His arguments are as hollow as they are old. We have hardly begun on the amount of food we could grow. An example: Sugar is a major nutrient and yet sugar supplies are almost continuously in glut (oversupply). Australia's sugar lands could double their production at the drop of a hat if it were profitable.
And consider this: China -- yes China -- is now a major food exporter. Capitalism works its wonders even in crowded China. Where do you think your supermarket gets its garlic these days? And, sacrilege of sacrileges, there are even Chinese truffles on the market now. And the list goes on....
And if Sir David likes less crowded places, let him move to the stunningly beautiful South Island of New Zealand. Instead he lives in crowded London. What does that tell you?
And if you then consider that it is only in poor countries where the birthrate is above replacement, you might arrive at yet another even more telling conclusion. Wouldn't it be simpler and more honest of him to say: "Keep Third World immigrants out of Britain"?
Sir David Attenborough has warned that population growth must be stopped in order to offer a ‘decent life’ for all. The wildlife broadcaster said people were shying away from accepting that the world’s resources cannot sustain current levels of population growth. ‘There cannot be more people on this Earth than can be fed,’ he writes in the New Statesman.
‘The sooner we stabilise our numbers, the sooner we stop running up the down escalator – and we have some chance of reaching the top; that is to say, a decent life for all.’
Sir David, 84, said the global population is over six billion and will hit nine billion in 30 years, but ‘there seems to be some bizarre taboo around the subject’. He warned of a ‘perfect storm of population growth, climate change and peak oil production’, leading to ‘insecurity in the supply of food, water and energy’.
‘We now realise that the disasters that continue increasingly to afflict the natural world have one element that connects them all – the unprecedented increase in the number of human beings on the planet,' he added.
‘All these people, in this country and worldwide, rich or poor, need and deserve food, water, energy and space. Will they be able to get it? I don’t know.’
Sir David said there was a 'taboo' tackling the subject and that people shied away from stating the fact that a world’s resources cannot sustain current levels of population growth.
He said: ‘There seems to be some bizarre taboo around the subject. This taboo doesn’t just inhibit politicians and civil servants who attend the big conferences.
‘It even affects the environmental and developmental non-governmental organisations, the people who claim to care most passionately about a sustainable and prosperous future for our children.’
The 84-year-old praised controversial 18th century demographer Thomas Malthus, who argued that populations increase until they are halted by 'misery and vice'.
He added: ‘The population of the world is now growing by 80 million a year. One and a half million a week. A quarter of a million a day.
‘The government’s chief scientist and the last president of the Royal Society have both referred to the 'perfect storm' of population growth, climate change, and peak oil production, leading inexorably to more and more insecurity in the supply of food, water and energy.’
The global population is now in excess of six billion and is predicted to hit nine billion within 30 years.
Experts have predicted that the British population – which is currently around 62million – will increase to 70million by 2029.
A report by the sustainable development group Forum For The Future said Britain would struggle to handle such growth. The increase in population would be ‘catastrophic’ and put unsustainable pressure on housing, schools and hospitals as well as natural resources.
Current trends will see a city the size of Bristol added to the population of the UK every year for the next two decades.
Sir David’s comments follow a similar warning from BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham. The Springwatch presenter suggested offering Britons tax breaks to encourage them to have smaller families. He effectively endorsed China’s controversial one-child policy, which sees couples who adhere to the rule given a lump sum on retirement.
But he stopped short of suggesting people should be penalised for having too many children.
Packham, 49, who has no children of his own, told Radio Times: ‘By 2020, there are going to be 70million people in Britain. Let’s face it, that’s too many.’
He added: ‘There’s no point bleating about the future of pandas, polar bears and tigers when we’re not addressing the one single factor that’s putting more pressure on the ecosystem than any other – namely the ever-increasing size of the world’s population.’
Packham suggested offering couples a financial incentive as ‘a carrot’ to persuade them to have fewer – or no – children.
He said: ‘I would offer them tax breaks for having small families: say, 10 per cent off your tax bill if you decide to stick with just one child. And an even bigger financial incentive if you choose not to have a family at all.’
‘I question the way, for example, people have two children with one partner, then split up and have two with their next partner, just to even up the score.
‘Fact is, we all eat food, breathe air and require space, and the more of us there are, the less of those commodities there are for other people and, of course, for the animals.’
Earth Day retrospective
Remember when the Gaia worship got under way when we were young? The first Earth Day in 1970 came at a time the green radicals were feeling their oats, which hadn’t yet been considered as subsidized crops for ethanol.
There’s a snarky book on the shelves these days that we don’t necessarily endorse. (We don’t care for snarky comments much, unless we’re making them.) This book, 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy, actually has a delightful entry for Earth Day.
