Declaration of Interdependence

Today, we are here to declare our interdependence. Today, we hold this truth to be self-evident: we are all in this together.

I go to the G8 with an agenda that I think is best for our country.

And that, O globally-minded American, is what you need to change. As long as the Bush believes that he should be getting the best deal for you and your country, the planet will continue to heat up and the world’s poor will be unable to trade their way out of poverty. It is clearly in your best interests, within George Bush’s political lifetime, to continue to pollute the atmosphere and to keep protectionist trade barriers.

And don’t fool yourself, O American – there are no long-term win-wins here. A better deal for the global poor does mean a worse deal for you. Yes, some of your countrymen may not have a big-screen TV and air conditioning. Fellow human beings in Africa are dying of hunger and preventable disease at the rate of one every three seconds. Get some perspective.

No politician will ever adopt such an unselfish position unless he’s absolutely stone-cold certain that it’s the will of the people. And so, for the good of the world, you need to make your voice heard loudly and persistently. Today, the 4th of July, declare your interdependence and demand from your political leaders carbon controls, trade justice, and the best deal for humanity.

46 thoughts on “Declaration of Interdependence

  1. A better deal for the global poor does mean a worse deal for you. Yes, some of your countrymen may not have a big-screen TV and air conditioning.

    People of today’s consumer society are willing to help others as long as their long term standard of living is not affected. Ask them if they want to help and they will say yes. Tell them they will have to give up their big-screen TV and they will say fuck off.

    Tell them there’s a leader who’ll make sure people don’t die of hunger, but you’ll be a slightly worse off and there’s an other who’ll make sure you can keep your air conditioners, SUVs, cheap burgers and the whole American lifestyle. Which one will they choose to lead them?

  2. Your overall point notwithstanding, statements like “It is clearly in your best interests…to keep protectionist trade barriers” and “demand…carbon controls…the best deal for humanity” are extremely arguable on the facts alone. It is not at all a “given” that self-interested Americans should support protectionism or that carbon controls or the Kyoto protocol are the best use of resources for a globally-minded person, and to state your argument in such a way completely ignores serious debate about the effects or relative worth of such proposition. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your positions on such issues does not mean it is their motives that provide the difference.

    In any case, as a Libertarian, I feel my government’s sole role is to secure my freedom, and as a Christian that my personal role is to spread the Gospel and meet the needs of others as God directs. If the former is doing its job, then I should have no problems with the latter, and it is my personal opinion that only by enough people doing that second thing will we accomplish “the best…for humanity”.

  3. There is excellent evidence for humans having an impact on climate change: in the flight-free days after September 11 there were marked and measurable climactic differences.

    But on economics you need to be presented with a Clue. Please learn what a zero sum game is, and then why economics isn’t one.

  4. It’s not clear why trade protectionism is in America’s best interest; if Africa can produce and sell the goods more cheaply than we can, we benefit in the form of lower prices on those goods. (Note that since the government already makes domestically produced food artificially cheap through subsidies, we’d actually benefit by being able to direct the subsidy funds into more productive ventures.) The displaced American farmers would be absorbed into other sectors. The transition would be a bit painful for them, but few Americans are farmers now, so we could certainly provide transition assistance with some of the old subsidy money.

    The fact is that by liberalizing our trade in agricultural goods we can make ourselves and Africans better off. Liberalization proponents who claim that the policy will be entirely a loss for rich nations are only shooting themselves in the foot. We have recognized that trade in many kinds of goods can be beneficial to all parties. Why can’t we say the same for food?

  5. Oh dear, another person who has fell to the ‘make poverty history’ crap. They should rename it ‘make your guilt of not doing anything about poverty history while the poor suffer more’.

    Let’s take a look at the ‘great’ that the liveaid people have done since 1985.

    Let’s take Asia. In 1985, and still is today, the continent with the highest %age of malnutrition in the world (yes, not Africa). But, there was no mass famine and huge groups of emaciated bodies to film as conveniently in Asia as there was in Africa, so it was decided Africa should have it’s image tarnished.

    So what happened? Asia grew massively in the 80s and 90s to the worlds second biggest economic power, with China, South Korea and Japan leading the charge. Foreign money flooded into the continent and factories were built, housing was built and the tax revenue started campaigns like in China with the One Child rule (which would do far more good than any amount of aid in Africa). This allowed education and healthcare to flourish and the parents to work instead of looking after their children, further fuelling the boom. Now we are getting the effects of the improvements in education with some of the best and brightest minds coming out of China, something that hasn’t really happened for dozens of years. Poverty in China has dropped massively and this can easily be attributable to the huge amounts of money that is being made in the finance and industrial centres of China.

    Let’s pop over to Africa and see what great progress has been heralded there in the last 20 years. Decades of campaigns and image destroying TV adverts have meant that no business and foreign investment goes there, unlike Asia. This has meant no secondary and tertiary industry has sprung up and a huge reliance on the primary sector has meant every time the weather doesn’t go the way they want to thousands die.

    Geldof and his cronies can be held responsible for this. Who hears about the huge success stories of Africa, like Botswana where _BUSINESS_ investment has created a per capita GDP similar to Eastern European countries in less than 15 years? Who hears about the fantastic work force that is English speaking and could easily be used to set up call centres and back office processing like India has? No-one — because everytime they do, Oxfam makes sure the message is lost in the noise of ‘WE NEED YOUR MONEY. PEOPLE ARE DYING IN AFRICA’. So that’s the message that goes through. No business would deal with an African country apart from those who can afford to either lose the money (not many) or the rewards are so great it’s ok to deploy masses of security staff, which aren’t really needed but the employees, because of oxfam and the like, demand them (oil companies).

