Wednesday, February 14, 2007


By Jonah Goldberg

Public policy is all about trade-offs. Economists understand this better than politicians because voters want to have their cake and eat it too, and politicians think whatever is popular must also be true. Economists understand that if we put a chicken in every pot, it might cost us an aircraft carrier or a hospital. We can build a hospital, but it might come at the expense of a little patch of forest. We can protect a wetland, but that will make a new school more expensive. You get it already.

But in the history of trade-offs, never has there been a better one than trading a tiny amount of global warming for a massive amount of global prosperity. Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800 percent, by one estimate. How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800 percent is unknowable, but let's stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity and that this warming is in fact indisputably bad (which is hardly obvious). That's still an amazing bargain.

Life expectancies in the United States increased from about 47 years to about 77 years. Literacy, medicine, leisure and even, in many respects, the environment have improved mightily over the course of the 20th century, at least in the prosperous West. Given the option of getting another 1,800 percent richer in exchange for another 0.7 degrees warmer, I'd take the heat in a heartbeat.

Of course, warming might get more expensive for us (and we might get a lot richer than 1,800 percent too). There are tipping points in every sphere of life, and what cost us little in the 20th century could cost us enormously in the 21st - at least that's what we're told. And boy, are we told. We're (deceitfully) told polar bears are the canaries in the global coal mine. Al Gore even hosts an apocalyptic infomercial on the subject, complete with fancy renderings of New York City underwater. Skeptics are heckled for calling attention to global warming scare tactics.

But the simple fact is that activists need to hype the threat, and not just because that's what the media demand of them. Their proposed remedies cost so much money - bidding starts at 1 percent of global GDP a year and rises quickly - they have to ratchet up the fear factor just to get the conversation started. The costs are just too high for too little payoff.....

Frankly, I don't think the trade-off is worth it - yet. The history of capitalism and technology tells us that what starts out expensive and arduous becomes cheap and easy over time. Lewis and Clark took months to do what a truck carrying Tickle-Me Elmos does every week. Technology 10 years from now could solve global warming at a fraction of today's costs. What technologies? I don't know. Maybe fusion. Maybe hydrogen. Maybe we'll harness the perpetual motion of Sen. Joe Biden's mouth.

The fact is we can't afford to fix global warming right now, in part because poor countries want to get rich, too. And rich countries, where the global warming debate is settled, are finding even the first of 30 Kyotos too fiscally onerous. There are no solutions in the realm of the politically possible. So why throw trillions of dollars into "remedies" that even their proponents concede won't solve the problem?



Cutting out meat could go a long way towards stabilising climate change, Ben Bradshaw has argued. Britain may need to go back to Second World War-style rationing if climate change runs out of control, environment minister Ben Bradshaw has warned. Mr Bradshaw pointed out that food production did just as much damage as private transport and housing.

He spoke out as a new government website advised shoppers to help the planet by avoiding meat, cheese and even British veg grown out of season. The website makes clear that eating beef, lamb, chicken and dairy products contributes to global warming because of the energy and land needed to rear animals. Sheep and cows also emit harmful methane gas.

Mr Bradshaw told a meeting of food experts that the public would not currently tolerate a "nanny state" approach to what they ate. But he warned: "If the impacts of climate change are as bad as predicted, we may need to go back to rationing." ...



The Valentine's Day bouquet - the gift that every woman in Britain will be waiting for next week - has become the latest bete noire among environmental campaigners. Latest Government figures show that the flowers that make up the average bunch have flown 33,800 miles to reach Britain. In the past three years, the amount of flowers imported from the Netherlands has fallen by 47 per cent to 94,000 tons, while those from Africa have risen 39 per cent to 17,000 tons. Environmentalists warned that "flower miles" could have serious implications on climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes.

Andrew Sims, the policy director of the New Economics Foundation, said: "There are plenty of flowers that grow in Britain in the winter and don't need to be hothoused. "Air freighting flowers half way round the world contributes to global warming. "You can argue the planes would be flying anyway but the amount of greenhouse gases pumped out depends on the weight of the cargo." Vicky Hird, of Friends of the Earth, said: "We don't want to be killjoys because receiving flowers can be lovely but why not grow your own gift?"

The figures also revealed that imports of roses from Ethiopia have grown from zero to 130 tons a year since 2003. Kenya is the second biggest exporter of flowers after the Netherlands, followed by Colombia and Spain. In total, Britain imports more than 315 million pounds worth of flowers, with the typical Briton spending 39 pounds a year on them.

Source. (H/T Tim Worstall).



For half a century, Western guilt made the lives of the poor even worse by propping up despots and corrupt bureaucracies through foreign aid. A new form of Western guilt, environmental fundamentalism, is making the lives of the poor even worse in Mexico after triggering a huge rise in the price of corn -- the chief component of the tortilla -- thanks to a government-induced increase in the demand for ethanol in the United States.

