But before you pack up the kids and move to higher ground to avoid rising sea levels, consider this: China’s fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles are already around 25 percent tougher than those in the United States. The country generated 667 terawatt-hours of electricity from hydro, wind, and nuclear electricity in 2009, a 50 percent increase on four years earlier (and 10 percent more than Brazil’s or India’s current annual electricity consumption). China already accounts for one-quarter of the world’s installed capacity of wind, small-scale hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal, and marine power facilities. And the overall amount of energy used to produce a dollar of GDP in China has dropped 5 percent every year since 1980, according to Qi Ye at the Climate Policy Initiative in Beijing.
China’s attempt at a green leap forward isn’t entirely new news — but this isn’t just a Chinese story. Developing countries as a whole accounted for two-thirds of the growth in renewable and nuclear power generating capacity worldwide between 2002 and 2008, according to my colleague David Wheeler at the Center for Global Development. The developing world is now home to more than half of the world’s renewable energy generating capacity, and it is likely to extend that lead.
Going forward, Wheeler reports that India is planning to generate 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from less than 2 percent today. Ten thousand megawatts of that — a little under 10 percent — would come from new solar energy installations (to put that in perspective, that’s more than total global solar photovoltaic capacity in 2007). At the U.N. global warming conference in Cancún, Mexico, last year, developing countries pledged to restrict their carbon emissions considerably more than did rich country delegations. In particular, China’s promised reductions from what would happen under “business as usual” were a lot larger than promises made by the United States. Indeed, in the U.S. case, some calculations suggest the pledge may amount to the commitment to do nothing, which sounds all too plausible
Its actually not a surprise that developing nations are taking a lead on the UK and USA.
First, they have more to lose from global warming.
Second, they don’t suffer from a small but well-financed and vociferous group of idiot right-wing libertarians who say investment in green technology is a bad idea.
Third, they see alternative energy and other green technology as the future, and want to get ahead while the USA and UK twiddle their thumbs with political paralysis.
Environmental campaigners often struggle to convince the wider public about the need to combat climate change. Whilst most people agree with the principle of protecting the environment in the abstract, they are suspicious of many of the suggestions that environmentalists put forward to tackle the problem of climate change. This is partly due to the hypocrisy of large numbers of political leaders and celebrities, who fly on private planes and have large houses while telling the rest of the world to cut back on energy use.
It is also due however to the nature of the proposals, which tend to consist of higher taxes, more regulation and greater government spending. Since climate change is a long term problem (albeit with short term effects), it is difficult to convey the need for instant action, so the focus shifts to the negative aspects of the plan (higher taxes), as well as the continued growth in emissions in places like China.
This is why any green proposal should always be tax neutral, so that any increase in taxes on one thing (such as fossil fuels), should be balanced by a tax cut elsewhere. This has the benefit of demonstrating to the public that climate change is not just an excuse to raise taxes. It is heartening therefore to see the results of such a system, introduced in a Canadian province in 2008. British Columbia introduced a carbon tax in this year, and all the major parties as well as businesses were against it:
When arguing for the carbon tax, Mr Campbell faced the same political obstacles that have stymied such plans elsewhere. Only environmentalists were enthusiastic. Businesses feared it would add to costs and slow the economy. The leftish New Democratic Party (NDP) worried it would hurt the poor. But these fears have proved groundless. “The carbon tax has been good for the environment, good for taxpayers and it hasn’t hurt the economy,” says Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa.
It helped that the law introducing the levy required its proceeds to be recycled back to individuals and companies as cuts in income taxes. The new tax was initially set at C$10 ($10) per tonne of carbon-dioxide emissions, rising by increments of C$5 per year to C$30 in 2012. It seems to be working as planned. Since 2008 fuel consumption per head in the province has dropped by 4.5%, more than elsewhere in Canada. British Columbians use less fuel than any other Canadians. And British Columbians pay lower income taxes too.
