Forget CO2, US Debt "Causes" Warming

Guest Posting by Ira Glickstein

Total US Debt (public and private) as a percentage of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) correlates with NASA GISS US Annual Mean Temperature Anomaly better than CO2 levels! So, if we want to reduce warming, cut the debt!

The base chart tracks Total Public and Private US Debt as a percentage of GDP (black line) from 1870 through 2009. Notice how it slowly increases from 1880 to 1930 and then peaks sharply in the early 1930’s, declines through the 1950’s and then rises steadily through 2009.

NASA GISS data for the US Annual 5 year Mean Temperature Anomaly from 1880 to the present is superimposed (red line), and fits remarkably well. It is a bit noisier, but it too increases from 1880 to 1930 and then peaks sharply in the early 1930’s. It then declines through 1970, and then rises steadily through 2010.

Notice how CO2 levels (dotted blue line), estimated from 1880 through 1957 and based on Mauna Loa from 1958 through 2010, fail to indicate any peaking in the 1930’s.

It is amazing how the Warmists point to human-caused CO2 as the primary cause of Global Warming when Total US Debt as a Percentage of GDP matches so much better! Perhaps cutting the GISS budget will do more for the Warmist cause than wrecking our economy by cutting energy use and sequestering CO2? Let us save the environment by increasing US productivity and reducing deficits!


1) I really do not think that US Debt is related to warming temperature at all, but it seems to be more related than CO2. (A geometric analogy: An ellipse has no corners at all, but it has more corners than a circle :^)

2) Correlation does not prove causation, and CO2 does not even correlate all that well as the cause of warming. Therefore, human activities, while most likely responsible for some small part of recent warming (see this) are overwhelmed by natural cycles and processes, responsible for most of the actual warming since 1880. Indeed, the greatest human cause of the supposed warming has been Data Bias, due to “adjustments” and re-analysis by NASA GISS.


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Robert of Ottawa

An ellipse has two corners 🙂


Another fine example of a spurious correlation, which has been extensively analysed in the econometrics literature following on from Yule’s work in the 1920s. Yule found a nice correlation between the proportion of marriages performed in the Church of England and mortality rates in the UK. See Yule’s paper at
For a recent discussion see for example Johansen at

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Here in the UK, we are a little worried about our debt – though we have just started to make huge cut-backs so we at least tackle our budget deficit. But I was astounded to see the US debt and the deficit! I thought the figures were wrong, so went onto another website. Absolutely amazing, how do you all sleep at night?


On your global warming is a pussycat thread you claim that there is only 0.5 C of global warming, and 0.3 C is from data adjustment in GISS.
Yet the warming in UAH and RSS is ~0.5 C since ’79.
Since I doubt even most WUWT commenters think that Roy Spencer is adjusting the satellite data because of airports in space, does that mean that there was hardly any warming or cooling before 1980?
Also, I like your trick of using US temperature records and ignoring how theory talks about total forcing rather than just one. Solar activity hardly correlates at all with warming over the past 40 years (when we have satellite data), yet I doubt you’d say that because of this it should be ignored, right?

Scarlet Pumpernickel

Why did CO2 spike in the great depression?
1930s was a warm period, warm means CO2 goes up. CO2 is a sign of increased life on the planet, it is not a threat.

Jason Joice

And here all this time I was convinced that the warming was “caused” by the number of shoes in my wife’s closet. As the number of shoes has gone up, so has the temp. It’s gotta be the shoes!!!


The U.S. reneged on its national debt in in 1933 ( which clearly caused an abrupt decline in global temperatures. Clearly it is time for the U.S. to renege on its national debt again. This will be at least as effective at reducing global warming as a carbon tax. (not sarc).

Time for a small celebration. Daily SSN hit 100 for the first time for some years

Brian H

Since CO2 is massively beneficial, does that mean the National Debt should be maximized?


Don’t forget to mention the global warming vs pirates correlation, so accurately explored by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster –

Anthony Scalzi

So a circle only has one corner?;)


The complete and total economic collapse of the USA and the world is a mathematical certainty. Buy Silver, Guns, and Gold. There’s not much time left. I know this sounds alarmist, but history shows this is what happens to a fiat currency once the debt goes parabolic 100% of the time.