This constitutes poignant evidence that the drive for carbon reduction can be costly. And not just for the poor: The majority of European countries, who attacked the U.S. savagely when it refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, will not meet their goals in terms of reducing emissions by 2012 because they have discovered what a high school student could have told them: Life is one constant trade-off. Meeting the Kyoto goals would mean sacrificing the economic well-being of many Europeans at a time when fewer and fewer people are sustaining an ever-growing number of retired citizens.

Environmental fundamentalism has made it a sacrilege to even raise a brow at some of the premises of those who predict an apocalypse if massive carbon reductions are not made mandatory. Even though a number of scientists indicate that global warming is not as bad as is generally assumed and that historical precedent points to recurring patterns, it is now very hard to argue that a much more thorough debate is needed before any drastic action is taken and that governments need to carefully weigh the consequences of the mandatory caps that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is proposing.

Scientists are good at making bad predictions. In 1972, The Club of Rome famously drew attention to the fact that the known reserves of oil would last only 30 years and that economic growth was doomed because the world was running out of raw materials. In the 1960s, it was fashionable to predict that, at the going trend, the total world population would soon exceed the capacity to produce food. And yet, in the last half-century developing countries have seen their agricultural output rise by more than 50%.


Australia's climate is changing: it always has

Post lifted from Gust of Hot Air

Tim Flannery has done it again. Recently given the status of Australian of the year for his scare mongering climate doomsday talk, he wrote this piece for the Age.

He suggests that current rainfall trends in Australia support the idea that farmers in the drought stricken south should move further north where the rain is plentiful.

"On the face of it, current rainfall trends would support this idea because southern Australia is receiving ever less rain, while larger and larger amounts are falling over the north, particularly the north-west."

"During the past 50 years, the shift in rainfall has been substantial, with some areas of southern and eastern Australia receiving 250 millimeters less rainfall than they did back then, while parts of the north-west are receiving 250 millimeters more."

He continues on saying:

"But before making large investments in the transfer of agriculture north, we would be wise to ask what is causing these changes in rainfall, and to try to determine whether the trends will continue."

Obviously a great idea. Neville Nicholls as commissioned by the Australian Greenhouse office conducted a study and concluded that

"there is strong scientific evidence that rising temperatures are being caused by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

So a study funded by the greenhouse office concluded that greenhouse gases were the cause. Amazing!

But in the same paragraph suggests that

"These gases are also thought to be causing at least part of the rainfall decline across southern Australia, though land clearance and natural variability of rainfall may also be having an impact"

So in other words, we have no hard proof of why the rainfall has changed, if of course it has. It could be a number of different things. But let's jump to conclusions as Flannery does and suggest that

"it is our human pollution - from sources as diverse as power plants, motor vehicles, and farms - that is contributing to the drying of our country and causing immense hardship"

Astonishingly, Flannery goes on to say that

"Astonishingly, given the huge impact that the loss of rainfall in the east is having on Australia, there have been no detailed Australian studies of the cause of this rainfall loss."

What? So we have no significant research done in this area. But didn't Flannery just conclude that power plants, cars and other evils are the cause? All based on "no detailed Australian studies"? Talk about jumping to conclusions.

Ok, so let's do a simple analysis of the weather then. Once again as shown on the graph below, rainfall has been low in south eastern Australia the last 5 years, but not as low as it has been in the past. Last year south eastern Australia didn't have a lot of rain, but in 1982 we had a lot less. And despite the last 5 years having limited drizzle, the period of 1940 to 1944 had less rain than what we are experiencing now. To me, that just means natural variability, and our statistical analysis proves it so (t = 1.29 p = 0.20).

But what of southern Australia? The graph below shows rainfall for all of southern Australia since 1900. Last year we didn't have a lot of rain, but we still had 70 more millimeters than we did in 1940 and 64 more millimeters than we did in 1944. Looks like a case again for natural variability, although if you look hard enough you can see a slight increase in rainfall over the years. What does our statistical analysis say? Yes! Amazing. Our analysis suggests a statistically significant increase in rainfall in southern Australia (t = 2.06, p = 0.04) at the rate of an extra 0.44 millimeters per year.

So the south is getting more rain, despite not so in the last 5 years. Excellent news indeed.

Now let's head to the north, and we can see from the graph below we get a lot more variation in the year to year differences. We had a whole stack of rain from 1997 to 2001 as well as from 1973 to 1976. There looks to be an increase in rainfall from about this period onwards, but let's let the statistical analysis do the talking. And yes, we find a significant increase in rainfall across Northern Australia (t = 3.08, p = 0.003).

So what can we conclude from this? Well Flannery suggests the possibility that farmers spend millions relocating further up north to get more rain. And it seems that Northern Australia is getting more rainfall then previously, at a rate of an extra 1 millimeter per year. But what about the big dry down south? Well we proved that south-eastern Australia is not significantly drying up, and that southern Australia shows a significant increase in rainfall over the past 107 years.

Sure it's been a bit dry in the last 5 years, but not as dry as it has been previously. But Tim Flannery is correct, our climate is changing. In fact, it always has done.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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