Thursday, May 12, 2005


In The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy, Jack Hollander hopes to teach environmentalists that the key to protecting Planet Earth both locally and globally lies in understanding that poverty guides the poor. Hollander's thesis is simple: wealthier nations and peoples improve environmental quality rather than degrade it. This runs contrary to the rhetoric of many environmental organizations.

Professor Hollander is not the first to make such a claim. Bjorn Lomborg made this argument with his 2001 tome, The Skeptical Environmentalist. A host of economists, most notably the late Julian Simon, have argued along the same lines. But Hollander brings credentials to the table that might garner more respect among those in the hard sciences. Neither a statistician like Lomborg, nor an economist like Simon, Hollander was an early pioneer in the environmental sciences when ecological research focused more on ecosystem energy flows. At present, he is Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources at U.C. Berkeley. He is largely credited with positing the wealthier is healthier argument.

Much of Hollander's data (as well as his thesis) will be old hat to those who read Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist. Hollander tackles whether we can feed everyone (we can), what to do about fishing problems (affluent nations have technological and institutional solutions available), global warming (affluent nations are prepared to adapt if it is a problem), water scarcity (again technological fixes are available to the wealthy with the proper institutional incentives), and air quality (improving steadily in the wealthy parts of the world). Hollander's writing on each of these subjects tends to be less interesting than Lomborg's. (Who would have thought a statistician could write?) And Lomborg's extensive citations make it easy to pull the original material when trying to sell it to a skeptical audience. Hollander's citations are comparatively sparse. But Hollander does spare the reader the torture of over 100 pages on global warming - something that Lomborg would have been wise to do.

Where Hollander really brings some fresh air to the "wealthier is healthier" front is on the subject of energy policy. Given Hollander's extensive background in the field, it should not be surprising that the chapters on nuclear power, fossil fuels, and renewable energy are where he shines. They are the most informative part of the book and also where Hollander's excitement for the material finally surfaces.

After challenging those who argue we will soon run out of fossil fuels, Hollander moves on to describe the differences in fuel use in the developed and developing world. The developed world employs cleaner fuels such as oil and natural gas while the poor are stuck with dirty-burning fuels such as wood, coal, and animal dung. Adding insult to injury, direct exposure to indoor emissions from these fuel sources create severe health problems and shorten the lives of those in the third world. Poverty is once again the culprit.

Hollander's discussion of renewable energies is downright fascinating. Wind power and direct solar energy, according to Hollander, actually make a lot of sense for the developing world as they don't require the large capital investments for transmission and distribution that fossil fuels and fossil-fueled electrical power require. But according to Hollander, extensive subsidies for large-scale renewables in the developed world have swallowed up the investment for small-scale renewables that could work in the developing world. Thus, the wealthy world's drive for renewables is preventing their development for the parts of the world where renewables could truly improve people's lives.

As for nuclear power, Hollander believes the environmental benefits could be great, but that the public has confused the dangers of commercial use with those of military use. He acknowledges that certain forms of nuclear power create a risk of providing material for terrorist-type activities, but thinks the public will come around to nuclear power in time.....

Joshua Hill, who is currently a PhD candidate in Economics at George Mason University, served in the Peace Corps in Togo for two years (2000-2002). He identifies three problems with development assistance that are particularly telling. First, development assistance creates a culture of dependency. Second, it diverts the "best and brightest" away from creating wealth to managing aid. Finally, foreign aid's annual hand-outs retard the development of the institutional systems needed for a lasting improvement.

During his tour in Togo, Hill was assigned to spur local entrepreneurs into small business. But there was sparse demand for his services because locals were still recovering from a pounding development hangover left by a half-century's overindulgence in foreign aid. Twenty years ago, locals would have responded to Hill by asking why they should struggle to create an enterprise when they could sit around in the shade, drink the local brew, and wait around for the next development check. But with cutbacks in aid, a few wish to engage their entrepreneurial spirit. The inertia of a dependency culture is hindering the progress as even knowledge of how to act like an entrepreneur has been lost. Corruption further discourages entrepreneurship as formal businesses become subject to bribery demands by local bureaucrats.

The bureaucracy is by no means evil, but its members are also part of the culture of dependency. During the "golden" years of development, there was no incentive to seek the long term growth that comes from institutions grounded in the rule of law rather than the rule of lawlessness. As bureaucrats and government officials could rely on their next foreign aid check, they had no need to raise money through internal taxes. Without a need for tax income, there was no reason to encourage the businesses that could provide that revenue. Thus, no time was spent developing the rule of law, the property rights, and the contracting systems that lead to the long term growth of private business. When the aid stopped flowing, many officials turned to bribery as a means to their own survival......

