Blame famine on trade restrictions – not on climate change or lack of foreign aid, says Julian Morris in an opinion article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal Europe.
Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category
Legislation to limit greenhouse-gas emissions recently squeezed through the US Congress, with a “cap-and-trade” scheme similar to the European Union’s. This Waxman-Markey bill now faces resistance in the Senate, upsetting President Barack Obama’s hopes of influencing the Copenhagen international climate-change meeting in December. Either way, he faces a real threat to international relations from this bill’s effect on jobs and trade.
“Nothing the United States can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive, clean energy legislation as soon as possible,” Obama’s climate envoy Todd Stern said on 10 September.
This legislation, however, would do little to lower carbon emissions but much to raise energy prices, destroy jobs and prolong the recession–with the extra sting of tariffs on foreign goods triggering a trade war. And far from aiding the negotiations, a bill that ties US negotiators’ hands could scupper international agreement.
One of Obama’s many election commitments was to reduce US carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 but, after months of debate, the bill imposed much less stringent restrictions but still imposed great cost on the economy.
An extra problem was the addition of tariffs on imports from countries without similar carbon restrictions. Obama denounced the protectionist tariffs when the House bill passed in June but, in August, ten Democratic Senators announced their votes depended on keeping “a border adjustment mechanism.”
The Senators argue that higher domestic energy costs caused by the new legislation would send manufacturing abroad, killing local jobs and undermining the USA’s global emission-reduction aims. So they want tariffs to protect US firms and workers: punishing importers should convince other governments to introduce carbon controls, so the argument goes.
But this idea is seriously flawed. Firstly, most energy-intensive imports to the USA–up to 80 percent, depending on the product–come from other “clean” rich countries, most of which already have emissions curbs. China, the focus of many fears of job transfers, accounts for only a small share of US imports and only 17% of steel imports. Moreover, China exports only about one percent of its most energy-intensive goods to the USA, a July 2009 study by the US Government Accountability office says. So US carbon tariffs would do little to fight global emissions.
Secondly, the protectionist Senators forget that other countries have their own ideas about who should pay for cutting emissions. Total Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions overtook America’s in 2006 but per-capita emissions in the United States are well above everyone else’s: roughly four times China’s and fifteen times India’s. If other countries imposed their own carbon tariffs based on per-capita emissions, US exports would be badly hit.
Any tariffs present a real and immediate danger: the protectionism of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 set off a series of tit-for-tat retaliations by America’s trading partners, turning a major recession into the Great Depression.
Obviously, a trade dispute during an economic downturn would not be in the interests of the United States or any other country (although French President Nicolas Sarkozy obstinately stated “a carbon tax at the borders is vital for our industries and our jobs,” speaking to trades unionists recently).
Unilaterally imposing Green tariffs will alienate trade partners who may also be crucial to Obama’s environmental ambitions at Copenhagen and when he attempts to rally the world at a UN climate meeting on 22 September in New York. Just a couple of days later he must attempt to convince the G20 countries in Pittsburgh that his climate policies will not stall economic recovery. Many European politicians share this vision. Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the EU presidency, recently said: “if the Senate would pass it, there would be no reason for China not to sign up” to emission reduction.
Back in the real world, Chinese and Indian officials have repeatedly condemned the idea of “carbon tariffs.” Todd Stern admitted that “developing countries tend to see a problem not of their own making that they are being asked to fix in ways which, they fear, could stifle their ability to lift their standards of living.” Obama may have a lot of explaining to do when he visits China in November, as if his recent decision to impose tariffs on Chinese tires had not stirred up enough animosity.
Trade is mutually beneficial, promoting competition, innovation and economic development–providing more money for environmental protection. Carbon tariffs like Waxman-Markey’s or Sarkozy’s will do little to the climate and do plenty of damage to economies everywhere.
Sallie James is a policy analyst at the Center for Trade Policy Studies of the Cato Institute think-tank, Washington, DC.