Today is a day to remind the left-minded and green-obsessed that back in 1970, well, we’ll summarize:
* Newsweek predicted we were on the verge of a new Ice Age
* A world “eleven degrees colder by the year 2000″ was predicted by Kenneth Watt
* Life Magazine said that by 1985 air pollution to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half
* By 1995 75 to 85 percent of all species would be extinct, according to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson
* There would be mass starvation, according to Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes
We’re sure there are plenty more in the archives that have been mercifully forgotten. (You know how we feel about false prophets.) But not to learn from history is to be condemned to repeat it, as they say.
Anyone up for dangerously rising sea levels?
Is Earth Day Passé?
I just checked the Web sites of eight leading eco-activist groups, curious as to how prominently the organizations are featuring Earth Day messages and activities.
Surprisingly, seven of the groups — Center for Biological Diversity, EarthJustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council — say nary a word about Earth Day.
Sierra Club is the sole partial exception — they’re offering a $15 gift if you join the organization on Earth Day. It’s almost as if green pressure groups are as sheepish about Earth Day as their congressional allies are about the policy that dare not speak its name – cap-and-trade.
So if they’re not advertising Earth Day, what are they talking about? Six of the eight groups’ Web sites feature strikingly similar photos and messages about the April 2010 BP oil spill:
* Center for Biological Diversity – “Gulf Disaster One Year Later”
* EarthJustice – “One Year After the Gulf Oil Spill”
* Environmental Defense Fund – “One Year After BP Disaster, Congress Lags Its Response”
* Greenpeace – “Deep Water Horizon One Year On”
* National Wildlife Federation – “Status of the Gulf: Wildlife and
* Wetlands One Year after the Gulf Oil Disaster”
* Natural Resources Defense Council – “Disaster in Gulf Lives On”
Groupthink (“We are Borg . . .”) can afflict partisans of any agenda, but it is endemic to ideologies demanding ever-greater political control over economic decisions.
Confession means you can keep on doing it -- it seems
Though I'm not too clear on the rules of Warmism. The catechism seems to change a lot
Hey, look, I’m Catholic — so I know a few things about confessions. The nice thing about Catholic confessions is that we celebrate that sacrament in private. The religious practice of Mother Gaia apparently dictates public shaming as a way to appease the deity for Earth Day, which is at least a little more entertaining than sacrificing a goat, and more economical than sacrificing T.J. Holmes’ SUV. This CNN clip posted by Newbusters reminds me more of the background programming in the film 1984 with John Hurt, which had people on television confessing to thoughtcrime on a 24/7 basis, but then again, I’m not exactly up on the Gaia magisterium these days anyway:
T.J. HOLMES, CNN anchor: Well, in today’s “XYZ,” I’d like confess my sins. I drive a Chevy Tahoe. It gets 15 miles to the gallon in the city. While some people have SUVs to haul their large families around, it’s just me driving by myself to work every day. I have a number of TVs in my high house and leave them on just about all day, every day. I often turn the water on in the shower, then I walk downstairs to maybe grab breakfast, leave the water running, then I go back upstairs to take a shower.
I buy 24 packs of bottled water at a time. Then I throw those bottles away without recycling. In the winter I crank the heat up to 75 or 76. All the light bulbs in my house are still the old school, less efficient incandescent bulbs.
Those are my eco-sins. I’m confessing them to you because tomorrow is Earth Day. It often goes ignored by many of us, including me. Not going to ignore this year. Why? Well, maybe it was an awakening. Maybe I was scolded recently by an environmentalist. Maybe I’m tired of wasting my own money. Whatever my reasons, whatever yours, happy Earth Day.
Er … say five Rachel Carsons and sing three Bob Dylan songs, my fellow planetary traveler, and go thee out and sin no more.
Let’s not pretend that religion has left the public square. Let’s just recognize that it has changed denominations. And in that vein, allow me to wish my fellow Christians a happy Good Friday and blessed upcoming Easter, and my Jewish friends belated greetings for Passover.
Crazy Greenie logic in Britain
Major energy companies have been given free carbon allowances worth more than £100m this year for closed or mothballed power stations – despite the fact that the plants are producing little or no emissions.
Centrica, GDF Suez/International Power and Scottish & Southern Energy are among the UK companies to have reduced or switched off capacity at older plants.
And despite ceasing to produce electricity, the energy companies still receive the carbon credits which they can trade on international markets – giving substantial windfalls.
All the named companies announced temporary or permanent shut-downs in recent weeks – just after this year's carbon allowances were handed out by February 28.