Stephen Wilde

What this really means is that the Mauna Loa records do not accurately reflect our varying CO2 emissions.
In reality our emissions go up and down in line with our economies and debt rises and falls along with the economic cycle.
The truth is therefore that our CO2 emissions and our economies do track temperatures far more closely than the Mauna Loa record reveals.
(Sarcasm – I think !)

I like the conclusion — if we want to reduce warming, cut the (US) debt! hahaha. cheers!

Alan the Brit

WAGTD!!! It’s WTWT!!! Where’s the money? sarc off!

Gillian Lord

Fifty years ago when I was doing statistics our lecturer claimed that most things could be correlated with the growth in the sales of white sliced bread.


How much better?
What is the correlation coefficient (r2) between T and CO2 and between T and US Debt?

tom roche

no more rubbish about democrats and debt, please

Les Francis

Will the U.S. economy hit it’s tipping point?
Will the Arctic sea ice reach it’s tipping point?
I’d wager the former will be a certainty.

Another Ian

Charlie says:
February 16, 2011 at 1:04 am
Don’t I recall that US postal charges and leprechauns also have a hand in this?

Stephen Brown

@The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley,
Sorry, but we in the UK are NOT having our Government’s deficit reduced by ‘huge cut-backs’. The timid trimming of expenditure has served only to reduce the rate of increase of our debt, and that by an insubstantial amount. Daniel Hannan explains here:-


Increased income means increased borrowing power. At a population level, everyone borrows almost to their limit. Increased (fossil fuel) energy consumption increases productivity and hence income, and hence borrowing. The connection is fairly direct.

mikep says: “Yule found a nice correlation between the proportion of marriages performed in the Church of England and mortality rates in the UK.”
Yule must have been the straight man for Henny Youngman.

I still prefer to blame Apple and the drones that “must” buy the latest and greatest magical iCandy that is offered to them for the recent warming. If crack dealers or government politicians ever learn to market like Apple then we will be doomed.
Government spending is a fun correlation though.

Charles Nelson

I like that…man made global warming is real after all because it was Men (mostly) who took the data and altered it upwards….very good.


And hey…. It correlates to recent warming much better than any other excuse skeptics have come up with… I’d stick with it…… 🙂

David, UK

Be careful or you’ll be giving the alarmists ideas of claiming AGW to be a cause of debt. After all, it causes everything else from anger to xenophobia.

Bob Barker

Managing the global climate by controlling CO2 and managing the US debt by controlling Congressional spending seem to have about equal chances of success.
Slim to none.
I would not bet on slim.

richard verney

“So, if we want to reduce warming, cut the debt!”
Brilliant idea. Lets start with all the climate agencies. That would save $billions. Then if we start cutting all the spuirious green schemes, that will save $trillions. Guess what, hey presto, we reduce all the debt and the warming. Wonderful.
If only.
Of course, it is cheap to dream.


I painted myself into an ellipse the other day. I did get hotter.

richard verney

Something for you to ponder on.
Whilst I have a dislike of graphs with too many plots, it would be interesting if you could add to your graph a plot of manmade CO2 emissions (or fossil fueel usage/consumption) since this would show that Mauna Loa does not even properly follow manmade emissions/consumption.
One of the things that interests me is this debate is the size of the CO2 sinks in 2010 and say 1980 and 1970. Were the CO2 sinks smaller in say 1980, 1970, and if so why? Has the rate of absorption changed over the years and if so why?
This is material, since if the CO2 sink in 1970 was broadly the same size as the sink in 2010, why did it not absorb all 1970 manmade CO2 emissions since potentially, it would have had capacity to do so?
We have just been through a world wide recession, and it would be interesting to compare manmade fossil fuel consumption/CO2 emissions for the years 2007,2008,2009 and 2010. I suspect that these would show a drop in consumption/emissions in 2009 and 2010 compared to say 2008. If that is so, can we see this drop in Mauna Loa measuremenst? If not, why not?
These are important issues to answer if we are to evaluate our influence on CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Vince Causey

Stephen Brown,
You are right about the illusionary nature of the cuts. What is more strange is that the illusion has taken on a reality even though it had been stated over and over that the spending plan for 2015 will be higher than it was in 2007, 8 or 9. The stark and shocking truth is that it would be politically impossible to make the cuts that many opponents are imagining.
The Government know this and have cleverly positioned themselves just enough to the fiscal right of the opposition to be able to claim when the debt explodes in 2015 (more likely sooner) that “Well, you people were complaining that we were cutting too much so you can’t blame us.” But if by some miracle we manage to grow ourselves out of the debt crisis, they can simply take the credit for good economic management.
The only losers from this Faustian bargain will be the British people.