Traditionally, human rights were meant to protect individual freedoms from governments, for example outlawing torture and restrictions on free speech. The UN and activists, however, have inflated them over the years to cover ideas ranging from housing to a clean environment — perversely threatening real rights.
The latest example is climate change, undermining “the full and effective enjoyment of human rights” by jeopardising food and health, the latest draft for the international summit in Copenhagen in December says. This linkage comes straight from the UN’s discredited Human Rights Council (HRC), dominated by countries like Pakistan, Russia, and China.
Pressure group Friends of the Earth makes clear that this means that any developed country not signing up to a Copenhagen treaty will be violating human rights: “The legal and moral responsibility for urgent meaningful action rests firmly on the shoulders of the rich, industrialised countries whose over-consumption of fossil fuels and promotion of particular development paradigms has caused the climate crisis we all face.”
The FoE statement forecasts “massive human rights violations impacting on the world’s most impoverished people…” Greenpeace says “climate change…is the most important economic issue of our time, and indeed a human rights issue.” For activists it would indeed be a great coup to give their agenda a legal, human-rights, standing — and the prospect of cash is attractive to such backers as Bangladesh.
The 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously declared human rights to be “nonsense on stilts,” meaning they could neither be natural nor inalienable but had to be agreed and enforced. While the principles of human rights have helped secure liberty and the rule of law for millions of people, extending them to nebulous concepts such as climate change is indeed nonsensical.
For rights to have meaning, it must be clear what they are and who is responsible for upholding them. Take free speech: if a government arrests a dissident for peaceful statements or thoughts, it is clearly breaching human rights.
The right to a clean environment or health and education are far less definable. Also, if people have a right to these things, others must provide them: in practice, collectively via governments. Such “positive rights” are therefore really a call for state intervention, at the expense of other priorities and freedoms.
As acknowledged even by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, there is no way of determining which individual, organization or government is to blame in the event of any climate-related disaster. Although many experts agree that humans are affecting the climate, there is little agreement on the degree or outcome. And how does one determine if a drought in China or a flood on a Pacific island is entirely caused by man-made climate change?
If— implausibly — scientists did determine that the natural disaster was solely the result of human carbon dioxide emissions, which particular government should be held liable?
For matters such as free speech and torture, rights are important for protecting individuals from the nefarious practices of governments. But elevating complicated concepts such as health and the environment to human-rights status merely over-simplifies the economic and scientific issues.
So far, defenders of traditional human rights have been reluctant to criticize this political agenda: no-one wants to be perceived as being against not only the environment but also human rights. That is why countries such as Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands signed up to the HRC statement with repressive Albania, Bulgaria and Syria. Egypt sensibly did not get involved.
But there is a real danger to human rights from this false cry: the enormous cost of proposals to halt climate change. They would prolong the world recession and prevent the growth that is the only way for the poor to get better health, living standards and education — which human-rights activists insist governments must provide.
This campaign also devalues true human rights. The Maldives is one of the main backers of climate change as a human-rights issue, while arbitrarily arresting citizens and censoring the press. While the deeply politicized HRC is keen to stretch its mandate to cover climate change, it has refused to condemn Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur and has passed several resolutions on “combating defamation of religion,” which stifle freedom of speech and strengthen oppressive laws.
As they prepare for one of the most important climate change summits ever, negotiators should reject the human rights approach to climate change as “nonsense on stilts” and stick to what can and cannot be done.
Jacob Mchangama is head of legal affairs at CEPOS, a Danish think tank and an external lecturer of international human rights law at the University of Copenhagen.
The idea that the world will be increasingly assaulted by ever-deadlier cyclones, hurricanes and floods as global warming gathers pace is now firmly lodged in the public imagination, aided by apocalyptic movies such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and scare stories from green groups. But a century’s worth of data on deaths and damage from extreme weather and climate events contradict these claims. What’s worse, the ideas for reducing global warming are the real recipe for disaster.
