. Its incredible industrial growth has come at the expense of the health of its citizen. In the rush to grow as quickly as it can, China has allowed its industries to pollute throughout the country. That is why we are seeing cancer rates in China unlike anywhere else in the world. And the ones that are most affected are the poor that have no alternatives but to drink the toxic water and grow their food in the polluted soil. Is it really worth it for the average Chinese citizen? As for the “technologies that will replace fossil fuels”, they already exist and are already in use. Wind, solar, tidal, geothermal are all in use now. No, none of them can replace oil alone. But implemented intelligently, they can work together meet and exceed our demands. And it is already happening in countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. And besides, why would you want a single source of energy? To create another incredible powerful industry that can manipulate our policies for it’s best interest? Finally, economists have worked on the cost of addressing climate change: 1-2% of international GDP per year, for 10 years. The cost of dealing with the impacts of unmitigated climate change: 20% of international GDP every year. For ever. Those are economist’s numbers using the best climate models we have. Even if they are off by a few percentage points, it isn’t worth the risk.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks JP. I studied India and China for one of the modules of my MA. China has come perilously close to achieving what Herman Daly called “uneconomic growth” but at least it acknowledges the reality of the problems it is creating for itself. By comparison, India is still in a state of blind denial. In fact, India is behaving as if it were the first country to go through an Industrial Revolution. India’s book on World History does not exist. 😦 Forget George Santayana, Ghandi would not be impressed.

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