Would such a system here solve all environmental problems in a stroke? No, but it is better than the situation at the moment.
Nuclear power is inherently unsafe and the list of possible illnesses stemming from exposure to the accompanying radiation is horrifying: genetic mutations, birth defects, cancer, leukemia and disorders of the reproductive, immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
While we have all heard of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry would have us believe these are but isolated events in an otherwise unblemished history. Not so. Over 800 other significant events have been officially reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency — Mayak, Tokaimura, Bohunice, Forsmark to name just a few.
He points out that nuclear technology will always be vulnerable to human error, natural disaster, design failure or terrorist attack – and in each case the consequences could be vastly more dire than alternatives.
But is it necessary if we are to wean ourselves off Middle Eastern oil?
Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council have put together a study called “Energy [R]evolution,” which clearly shows that a clean energy pathway is cheaper, healthier and delivers faster results for the climate than any other option. This plan calls for the phase-out of existing reactors around the world and a moratorium on construction of new commercial nuclear reactors.
Furthermore, an energy scenario recently produced by the conservative International Energy Agency highlights the fact that nuclear power is not necessary for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It shows that even if existing nuclear power capacity could be quadrupled by 2050, the proportion of energy that it provided would still be below 10 percent globally. This would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by less than 4 percent. The same amount of money, invested in clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar could have a much greater impact on lowering global warming.
And yet the government keeps subsidising the nuclear industry.
This piece of news in the New York Times pretty much confirms what developing countries have been saying for years:
In almost every instance, the people most at risk from climate change live in countries that have contributed the least to the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases linked to the recent warming of the planet.
Those most vulnerable countries also tend to be the poorest. And the countries that face the least harm — and that are best equipped to deal with the harm they do face — tend to be the richest.
And despite that, it is constantly claimed by many right-wingers that action against global warming is only designed to hurt developing countries from getting richer. Rubbish.
Not only does that assume development can only come via burning vast amounts of fossil fuels rather than sustainable growth, but that they won’t be badly affected by global warming.
The United States, where agriculture represents just 4 percent of the economy, can endure a climatic setback far more easily than a country like Malawi, where 90 percent of the population lives in rural areas and about 40 percent of the economy is driven by rain-fed agriculture.
Those massive changes in temperatures and the growing instability of weather will hurt poorer people in developing countries more than it will here. The UK can afford to spend billions ‘climate proofing‘ – countries like India and Malawi can’t. That is why they need action to tackle global warming.
The debate surrounding Earth’s resources and population growth can often be quite fraught. Some people argue that an ever-growing world population will strain world resources even more, worsening climate change in the process. Others criticise this vision as an attack on the poor (who use less resources per head than the rich) and women who have plenty of children, which suggests some sort of mass planning where permission to breed is required from the state.
In theory, the calculation is a simple one. If technological advances and energy conservation can keep pace with population growth, then the situation is unlikely to get any worse. But whether this will work in practice is impossible to say. That is why it is useful to approach the issue from other angles, just as Kate Smurthwaite has done. Ms. Smurthwaite believes that reducing population growth is a good thing, but doesn’t see the need for state planning and control:
There are millions of women around the world and right here at home who desperately want to have less or no children, to have children later in life and to control their own fertility. Furthermore some of us crazy feminist types actually think it is their right to do so and to be given access to the tools and education to enable them to make those choices in their own lives. We call them reproductive rights.
Free access to and information about contraception – including condoms which also prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs – and abortion are basic rights that every woman should have. All we have to do is provide them.
More education and rights for women is a good thing in itself, and if it helps combat climate change then even better.
That’s the message anyway from the new taxpayer-funded environmental campaign, backed by staunch environmentalists such as Peter Crouch (who takes the train or swims to European matches). The video sees two children murdered for refusing to back the 10:10 environmental campaign:
The video, (despite attempts to pass it off as humour) sums up all that is wrong with some elements of the environmental movement; it is smug, intolerant and hypocritical (that’s not to say though that there are not some genuinely committed and principled environmentalists out there).