Centrica has put four plants – Barry, Brigg, Peterborough and Kings Lynn – into "preservation mode", which means they are not producing but ready to be switched on.
Meanwhile, GDF Suez has reduced output at its Teesside plant to almost nothing – with the station expected to produce just 45 megawatts out of its 1875 megawatt capacity.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "If an installation permanently closes then it will retain the full allocation for the year in which it closed down. "It will receive no further allowances for future years of the European Union emissions trading scheme.
For temporary and partial closure the installation carries on as normal. "There are no adjustments to its allocation. It will be the decision of the regulator to decide if a closure is temporary or partial. However, installations can appeal a regulator decision."
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said if there is operating activity during the year, companies are entitled to retain their allocation of free allowances. "The rules do not allow us to take allocations away," he said.
It is understood that officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are not happy about the situation and are trying to work out a way for them to be reclaimed.
Centrica declined to comment, while Scottish & Southern and International Power confirmed they had received its allowances for their non-producing stations. A source close to one of the companies said: "We don't yet know the answer to [whether we'll be able to keep allowances]. The arbiter of this decision will be the European Union emissions trading group at the Environment Agency and we have been told that they will issue guidance on this later in the year."
It is not the first time that partial closure of plants has caused controversy in relation to unused carbon credits.
Last year, Ian Swales, now the Lib Dem MP for Redcar, called for clarification over what would happen to the 7m carbon allowances awarded for the year to Corus, before the plant was mothballed.
A Corus spokesman at the time insisted: "Any allegation that Corus has been motivated by the desire to profit from the mothballing via the emissions trading scheme is totally without foundation and insults the efforts of all those who have spent the past eight months desperately searching for a long-term viable future for the plant."
Earth Has Rights!
John Henry Briggs goes to the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY Graduate Center, where he witnessed the event “Nature Has Rights”, in which a panel asks questions like, “Does a river have a right to flow?” Happy Earth Day!
I arrived at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan five minutes early. I found my way to the auditorium where about 200 people were already sitting, idly chatting. In one conversation from the group in front of me, I caught the words “Republican”, “recount” and “election.”
The white-bearded David Harvey, a professor at CUNY, and this evening’s moderator begins introductions. First up, Shannon Biggs, a chipper looking lady with glasses and red-black hair. She works with an NGO called Global Exchange, their motto is “Building people-to-people ties”.
Second, a man in a garish shirt named Cormic Cullinan, a South African Environmental lawyer who just published his book “Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice” which is available on the table outside for just $5.
Thirdly, Vandana Shiva, a self-described ecofeminist and environmental activist dressed in traditional Indian garb.
Next up, a very nondescript Maude Barlow, who holds the position of Chairperson to the Council of Canadians and is the Senior Advisor to the President of the 63rd UN General Assembly.
Last, but not least is Pablo Solón, the Bolivian ambassador to the UN.
Mr. Harvey puts the first question to his panelists: “What do we mean by rights of Nature? And why is it significant?” Each member ignored this and instead said what they came there to say. Biggs gets the ball started and complains that, “Nature can be owned, nature is property—like a slave.” Not missing a beat, she turns to the BP spill, complaining that only people could sue BP, but Nature could not. If Nature had rights, then Nature herself could get her cut from BP as well.
Continuing along the same vein, Cullinan stresses that, “We’ve become autistic to the natural world.” He insists in three different ways that there is an order to nature we must adhere to.
Shiva is the audience favorite. She is passionate and she ignores all questions. She begins ranting about the agriculture company Monstano and their genetic modification of plants. The audience bursts into applause when she said corporations should be punished for putting “toxic” in their plants. She then goes on to recount proudly the many things she’s protested against and ends saying that to be disconnected from nature is a psychiatric disease.
In contrast, Maude Barlow is dull, and only mentions some scary statistics that predict that demand for water is going to be 40% more than the supply in some-thirty years time. She recommends Al Gore’s idea of a “green economy”, the her idea that nature is worth $72 trillion is met with warm chuckles. She reiterates that she’s not saying bugs will should have the same rights as humans, but we can’t push them to extinction.
Ambassador Solón said that on the 28th of July there will be an event at the UN named, “From the human right to water to the rights of water.” Which we gather will be exactly what it sounds like (i.e., water has “rights”). He said that human growth should be limited “Only to satisfy our basic needs.” He signs off with a bombshell that brings down the house, “To fight for nature we have to fight against capitalism.”
The moderator then began his monologue, in which he mentions how silly the idea is of giving rights to something “fictional” like corporations similar to humans. But giving rights to Nature isn’t. He anticipates critics and said that the idea of giving rights to nature “Isn’t that weird.” He went on to mock his colleagues who consult for corporations, insinuating corporations “Willfully want to destroy the environment.” Somewhere in his rambling speech, he blamed world poverty on corporations and on capitalism.