Tom C

This is horrible news. If temperature correlates to US debt it’ll be 100°F during the winter by 2037, when social security flatlines.

Kung Fu Panda,
China’s GDP growth made news this week because, on the official figures, China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in 2010. But actually, on a different way of calculating the data, this was very old news. Using purchasing power parity, China not only overtook Japan way back in 2001, but it is also quite close to overtaking the US as the biggest economy in the world – if, indeed, it has not done so already.

John Brookes

US debt and CO2 correlated? Might I suggest that both the USA and the climate are in a state of decline. The difference being that while CO2 is driving the climate, US debt is just a sympton of its decline……

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Stephen Brown, I’m indebted to you, thanks for the correction, and the eye-opening.


Obviously what is happening is that warming causes economic growth and thus gives rise to debt. Cooling leads to lowering of animal spirits and retrenchment.
You are drawing completely the wrong conclusion. To lower debt, cool the planet! It is clearly the only practical and effective way of doing it.


Only one difference:
The temperature record has flattened out in the last decade, while the USA has gone on another spending spree.
I love the logic of Western economics. We printed and borrowed too much money, causing a financial crash. So to cure this problem we shall … ahhh … print and borrow a whole load more money.
Anything wrong with this plan?


>>Scarlet Pumpernickel says: February 16, 2011 at 12:41 am
>>Why did CO2 spike in the great depression?
>>1930s was a warm period, warm means CO2 goes up. CO2 is a sign
>>of increased life on the planet, it is not a threat.
You are following the wring lines. The lines that match are US debt and temperature (it is the temperature that spiked)
The CO2 line is the blue dotted, which does not match the temp graph at all. That is the whole point of the thread.

Frank K.

Matter says:
February 16, 2011 at 12:34 am
“On your global warming is a pussycat thread you claim that there is only 0.5 C of global warming, and 0.3 C is from data adjustment in GISS.”
“Yet the warming in UAH and RSS is ~0.5 C since ’79.”
Re: UAH temperature anomaly. I assume you mean this plot.
I appears to me that the current “global temperature anomaly” is about the same as when I graduated high school (and the band “A Flock of Seagulls” had a major US hit…). Of course it will go up and down again – like it always has and always will. Right now, we’re at zero. Not so “anomalous”…

Pamela Gray

The funny thing about this:
If we had cut the alarmism budget such that we never saw that stupid graph, we would not have noticed any temperature change outside of what we all understood to be natural variation. Which leads me to this not so funny conclusion:
Guvmnt exists to create in us need for their services.


“I really do not think that US Debt is related to warming temperature at all, but it seems to be more related than CO2.”
CO2 is a greenhouse gas. That is a scientific fact that cannot be dismissed, and there is ample scientific research to support that. There are other factors which contribute to temperature changes, but we know debt is not one of them. The whole point of this post is completely lost on me.