I think that we need to tackle climate change. Whilst new technologies and improvements in renewable energy efficiency will undoubtedly help, at the moment the best thing we can do is to reduce energy issue by making carbon-emitting energy more expensive. This can be done through the tax system (as carbon emission are externalities). But this alone is not right, as people will just see it (understandably) as a way to raise extra revenue. This is why green taxes rises need to be balanced with tax cuts in other areas, particularly income tax and National Insurance.
Thus businesses and individuals who don’t emit that much carbon will see their tax bills fall, whilst heavy emitters will see their tax bills rise, which should encourage them to cut their carbon emissions , whether through cutting back for investing in more energy efficient products. Over time then, it should also reduce the tax take of the government, as long as the green taxes are significant enough to impact on behaviour. Chris Huhne has advocated such a policy recently:
The Liberal Democrat minister backed a call by his party’s activists which would see 10 per cent of all Government revenue come from green taxes within five years. Revenue from green taxes is currently forecast to fall from 6.9 per cent of the total to 6.5 per cent over the next five years. Raising the proportion to 10 per cent would require an extra £22billion – an unprecedented shift in the burden of taxation.
The LibDems claimed that raising more in green taxes would allow them to reduce other taxes. But critics last night dismissed it as a cynical move to squeeze more tax out of motorists.
Yes, the stimulus has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, bailed out every state, hustled record amounts of unemployment benefits and other aid to struggling families and funded more than 100,000 projects to upgrade roads, subways, schools, airports, military bases and much more.
But in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s effusive Recovery Act point man, “Now the fun stuff starts!” The “fun stuff,” about one-sixth of the total cost, is an all-out effort to exploit the crisis to make green energy, green building and green transportation real; launch green manufacturing industries; computerize a pen-and-paper health system; promote data-driven school reforms; and ramp up the research of the future. “This is a chance to do something big, man!”
For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.
All this is very encouraging and I hope it works and reaches somewhere. But there’s also a technological and economic incentive here – the US is trying to stay level with China, which is pouring billions into the same technology. The government there sees developing green tech and renewable energy as the technology of the future – allowing China to leapfrog the west in vital technology.
Obama knows this, and he wants to make sure the US doesn’t get left behind. This government? It’s cutting £1bn from science and research technology funding. And our investment into renewable energy is pitiful. You can never blame the Tories for long-term thinking.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.
In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.
Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
” The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry. Gus diZerega, the former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”
These are also the guys who founded the US libertarian think-tank Cato Institute. When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him.
The article also goes on to say that though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. “The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.”
In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail.
It is perhaps the biggest myth that “libertarians” buy into – that the people they look up to are free-wheeling intellectuals who have no ties to the corporatist world that libertarians actually claim to hate. The Cato institute, the climate change denial industry – everything is funded by these mad-men. They don’t care for rationality, evidence or the planet – only their own bottom line.
The other point I wanted to make was… once you read the article you understand the kind of entrenched money and vested interests he is up against. Shifting the system is neither easy nor quick.
Aid workers now say that almost 14 million people have been affected since the unusually heavy rainfall began 11 days ago in Pakistan, with at least 6 million people urgently in need of aid.
Reuters also report that the United Nations says in terms of the number of people affected and who will need short- or long-term help, the floods are worse than the 2004 tsunami, which killed 236,000 people around the Indian Ocean.
Much worse is expected to come.
Aid workers warn that the number affected could increase with water surging south into Sindh province. There are reports that 2,500 villages have already been flooded in the region.
It’s also worth repeating that this is exactly what happens when you have global warming: we will see more extreme weather conditions across the world. Reuters again:
For the current floods, rainfall of about 400 millimetres (16 inches) in mountainous areas in the far north of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Afghanistan between July 28 and 29 triggered a torrent of water down the Indus and Kabul Rivers.