At this point, Shiva comes to the happy realization, “There’s no debate here, everyone agrees with one another!” All smiled.
Cullinan, agreed and stated that the environmental movement is the, “Largest social movement ever.” He likened to the debate over the environment to the Galileo and Copernicus affair, repeating the myth that before these scientists humanity held the view that the universe revolves around humans. He said that, “If we don’t do something now, sometime in the future we may become extinct.” He claimed that, “Our offspring our less likely to survive” than us.
Shiva came back to the microphone and offered this conclusion: “We’ve been made to believe for humanity to succeed we need to destroy nature.” She also blamed India’s problem on capitalism and especially corporations.
As the panelists reiterated themselves for the dozenth time, they finally ended and then invited questions, which prompted the people with the strongest opinions to jump up to the mics and me to leave.
Australia's proposed carbon tax is between a rock and a hard place
Are these the signs that Labor's climate change policy is heading for a second disaster? Big unions and big business are in revolt as the mining boom's strong dollar squeezes the rest of the trade-exposed economy. Households are up in arms over surging power bills.
And since the shambles of the late 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, Labor hasn't doused worries that its carbon tax would put Australia in front of the world, a critical risk for a carbon-intensive economy.
This treble of jobs, cost of living and international competitiveness engulfs Julia Gillard and Greg Combet as they attempt to reverse Kevin Rudd's humiliating 2010 retreat on his emissions trading scheme. It is replete with political and policy failures, some of which are only now becoming evident.
Facing a revolt among steel industry members, Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes last week vowed to oppose Labor's carbon tax if it cost just "a single job", even with unemployment below 5 per cent. Remember this is Wayne Swan's union, which was mostly responsible for replacing Rudd with Gillard. Helped by a $US1.07 Aussie dollar, Tony Abbott has hammered a wedge between the blue-collar AWU and Labor's Green alliance, echoing what John Howard did to Mark Latham over Tasmanian forests.
Big business this week joined the rebellion, including a terse return fire of letters with Gillard. Business Council of Australia president Graham Bradley objected to Combet's April 13 National Press Club promise to quarantine more than half the carbon tax money to overcompensate mostly low-income households.
Business fears that Combet's vow to "put households first" will leave a cash-strapped minority government with less to protect industries threatened by the carbon tax, particularly compared with Rudd's 2009 emissions trading scheme deal with Malcolm Turnbull.
Yet the Labor-Greens carbon tax design looks costlier and more uncertain for business than the Rudd-Turnbull plan, for instance by ruling out industry access to international emissions permits that would eat into Canberra's carbon tax revenue.
And the Greens rejected the Rudd-Turnbull deal in part because they reckoned it was too generous to big carbon "polluters".
As well, Gillard needs to hand over more to households because electricity price cost-of-living pressures have worsened. Since late 2006, capital city average household power bills have jumped 52 per cent, or 35 per cent more than the consumer price index. While still a small share of family income, the power bill hikes send out a jolt of sticker shock.
This is before any general carbon price. And it is not happening in other developed economies. Labor's climate change adviser Ross Garnaut figures that real electricity prices in the seven big advanced nations rose only 5 per cent between 2006 and 2009.
This Australian peculiarity is a material change since 2007, when Howard proposed his own emissions trading scheme for an economy that generates 80 per cent of its electricity by burning coal.
Already since then, the power bill shock helped force Rudd's February 2010 backdown and was embodied in Abbott's August 2010 election campaign slogan against a great big new tax on everything. And it is ongoing, bewildering for voters and largely self-inflicted.
NSW households will be slugged with a further 17.6 per cent hike in electricity bills from July 1 following last week's ruling by the state's Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority. In the coming financial year, NSW households on average will pay between $228 and $316 more for power.
Of this 18 per cent jump, 10 percentage points will come from higher "network" costs and six percentage points from recent changes to the federal government's own renewable energy target, says IPART chairman and adviser to Labor's multiparty climate change committee, Rod Sims.
Sims and Garnaut suggest this reflects two critical policy failures.
The first is the $39 billion five-year electricity network investment surge by mostly state government-owned transmission and distribution monopolies such as Ausgrid (NSW), Energex and Ergon (Queensland) and Aurora (Tasmania).
The high-voltage metal towers that connect generators to substations and the lower-voltage wires and poles that send the power from substations to customers account for about half of retail electricity bills.
As some point out, the electricity network infrastructure boom is almost as big as Labor's contentious National Broadband Network.
