Thursday, May 30, 2024

Ele Ludemann: Not thinking at all

Environmentalists preach that we should think global and act local.

It’s a good message but one which too often they don’t follow, in some cases they don’t appear to be thinking at all.

Demanding that New Zealand reduce livestock farming is a case in point.

Given we’re up with the world leaders in animal welfare and carbon efficiency, that would cause economic and social damage here and environmental harm in the countries with far less efficient farming practices and far lower standards than ours.

Then there’s the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the government’s plan to allow more gas exploration and mining.

These people must use fossil fuels and technology which requires at least some of the minerals that come from other countries. Mining in at least some of these use child labour and has far lower environmental standards than ours.

Their sanctimony blinds them to the hypocrisy of not wanting mining with high standards here while benefitting from mining with poor standards elsewhere.

A third example of not thinking is the demands that we stop using fossil fuels, a demand that probably wouldn’t save the planet and would kill people:

We endlessly hear the flawed assertion that because climate change is real, we should “follow the science” and end fossil fuel use.

We hear this claim from politicians who favor swift carbon cuts, and from natural scientists themselves, as when the editor-in-chief of Nature insists “The science is clear — fossil fuels must go.”

The assertion is convenient for politicians, because it allows them to avoid responsibility for the many costs and downsides of climate policy, painting these as inevitable results of diligently following the scientific evidence.

But it is false because it conflates climate science with climate policy.

The story told by activist politicians and climate campaigners suggests that there is nothing but benefits to ending fossil fuels, versus a hellscape if nothing is done.

But the reality is that the world over the past centuries has improved dramatically — largely because of the immense increase in available energy that has come mostly from fossil fuels.

Life spans have more than doubled, hunger has dramatically declined, and incomes have increased ten-fold.

While the impact of climate change is likely negative, it is enormously exaggerated.

We constantly hear about extreme weather such as droughts, storms, floods and fires, although even the UN Climate Panel finds that evidence of them worsening cannot yet be documented for most of these.

But much more importantly, a richer world is much more resilient and hence much less affected by extreme weather.

The data shows that climate-related deaths from droughts, storms, floods and fires have declined by more than 97% from nearly 500,000 annually a century ago to less than 15,000 in the 2020s.

At the same time, the costs of the climate campaigners’ calls to “just stop” oil, gas and coal are massively downplayed.

Currently, the world gets almost four-fifths of all its energy from fossil fuels. If we quickly ended our use of fossil fuels, billions would die.

Four billion people — half the world’s population — entirely depend on food grown with synthetic fertilizer produced almost entirely by natural gas.

If we ended fossil fuels quickly, we would physically have no way to feed four billion people.

Add the billions of people dependent on fossil fuel heating in the winter time, along with the dependence on fossil fuels for steel, cement, plastics, and transport, and it is little wonder that one recent estimate shows abruptly ending fossil fuels would lead to 6 billion people dying in less than a year.

Most politicians suggest a slightly less rushed end to fossil fuels by 2050.

This slower pace would avoid billions of people dying outright, but the downsides are still immense.

The latest, peer-reviewed climate-economic research shows that efficiently reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will cost a staggering $27 trillion per year on average over the century.

That is one-quarter of the world’s current GDP.

The same research shows that the benefits will be just a small fraction of that cost. The policy is prohibitively expensive for little benefit. . .

What we need is not the non-thinking of environmental extremists but the innovative and scientific thinking of scientists and entrepreneurs who will come up with affordable green technologies to replace fossil fuels.

But then the eco-zealots aren’t keen on scientific innovation even when it could be lifesaving:

Scientists have warned that a court decision to block the growing of the genetically modified (GM) crop Golden Rice in the Philippines could have catastrophic consequences. Tens of thousands of children could die in the wake of the ruling, they argue.

The Philippines had become the first country – in 2021 – to approve the commercial cultivation of Golden Rice, which was developed to combat vitamin A deficiency, a major cause of disability and death among children in many parts of the world.

But campaigns by Greenpeace and local farmers last month persuaded the country’s court of appeal to overturn that approval and to revoke this. The groups had argued that Golden Rice had not been shown to be safe and the claim was backed by the court, a decision that was hailed as “a monumental win” by Greenpeace.

A win for them, a loss for the children who will be disabled and die from vitamin A deficiency

Many scientists, however, say there is no evidence that Golden Rice is in any way dangerous. More to the point, they argue that it is a lifesaver.

“The court’s decision is a catastrophe,” said Professor Matin Qaim, of Bonn University, and a member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which promotes the introduction of the crop. “It goes completely against the science, which has found no evidence of any risk associated with Golden Rice, and will result in thousands and thousands of children dying.”

The decision is to be challenged by the Philippines government and agriculture experts say it is likely it will be overturned some time in the near future. But the setback is still likely to have profound impacts. Other countries such as India and Bangladesh – where vitamin A deficiency is also widespread – have been considering planting Golden Rice but are now likely to be deterred.

“The situation is extremely alarming,” said Adrian Dubock, another board member. “Planting Golden Rice was not being done for profit. Nobody was trying to control what farmers grow or control what people eat. It was being done to save lives.” . . .

Thinking global, acting local would follow the science.

Thinking global and acting local would be based on the real meaning of sustainability which balances economic, environmental and social considerations.

Thinking global and acting local would encourage farming and mining with high standards here and it would put the lives ahead of politics.

Ele Ludemann is a North Otago farmer and journalist, who blogs HERE - where this article was sourced.

1 comment:

Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article, Ele.
A breath of fresh air, and a factually accurate description of the situation.
Eliminating "fossil fuels", which the greenies clamour for, would lead to massive human suffering and death on a scale beyond anything the world has ever experienced.