“That was a record,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department. “The only explanation can be the link to climate change. Because that area very rarely receives monsoon rains,” he told Reuters, pointing to the risk of the monsoon belt shifting as well as changes in the intensity of the monsoon.
First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake. The U.S. Global Change Research Program, composed of 13 federal agencies, reported in 2009 that climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters.
Among these physical changes are increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.
Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.
That is over 10x the Tea Party rallies and yet it’s the latter that get all the attention. Why? Because people and the media are afraid of the Tea Party people. Those people are angry. Environmentalists on the other hand smile at each other and hug. Which is nice, for about five minutes, but what happened to the effigies people? What happened to the openly-visible firearms?
I’m only half joking. The unwillingness of many ‘environmentalists’ to get angry and take some direct action is why the media attention and public pressure is near zero. This is why I have more respect for groups like Climate Rush, Climate Chaos and Plane Stupid.
Of course, global warming is all a myth! All these fake islands submerging under water over time. Must be a conspiracy peddled by those ‘eco-fascists’!
A low-lying island in a sprawling mangrove delta which has been disputed by India and Bangladesh for almost 30 years will be squabbled over no more. It has disappeared beneath the waves.
In what experts say is an alarming indication of the danger posed by rising sea levels brought about by global warming, New Moore Island has become totally submerged. “It is definitely because of global warming,” said Professor Sugata Hazra of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. “The sea level has been rising at twice the previous rate in the years between 2002 and 2009. The sea level is rising in accordance with rising temperatures.”
Mmm… wonder what climate-change troofers have to say about this.
Wrote an article last night on the BBC’s increasing climate change denialism. Published today:
After watching last night’s Newsnight, I can only come to one conclusion: the BBC has become this country’s most pernicious climate-change-denying media outlet in the UK.
There is simple reasoning behind this grand statement. While the assorted commentators who regularly spout ill-informed propaganda across the media are usually taken with a pinch of salt, the BBC is broadly trusted as an impartial and trustworthy reporter of news. It sets the agenda. Which makes the rubbish it has been producing lately on climate change even more dangerous.
Let me start by saying I believe that man-made activity is the prime driver behind global warming. I don’t have time for tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy nuts who think it is one big plot by scientists across the world. I do believe CC deniers are no different to 9/11 Truthers. But that point is moot while we focus on the country’s biggest culprit.
1) WTF? Don’t you know global warming is bullshit?
2) WTF?! BBC showing right-wing bias? You’re smoking crack
3) Why do you deranged, lunatic, tax-raising, commie loving, hippy-loving, oil company-funded bastards use such nasty, polarising language against us? Why??? You should be strung up!
4) Me and my tinfoil-hat wearing commenter mates think your credibility is shot to pieces. No one will ever employ you again!!
I was baiting them all evening but unfortunately the CIF crew closed the thread. Perhaps we can continue here?
There is nothing more infuritating than the BBC’s earnest and often misplaced quest for “balance” on settled issues like climate change, which often has the effect of tilting its coverage to the right.
Ozone blowing over from Asia is raising background levels of a major ingredient of smog in the skies over western US states, according to a new study appearing in today’s edition of the journal Nature.
The amounts are small and, so far, only found in a region of the atmosphere known as the free troposphere, at an altitude of two to five miles, but the development could complicate US efforts to control air pollution.
Though the levels are small, they have been steadily rising since 1995, and probably longer, said lead author Owen R Cooper, a research scientist at the University of Colorado attached to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
“The important aspect of this study for North America is that we have a strong indication that baseline ozone is increasing,” said Cooper. “We still don’t know how much is coming down to the surface. If the surface ozone is increasing along with the free tropospheric ozone, that could make it more difficult for the US to meet its ozone air quality standard.”
These achievements will have real world impact. By 2011, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, P.L. 111-5, will double the generation of renewable electricity from the wind, sun, and earth. ARRA will also lead to energy efficiency retrofits in 1 million homes by 2012. And President Obama’s new fuel economy standards would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Additional benefits will accrue as the president and Congress finish some 2009 clean-energy initiatives and additional efforts are launched in 2010.