Hollander does yeoman's work convincing traditional environmentalists that wealthier is healthier. For some, it is obvious that the poor will consider endangered specie a moniker for lunch and pollution a means to a better life until their lot improves.

More here


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 Leftists

The New Yorker is running a series on how the Arctic's sea ice, permafrost and glaciers all are melting because of man-caused global warming. Mother Jones has a cover story essentially saying that ExxonMobil has bought and paid for virtually every scientist who's skeptical of global warming. Even The Weather Channel is doing weather-docs on Arctic thawing. For a little balance, we called up Fred Singer, an expert on global climate change and a pioneer in the development of rocket and satellite technology. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton and happens to be the guy who devised the basic instrument for measuring stratospheric ozone. Now president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project research group (, his dozen books include "Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate." I talked to him by telephone from his offices in Arlington, Va.:

Q: Here's a line from the Mother Jones article: "There is overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are causing global average temperatures to rise." Is that true?

A: It's completely unsupported by any observation, but it's supported by (computer) climate models. In other words, the models would indicate this. The observations do not.

Q: What's the best argument or proof that global warming is not happening?

A: The best proof are data taken of atmospheric temperature by two completely different methods. One is from instruments carried in satellites that look down on the atmosphere. The other is from instruments carried in balloons that ascend through the atmosphere and take readings as they go up. These measurements show that the atmospheric warming, such as it is, is extremely slight -- a great deal less than any of the models predicts, and in conflict also with observations of the surface.

Q: What is the most dangerous untrue "fact" about global warming?

A: The rise in sea level. Again, the observations show that sea level has risen in the last 18,000 years by about 400 feet and is continuing to rise at a uniform rate, and is not accelerating, irrespective of warming or cooling. In fact, sea level will continue to rise at a slow rate of 8 inches per century, as it has been for the last few thousand years.

Q: If you had a 12-year-old grandkid who was worried about global warming, what would you tell him?

A: I would tell them that there are many more important problems in the world to worry about, such as diseases, pandemics, nuclear war and terrorism. The least important of these is global warming produced by humans, because it will be insignificant compared to natural fluctuations of climate.

Q: How did you become what Mother Jones says you are -- "the godfather of global warming denial"?

A: That's easy. Age. I organized my first conference on global warming in 1968. At that time I had no position. It was a conference called "The global effects of environmental pollution." At that time I remember some of the experts we had speaking thought the climate was going to warm and some thought it was going to cool. That was the situation.

Q: Climate is extremely complicated -- is that a true statement?

A: Immensely complicated. Which is a reason why the models will never be able to adequately simulate the atmosphere. It's just too complicated.

Q: Give me a sample of how complicated just one little thing can be.

A: The most complicated thing about the atmosphere that the models cannot capture is clouds. First of all, clouds are small. The resolution of the models is about 200 miles; clouds are much smaller than that. Secondly, they don't know when clouds form. They have to guess what humidity is necessary for a cloud to form. And of course, humidity is not the only factor. You have to have nuclei -- little particles -- on which the water vapor can condense to form droplets. They don't know that either. And they don't know at what point the cloud begins to rain out. And they don't know at what point -- it goes on like this.

Q: Is this debate a scientific fight or a political fight?

A: Both. I much support a scientific fight, because I'm pretty sure we'll win that -- because the data support us; they don't support the climate models. Basically it's a fight of people who believe in data, or who believe in the atmosphere, versus people who believe in models.

Q: Is it not true that CO2 levels have gone up by about a third in the last 100 years?

A: A little more than a third, yes. I accept that.

Q: Do you say that's irrelevant?

A: It's relevant, but the effects cannot be clearly seen. The models predict huge effects from this, but we don't see them.

Q: Why is it important that global warming be studied in a balanced, scientific, depoliticized way?

A: It's a scientific problem. The climate is something we live with, and we need to know what effect human activities are having on climate. I don't deny that there's some effect of human activities on climate. We need to learn how important they are.


Steven Greenhut is amused by Greenie penguins!: "Editorial Page Editor Cathy Taylor pointed out this hilarious tidbit from the April 18 New Yorker magazine. In an article about nature photographer Sebastiao Salgado, writer Ian Parker explains: "Freezing his position in the quarter-crouch of someone who has just begun to sit down, he waited for the penguins to look at him, and, when they did, it was hard not to project into their stare a silent plea for the Kyoto Protocol. (Some of the gorillas and tortoises he recently photographed gave him the same look.)" As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. This is not a passage from the humor site the Onion. This is serious text in a serious article in a serious magazine. Yes, the penguins and the gorillas and the tortoises are crying out for Kyoto. They no doubt would have voted for John Kerry. They might not say so, but you could see it in their eyes". (Post of May 6th).


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 to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

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