richard verney

You have made your point about spurious correlations. Whilst this is fun (although it is not altogether surprising that there may be some correlation between say the consumption of chocolate bars and temperatures), on a scientific blog such as this, a more interesting discussion would be the correlation between CO2 and US temps. This would encompass a number of issues in particular: (i) to what extent do the Mauna Loa figures plot manmade consumption of fossil fuels/manmade emissions of CO2? (ii) If CO2 is an evenly dispersed gas and if it has greenhouse properties, why does the US temp record not correlate with the increase in CO2 levels? (iii) Given that the US is a very substantial land mass, do the climate models that predict global warming show that the US will warm only in line with the US temperature records rather than in line with the global records? (iv) If they do not show this response for such a significant land area, is this an example of a significant flaw in the models? (v) Ditto Central England (albeit that Central England is not a large land mass). (vi) How does the greenhouse theory fit in with known temperature records that diverge from the ‘robust’ science that more CO2 leads to higher temperatures?
I don’t want to highjack your post, but I think that the point made by Stephen Wild at 01:20 am which crossed with a similar point made by me at 04:02 am is a more interesting and indeed more pertinent issue and could perhaps form the basis of a future post.
Just in case you are not clear as to my reasoning behind the point I make at 04:02 am, I briefly expand.
1. Between 1960 through to 2000, Mauna Loa shows an almost linear increase. I haven’t checked the data but recall that the increase is about a little less than 2ppm per year.
2. There would only be an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels in any given year if the CO2 sink in that year was not able to absorb all naturally out gassed CO2 plus all manmade emitted CO2 in the year in question.
3. The shortfall in the absorption capacity of the sink in the relevant year would be the amount of increase in CO2 measured by Mauna Loa that year.
4. Thus in 2009, the size of the sink is the total quantity of naturally out gassed CO2 (that year) PLUS all manmade CO2 emissions LESS whatever quantity of CO2 would result in an increase of 2ppm in atmospheric levels.
5. Having calculated the potential size of the natural sink, look back at say 1960. What was the quantity of naturally out gassed CO2 that year? What was the quantity of manmade emissions that year? The total of these two figures is almost certainly going to be less than the size of the sink when calculated in accordance with 4 above. That being so, why wasn’t all the 1960 manmade CO2 emissions absorbed? What is it about the 1960 sink which did not result in the absorption of a total quantity of CO2 similar to that which was absorbed by the 2009 sink?
Your views on this would be much appreciated.


@The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley,
Speaking for some of us in the U.S., we don’t sleep at night. One can only hope that the current administration wakes up, and soon, to the enormity of the numbers and makes MAJOR cutbacks across the board.

Vince Causey

John Brookes,
“Might I suggest that both the USA and the climate are in a state of decline.”
The idea that a slight warming out of icy conditions, together with longer growing seasons, higher photosynthetic rates, higher airborne water and precipitation, is in any sense a ‘decline’ is something that could only come out of the mind of an ecochondriac.

Well, yeah, duh.
Deficit spending causes debt, and also an overheated economy. All that heat from the economy is transferred to the atmosphere, and warms the planet.
Simple physics, man.


Charlie says:
February 16, 2011 at 1:04 am

Don’t forget to mention the global warming vs pirates correlation, so accurately explored by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster –

The temperature is inversely proportional to the number of pirates at sea, as demonstrate by the relative fall in temperatures since 2001, when the Somali pirates began to expand their operations.
What will really blow your mind is that these two patterns are linked. The first naval campaign the United States ever took part in after the war of independence was a successful attempt to subdue the Barbary pirates, during which the US raised its first bit of national debt. Temperatures began to rise at the same time according to the CET record. IT ALL MAKES SENSE!


Or perhaps the extreme rise in global temperatures which we are all suffering greatly from (hmmm, must open that window, if only it was not frozen!) caused the debt?
Note also that debt is money. Without debt, there would literally be no money. All money (well, almost all) is created as a debt.


John Brookes says:
February 16, 2011 at 4:58 am
US debt and CO2 correlated? Might I suggest that both the USA and the climate are in a state of decline. The difference being that while CO2 is driving the climate, US debt is just a sympton of its decline……
It must be difficult to be wrong and so depressing about two things in one short paragraph, but you did it.
Please provide some proof of both your assertions. CO2 driving the climate pahleesse.

Jim G

At least there is some logic to this correlation. As economic activity goes up so does our national debt. This assumes that government expenditures cause greater economic activity, a theory widely accepted by our present US administration and their economists. It is a fact that we have, and continue, to raise the debt ceiling in order to spend all this nonexistent money. So, given that increased economic activity requires more carbon based energy, it makes sense that CO2 is still the culprit!!
Or maybe it’s just the heat generated by all those new buildings, vehicles, industrial facilities, industrial output, etc. that are located near out temperature sensors are the reason why the good correlation with temperature.
Has anyone checked hemlines or the batting average of the NY Yankees as these were at one time well correlated with the ups and downs of the stock market, why not global temperature as well.
Remember the old warning, beware of implied cause and effect. Never saw an area of “science” that ignored this warning more.