I watched Avatar 3D on 1st January and loved it. Sure, the storyline was fairly predictable but that’s not what I wanted to watch it for. Also, forget the racial angle too, which several people have pointed out to me (see this tweet by Naadir). Sure you can always play the race card when you have different species / races involved but that wasn’t my main focus.
My main focus was the strong pro-environmental message, for I have always been much more of an environmentalist than someone being obsessed by race (no doubt this will come as a surprise to many readers, but this blog was started to talk about identity, not whatever passes through my head). That aside, what I also loved about it was the strong anti-war message.
Avatar could be crudely based on the European invasion (and massacre) of native Americans. The natives are pagans who worship the world around them while the new arrivals simply want resources. I’m reading Guns, Germs & Steel at the moment so that also came to mind (civilisations wiping each out over centuries for whatever reason). The natives can’t survive for long – especially if they’ve only got bows and arrows and flying dragons. They need some serious AK47s. That is how civilisation has developed.
But Avatar also had parallels with Iraq. The invasion was termed ‘shock and awe’, the humans were a mercenary force (Blackwater) and the resource could be equated with Iraqi oil. Naturally, and predictably, US Conservatives are slating the film, to no effect. The people have spoken with their wallets.
Avatar has a subtle message, which is why I like it even more. You can’t push pro-environment and anti-war crap down people’s throats in the form of Greenpeace or StWC leaflets. You make a beautiful film that people internalise those sentiments without even realising it.
But it also struck me that people’s emotions are generally quite left-wing. The biggest films like these are invariably about protecting stuff. I doubt anyone could make a successful film where killing polar bears and kittens, and frying the planet is seen as good. Hollywood isn’t left-wing because it wants to be, it is also that way because most people (and their hearts) are and that is where the money is.
Update:Sarah says she liked the fact I didn’t mention Jack Sully’s disability once in the review. But actually, I think that could also have been an issue. In real life Jack Sully can’t run like his Avatar.
As soon as he gets into the new world he’s running like mad because he can exercise those legs again. So in fact, while I don’t mention it – I can imagine a lot of writers out there annoyed at the portrayal that Jack Sully felt incomplete without his legs and preferred his dream-world for that reason.
I got a bit annoyed with the ‘it’s all China’s fault‘ rhetoric that came out of the Copenhagen failure for various reasons. It turns out I wasn’t alone, and blogger Madam Miaow posted a message on CIF in response to such an article but had it curiously censored. Anyway, she says:
The US and the rich nations use up almost all the carbon allowance in the atmosphere over the past 160 years, the US dithers over ten years of Bush, they refuse to ratify Kyoto, the Danish summit chair has to resign when she’s caught fast-tracking the rich nations’ deal, the West fail in their Kyoto pledges, Canada rips up its Kyoto deal and proceeds with exploiting its huge reserves of dirty oil, the US will only reduce emissions by 4% against the 1990 base year and not the 17% you describe as “serious cuts”, while China makes real strides in green technology, and so on.
But it is all China’s fault.
What other country has an entire city using solar powered appliances? Who else has planted such huge tracts of forest while loggers tear down the rest? China aims for 15% of its energy from renewables, it has revolutionised wind-turbines, makes a key component of electric car batteries, and so on. We in the UK can’t even meet our Kyoto promise.
This is spot on and makes the two points I wanted to. Firstly, the US and European stance has been completely hypocritical and China became a whipping boy for their failure.
Secondly, and more importantly, China knows there is serious money to be made from Green technology, renewable energy and ways to reduce pollution. That way lies the real technical innovation of the future. In fact all the big powerhouses from Asia are pouring money into R&D in this area. Meanwhile we’re held back by right-whingers who are still peddling conspiracy theory about global warming from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Amazing. When we fall way back in technical innovation in 20 years time then these people will realise their folly.
