Sunday, December 17, 2006

What a wonderful world

Just when you thought it was safe to assume that consensus had been reached on the topic of climate change, it may be worth listening to some rumblings coming from "Down Under". There are apparently some die-hard non-believers in climate change still around, and not all of them can be summarily dismissed. New Zealand Herald columnist Deborah Coddington thinks she's found a highly credible skeptic in economist, Indur M. Goklany and is touting his soon-to-be released book that makes the case for an "Improving State of the World". This stands in stark contrast to a series of reports I highlighted in an earlier post.

I make it a habit to read and listen to those folks I vehemently disagree with (Rush Limbaugh, George Will, Michael Crichton, etc.), figuring it's good practice to "know thy adversaries".

Mr. Goklany does not deny that climate change is real. His response seems to be: So what's the big deal? Stop crying and prepare to adapt to the changes, which he believes is cheaper than trying to stop it.

As Alfred E. Neuman would say: "What, me worry?" (GW)

Against the tide of chic climate change gloom

By Deborah Coddington
New Zealand Herald
December 17, 2006

Here's a bit of Christmas cheer. Planet Earth is not, contrary to Nicholas Stern, Al Gore and acolytes, ending in a boil-up.

According to a book about to be published in Europe later this month, the world is richer, healthier and environmentally better off than ever before.

According to the latest Spectator - which hails the book's author Indur Goklany as an "acclaimed American economist" who served as the US delegate to the United Nations' intergovernmental panel on climate change - The Improving State of the World will provoke "intense controversy".

In this country it will be dismissed as rubbish, especially by those on the extreme left, for whom global warming is a fantastic opportunity to attack wealth and happiness. Climate change is suddenly everyone's New Best Friend, including - Gawd help us - the National Party.

Global warming is the new threat we must "battle", according to the Labour Government. Oh, that must mean all those other battles are over - the war on terror, Asian bird flu, Sars, not to mention racism and oppression against minorities.

But back to Goklany's statistics, for which we can be grateful.

The world's poor, he reckons, now enjoy the most dramatic rise in their standard of living. And, telling us something many of us already know, as countries have abandoned communism, state control and/or poverty, they have become more environmentally clean and their people more healthy.

Here's some statistics: in poor countries, the daily intake of calories per person has increased by 38 per cent since the 1960s to an average of 2666 calories per day, and those countries' populations have increased by 83 per cent in the same period.

There was a 75 per cent decrease in global food prices (in real terms) in the second half of the 20th century, attributable largely to improved agricultural productivity and free trade.

In prosperous countries, the price of essential foodstuffs like flour, bacon and potatoes has dropped by a massive 82 to 92 per cent in the past century, and Goklany notes that similar trends are now evident in developing countries.

In the late 1970s, the number of people subsisting on the equivalent of $1 a day was 16 per cent of the world's population; today it's down to 6 per cent. Now only one fifth of the world lives in absolute poverty.

Which, of course, is no comfort to those hundreds of millions in places like North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa, starving to death as I write. And while we should not simply shrug our shoulders and pretend these dreadful situations don't exist, it doesn't mean we should be so depressingly despondent and pessimistic.

This book, from the previews I have seen, should be required reading for every New Zealand politician over their Christmas break, as they compete to be the most environmentally sanctimonious, and scramble for votes in the process.

You may choose not to believe it, but in 2006 the demand for oil from rich countries actually declined, despite the fact their economies continued to grow.

Climate change, Goklany argues, "might exacerbate existing problems, such as malaria, coastal flooding and habitat loss" but this doesn't justify the "heavy-handed interventionism" advocated in Sir Nicholas Stern's report which trips so easily from the lips of New Zealand MPs at National Radio's microphones.

What they fail to mention is that Stern is head of the British Labour Government's Economic Service and was commissioned by Gordon Brown to write his report on climate change. When the report was released, recommending the setting of carbon emissions targets and a credit purchase system for businesses, which exceed them, Brown was reportedly furious.

Goklany argues that it may be cheaper to adapt to higher temperatures than try to stop them.

New Zealand has just suffered the ideal winter for politicians who want to make us all poorer so they can save the planet. Slips, floods, icebergs - we've seen it all. But was it fair to blame global warming? The icebergs took seven years to reach the Dunedin coast.

Old farming codgers remember worse flooding, even in summer. I, for one, was known in our district as the flood baby. Born in February 1953, central Hawke's Bay roads were washed out by rain so a tractor, using a dog chain, towed my mother's car up and over steep farmland to get her to the maternity hospital in time for my birth.

And speaking of babies, Goklany's book says infant mortality is now down to 57 per 1000, vastly improved since the days before industrialisation when at least 200 out of every 1000 children died within 12 months of birth.

But will this make us happy? Absolutely not. It's chic, right now, to be uber-environmentalist. Green is the new black. And black is New Zealand's national colour.


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