Yet Sims and Garnaut suggest that the national energy market regime that regulates these network monopolies encourages excess investment and even "gold plating" under the cover of replacing ageing assets, insuring against a repeat of storm damage blackouts in NSW and Queensland and coping with the sharper peaks in demand.
Under these rules, the regulator can't reject the network monopolies' investment plans unless it can prove they are not "reasonable". The monopolies can cherry-pick specific points to appeal. These rules are more monopoly-friendly than in Britain, where appeals are rare.
The implication is that state treasuries ensured that the Australian Energy Regulator rules protected strong dividend flows from their network monopolies. That is, the rules support generous risk-free regulated rates of return on excess capital spending. These regulated network costs then flow to separately regulated retail prices. As a policy issue, it has slipped under the radar until now.
The second failure is Labor's Renewable Energy Target, which requires 20 per cent of energy to be generated from renewables such as wind and solar by 2020.
Garnaut notes that Labor's RET originally was estimated to add 4 per cent to electricity prices between 2010 and 2015, or less than 1 per cent a year. Yet Sims's IPART ruling says the splitting of the RET into large-scale and small-scale renewable energy early this year alone will increase NSW electricity bills by 6 per cent.
"Green schemes have emerged as a new driver of price increases," warns IPART.
It's the result of federal and NSW incentives for households to install solar panels on their roofs. The bigger than expected take-up has overtones of Labor's disastrous home insulation program. It serves the yearning by higher-income environmentally aware consumers to save the planet by acting locally while getting other consumers to subsidise their power bills.
Sims slams the combination of federal and NSW solar panel incentives as "an expensive, cost-ineffective way of reducing carbon emissions". "Its cost will be borne either by consumers or taxpayers for many years to come," the IPART ruling says. Of course, the whole point of a carbon tax is to eliminate the need for such high-cost abatement. Yet the power price increases fuelled by high-cost green schemes are inflaming the catch-22 backlash against a lower-cost carbon price.
The pre-carbon tax power price surge also is aggravating the cost and hence jobs squeeze on carbon-intensive industries - including steel, aluminium and motor vehicles - exposed to the strengthening exchange rate. Imposing a carbon tax on top of a mining boom means a double hit for manufacturing and processing industries.
Swan this week made the business case by blaming the strong dollar for reducing non-mining company profits in 2010 and, in turn, hitting his budget tax revenues. The dollar averaged US78c in the mining boom mark I before the financial crisis hit. The day after Swan's pre-budget speech, it broke up through $US1.07.
This two-speed economy tension also is provoking claims that Labor is putting Australia in front of global climate change efforts. The notion that Australia should act in tandem with the rest of the world remains central to the nation's climate change policy. While Australia is a heavy per capita emitter, it accounts for only 1.5 per cent of global emissions. Getting out in front may only shift carbon-intensive industries and their pollution offshore.
This risk has been brewing since Rudd's self-inflated hopes of helping to broker a post-Kyoto global climate change deal collapsed at Copenhagen. Recall his private remarks about being "rat f . . ked" by the Chinese.
Combet's suggestion that countries such as China, the US and India are in front of Australia is not yet convincing and is undercut by Productivity Commission analysis. Labor is setting expectations of an initial $20 to $26 per tonne carbon tax before the Productivity Commission has reported on the effective carbon price in other key countries, as required by the country independents' deal with Labor.
In one of his two letters to Gillard, Bradley said Australia "must recognise this reality" that a meaningful cut to global greenhouse gas levels required "international action led by major emitting nations".
He warned that a unilateral carbon price penalty on trade-exposed manufacturing. agricultural and resource sectors would "damage Australian businesses with no net benefit to the world environment". And a carbon price that hit the asset values of coal-fired power generators would require higher rates of return for future generation investment and so lead to higher electricity prices that would undermine productivity across the economy.
In quick reply, Gillard demanded to know whether the Business Council still supported Australia's bipartisan target for reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 and whether it still preferred "using a market mechanism by putting a price on carbon".
Gillard appears to have figured that Rudd's big mistake was to have abandoned his emissions trading scheme, even if it was at her own urging. With the Greens due to get the power balance in the Senate, reviving a carbon price became a political key to her 2011 year of minority government decisiveness.
Yet doing this with the Greens also required her to break her election promise not to introduce a carbon tax.
Labor's disaster scenario now is that the political climate for a carbon price has deteriorated, rather than brightened, since the 2010 federal election. Last month's NSW election wipeout included big Labor losses in its Illawarra and Hunter Valley industrial heartlands and setbacks for the Greens. And the mood may darken further after Swan's budget belt-tightening in two weeks.
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