Yesterday Tory blogger Iain Dale posted a blog-post titled ‘Oxford is Cool’. Not long after, Unity posted an article on LibCon pointing out what a bunch of tripe the thinking and methodology behind that post was. Note, how Iain Dale then acted when others pointed this out.
It’s worth noting, for a start, that Dale’s blogpost is just one in a long line of rubbish he has published about global warming (including a recent punt on the ‘Global Cooling’ myth). It’s a subject he clearly knows little about. But it has become de rigeur for global warming deniers to publish a continuous stream of bad science and rubbish claims, and obfuscate the debate while saying it is there just to further discussion and ‘challenge the consensus‘.
Victor Fodeke, head of the Nigerian special climate change unit, said any attempt to remove the Kyoto track would be disastrous for the talks. “Africa is on death row. It has been sidelined by some countries. If there is any attempt to remove one of the tracks of negotiations, then it’s obvious the train will crash.”
“This is of paramount importance. We cannot, we can never accept the killing of the Kyoto protocol. It will mean the killing of Africa,” said another spokesman for the group.
This is worth highlighting because a common excuse of climate denialists is that tackling climate change would condemn poor countries to their economic state and not give them the opportunity to become rich on the back of economic growth. Not surprisingly, this view almost always ignores the views of poor countries themselves who realise the impact climate change will have on their fragile economies. They are always the one pushing for more action not less.
So the Met Office, the US Governmentâ€™s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA all say the noughties were the “hottest decade on record”. Apparently, according to some idiots, global warming isn’t happening and temperatures have actually fallen over the last decade.
Depending on what happens in the last three weeks of the year, [this year] could end up as the fourth, fifth or sixth hottest on record, but it will certainly be much warmer than 2008, which was anomalously low thanks to a cooling La Nina in the Pacific. And the jump between average temperatures in the 1990s and the current decade is one of the greatest ever.
Temperatures only appear to have fallen if 1998 – an anomalously hot year – is taken as the starting point. Beginning, for example, with 1997 or 1999 gives a very different picture and independent statistical analysis has concluded that a cooling trend could only be determined by â€œpeople coming at the data with preconceived notionsâ€.
Pre-conceived notions? I wonder who that could be…. Global warming deniers = flat earthers. There’s no other way to put it really. These people aren’t just ignoring the blatant facts, they are actually twisting them to say the opposite.
Around a quarter of Americans believe in creationism and only around 4 in 10 believe in evolution according to a recent poll. The percentage of outright creationists in the US is about the same as the % of people here who think climate change is not driven by human activity.
Rather coincidentally this week’s Economist has front-paged a special report on what to do about climate change. I for one am glad the leftwing conspiracy has managed to ensnare it and most of the western world’s media. The Left, to its credit, is broadly united on the issue.
Right-whingers on the other hand are hilariously all over the place. Climate change is very likely to become David Cameron’s crippling wedge issue like Europe. He faces a grassroots full of fools who trot out arguments like the widely ridiculed ‘global cooling‘ myth in support of their cause. I say: rather than get angry we should laugh and encourage them. Let them push climate change denialism. When Cameron gets into power and talks to some serious scientists he’ll realise how stupid his followers are. Then the split will happen.
I mean, you have to laugh when the editor of a magazine (Spectator) who was very recently pushing AIDS denialism now trying to grab the high moral ground. The high priestess of climate denialism – Melanie Phillips – is now attacking the BBC for being anti-science on CC! This from the woman widely ridiculed over MMR! Enough said.
Why are right-whingers so obsessed with climate denialism? Simple. Most of the debate has been driven by environmental organisations and lefties for decades, while most of the denialism has been led by big corporations funding front-groups and thinktanks to save their own skin. Naturally, right-whingers would rather ignore the science and be persuaded by corporations than accept lefties are on the rational side of the argument.