The possibility of a climate treaty negotiated in Copenhagen later this year holds the promise that today’s wealthy countries will transfer substantial portions of their emission reduction obligations to developing countries. Developing countries are, however, holding out for a multi-million dollar adaptation fund to be filled by the developed countries. The argument, supported by many guilt-laden inhabitants of the rich countries, is that developing countries are owed the money because developed countries are responsible for most of the present-day greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The prospect of capturing a share of these extraordinarily large sums has emboldened opportunistic and cynical U.N. agencies to jump on the climate change bandwagon. But in doing this, they devalue their own missions: they subordinate them to climate change even though their own missions, if fulfilled, would alleviate real global problems whereas reducing climate change would limit a hypothetical problem. In effect, they are trading a real bird in the hand for one in the bush – one that may not even be there.
Take the U.N. Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, meeting in Geneva last week. In opening, Sir John Holmes, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Chair of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), claimed that ‘we know that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of weather and climate hazards.’ But if climate change has really increased the frequency and intensity of weather and climate hazards, it is not evident in long term data on deaths from such disasters. Global average annual mortality from such events has, in fact, declined by 95 percent since the 1920s despite a tripling of the global population. Deaths from droughts, which were responsible for 59 percent of the death toll from extreme weather and climate events from 1900-2006, dropped by 99.9 percent since the 1920s. Flood deaths, which accounted for another 35 percent of the 1900-2006 figures, declined by 99 percent.
However, Sir John was correct when he informed the meeting that: ‘disasters lead to poverty, and poverty leads to worse disasters.’
Unfortunately, the focus on reducing climate change, cheered on by the U.N. organizations, will be exceedingly expensive to developing countries even if, unlike developed countries, they are exempted from cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
This is because in today’s globalized world, developing countries derive a large part of their incomes from trade, tourism, remittances and direct investment from developed countries. Thus any economic pinch to the latter will be felt by the former.
So impoverishing the wealthy countries will also impoverish the poorer ones, who can least afford such an outcome. To repeat Holmes’s statement, ‘poverty leads to worse disasters.’
Indur Goklany is the author of Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events: Global and U.S. Trends, 1900-2006, in the international Civil Society Report on Climate Change (2007) and of the book The Improving State of the World (Cato, 2007)
Professor Paul Reiter, a specialist in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes whose career spans more than 30 years, today calls for an end to the misrepresentation of his speciality in the climate change debate by environmental activists and intergovernmental bodies such as the IPCC.
He seeks funding to set up a forum in which scientists can provide the public with a more balanced perspective of issues such as climate change, insecticides and genetically modified organisms in order to de-polarize such debates.
Prof Reiter is speaking this week at a symposium held by the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans.
Prof Reiter said: “For more than a decade I have been dismayed by the way alarmists have managed to misrepresent the science about the relationship between climate change and insect-borne diseases.”
“The reality is that climate is only one variable in the complex natural history of the mosquito-borne diseases, and many of the claims made by activists are pure nonsense.”
“We would be better off redirecting the millions spent on climate change research to preventing diseases such as malaria, which currently kills one child every thirty seconds.”
- Environmental activists have repeatedly misrepresented the science of diseases like malaria. Specialists who protest are generally ignored or labeled as ‘skeptics’.
- The transmission of malaria is complex. It is the result of the interplay of climate, ecology, mosquito biology, mosquito behavior and many other factors that defy simplistic analysis.
- It is facile to attribute current resurgence of the disease to high temperatures. Malaria is not an exclusively tropical disease and it was once widespread in countries such as Scandinavia and Canada.
- Activists repeatedly state that malaria is expanding in sub-Saharan Africa and moving to higher altitudes – but they fail to mention that only two per cent of the continent is above 2000m, often with land that is too arid for people to survive on.
- Al Gore’s claim that Nairobi has recently become malarious because of global warming is nonsense. Nairobi was highly malarious from the start, in 1899; in 1927 the British Government pledged the equivalent of $1.2 million for its control.
- The rapid increase in human and animal diseases worldwide is a cause for concern but the obsession with climate is unwarranted and will only misdirect efforts to tackle the problem.