Developing countries said on Wednesday they risked “total destruction” unless the rich stepped up the fight against climate change to a level that even the United Nations says is out of reach.
“The result of that is to condemn developing countries to a total destruction of their livelihoods, their economies. Their land, their forests will all be destroyed. And for what purpose?” said Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping of Sudan, chair of the Group of 77 and China, representing poor nations.
“Anything south of 40 (percent) means that Africa’s population, Africa’s land mass is offered destruction,” he told a news conference.
This is worth emphasising because concerns about the environment frequently brings a charge of racism from right-wingers who say something like: ‘oh, so you want to condemn those poor widdle black and Asian people in Africa/Asia to poverty, instead of encouraging capitalism so they can all buy big houses? Fascist!!!‘.
This argument needs to be killed for the simple reason that poor countries suffer more from our degrading environment and the impact of global warming. Saying that they should be allowed to become rich in the way the west did is thus very dishonest: they’ll die quicker than becoming rich.
The solution would be to encourage a form of more sustainable capitalism that doesn’t mean pillaging of land resources, doesn’t encourage lax pollution controls and gives workers human rights at work.
Lord Stern of Brentford has called for people to stop eating meat (or at least significantly reduce their consumption, it’s not clear), as:
Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the worldâ€™s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.
Leaving aside the jokes about noted vegetarians, is this a good idea, and what does it say about the debate on climate change?
I have no problem with people who don’t eat meat. Indeed, some of my best friends are vegetarians. If people want to give up meat, whether on environmental, taste or ethical grounds, then they should. A vegetarian diet is better for the planet.
Yet Lord Stern’s words highlight one of the thorniest problems surrounding the debate over climate change: the refusal to argue for pricing externalities properly. The impact of humanity of climate change (however great that impact is) can be reduced by two means. Advances in technology and a change in behaviour. It is right that governments and companies continue to invest in technological research, but given the current ineffectiveness of other sources of power (except nuclear), a change in people’s behaviour is also necessary in order to reduce carbon emissions.
I thought that this story was very telling, not for Baroness Scotland’s greed, but for the way in which the rules are applied:
THE attorney-general, Baroness Scotland, has sparked anger among colleagues by insisting on the use of a chauffeur-driven Jaguar â€” a privilege usually reserved for a handful of senior cabinet ministers…
One senior source said that as a minister outside the cabinet she was entitled only to a lesser vehicle, such as a Rover or Toyota Prius. Some officials expressed consternation that on taking up the job two years ago she rejected the use of a lesser car.
The Department for Transport said last week: “The current rules on car allocation are Jaguar XJ or Prius for members of the cabinet. For everyone else: any car with CO2 emissions less than 130g/km.”
The Jaguar emits 209g/km, which is at least 50% more than any non-cabinet car. Thus the rules say it is okay for the members of the cabinet to drive polluting cars, but everyone else must drive environmentally-friendly cars. Very telling.
In a good piece, George Monbiot highlights the scandal of the amount of hazardous waste dumped off the coasts of poor/corrupt countries:
“It was revolting, monstrous, inhumane â€“ and scarcely different from what happens in Africa almost every day. The oil trading company Trafigura has just agreed to pay compensation to 31,000 people in Ivory Coast, after the Guardian and the BBC’s Newsnight obtained emails sent by its traders. They reveal that Trafigura knew that the oil slops it sent there in 2006 were contaminated with toxic waste. But the Ivorian contractor it employed to pump out the hold of its tanker dumped them around inhabited areas in the capital city and the countryside.”
He also shows that the typical response to this, which is to call for more regulation, more money for regulators and more laws, is pointless:
“The law couldn’t be clearer: the Basel convention, supported by European directives, forbids European Union or OECD nations from dumping hazardous wastes in poorer countries. But without enforcement, the law is useless.”
His views chime with mine. What we need to do is to enforce the laws we have, and if the expensively-assembled regulators are not doing that, they shouldn’t be given more money and powers. They should be sacked.