    The US in 2003 spent $870 BILLION – yes BILLION abroad. How the fuck can you people say they don’t help abroad? They do it via private enterprise which forces efficiency and success, unlike public or governmental schemes which just hold the status quo of poverty and governmental corruption.

    Also, when will you people realise that CHARITY NEVER WORKS LONG TERM. When the economy is ok or good, people donate. Companies donate. Governments donate. But, when the economy downturns what is the first thing to be cut from the corporate budget quietly? Charity. What do people chose when it’s food for their kids or charitable support for some people thousands of miles away? That’s right, not charity.

    You guys need to stop being hypocrits also. I do believe gerv was against the war in Iraq, but then supports a campaign that says you need to get rid of bad leaders in Africa, and there is only one way to do that – war, or trade embargos, but since they don’t trade really it’s the first.

    I also feel bloody sick at the amount of Anti-Americanism that’s going on here. The Kyoto protocol is beyond flawed, and it’s good that some countries can see sense (US, Australia) and not bend to every will of the greenpeace idiot boat. Since I’m in uber-rant mode I’ll tell you why the Kyoto protocol is flawed: it creates more greenhouse gases.

    What? How can that be?! you all ask. Simple. The ‘developing world’ like China and India get _ZERO_ restrictions slapped on them, even though they apparently ‘ratify’ it. What it really means is if they maybe get rich enough to be part of it in 50 years then they’ll have to do something. Otherwise it’s a free ticket to pollute as much as you like.

    The Western countries on the other hand get absurdly large limits placed on them. This forces the governemnts to fine companies who pollute too much carbon dioxide. Therefore, it’s the final stake in the coffin and these previously somewhat clean factories (yes, without the Kyoto protocol countries still enforce air and water pollution standards, even the US) move to China where there is ZERO standards on water pollution. It forces even more coal to be burnt and mined instead of cleaner sources like natural gas or nuclear in the west.

    So what will the result be of the Kyoto protocol? Industry moves to the developing world where nothing is done about rampant pollution even faster than it is moving now. The west’s previously relatively sparkling clean plants shut down as it’s too expensive to compete with the new fines that they get, even though their equal in China gets none. Carbon Dioxide levels rise further, fuelled by China’s love of coal (it’s the cheapest). Greenpeace complains about the latest SUV model even though there are plants in China who spew out millions of tons of waste every year.

  6. “some of your countrymen may not have a big-screen TV and air conditioning.”

    I’ve seen a few of these here in Canada, and I hear that China may get them soon.

  7. Peter Kasting said: It is not at all a “given” that self-interested Americans should support protectionism or that carbon controls or the Kyoto protocol are the best use of resources for a globally-minded person,

    I didn’t mention the Kyoto Protocol by name; but unless you’d like to go against the overwhelming scientific consensus, recognised everywhere but in the US, that carbon dioxide emissions are a significant contribution to the warming of the planet, surely that means some form of carbon emission control is essential?

    hmm said: But on economics you need to be presented with a Clue. Please learn what a zero sum game is, and then why economics isn’t one.

    I know economics isn’t a zero-sum game; however, it also seems pretty clear that the only way that the US will make a significant dent in its carbon dioxide emissions in the short term is by making changes which will have a negative effect on people’s quality of life. The American lifestyle is too wedded to cheap oil and cheap electricity.

    Adam Sacarny said: It’s not clear why trade protectionism is in America’s best interest; if Africa can produce and sell the goods more cheaply than we can, we benefit in the form of lower prices on those goods. The displaced American farmers would be absorbed into other sectors.

    I suspect that, given that the food-producing areas of the US are the ones that vote for Bush, perhaps your argument is right – removal of subsidies is in America’s best interest long term, but it’s not in George’s or the Republican Party’s.

    Another visitor: perhaps you haven’t been reading that much about the message of Live8 and Make Poverty History. People have realised that just giving aid alone doesn’t work, which is why these organisations are pursuing a four-point strategy:

    • Debt cancellation
    • Short-term aid
    • Trade justice
    • Good governance

    But perhaps you’d like to present us with your alternative plan to deal with world poverty and global emissions?

  8. Trade justice and good governance are worthy goals. Financial aid is not. Consider how in Zimbabwe, Mugabe has run a pretty decent country into the ground while retaining the support of the African leaders around him. Sending more money in the direction of him and his friends is futile … as we’ve clearly seen for a long time.

    Instead, focus on altering the bad practices of the West in ways that will help Africans. Lower trade barriers, restrict arms dealers and mercenaries, punish Western companies that support corrupt governments. Support development of technology that makes new services available at lower cost, especially in agriculture and health.

  9. “…Surely that means some form of carbon emission control is essential?”

    No, it most certainly does not. Let’s assume we have definitely concluded that there is global warming and that human carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to it. Even assuming that, the effects of this warming (in terms of human lives cost in the future) are unknown, and difficult to weigh against the effects of other large-scale problems such as AIDS. Furthermore, the amount of resources necessary to reduce carbon emissions by any significant amount is massive. Kyoto, for example, would cost an incredible amount, and yet produce very meager reductions in overall carbon emissions. Presumably, in the short term, other suggestions which would have more meaningful effects on emissions would cost even more. Given that resources are not infinite, it is not at ALL clear that for someone interested in promoting the welfare of humans globally that attempting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is the best, or even a good, use of their resources.

    There are many, many things which could be done to improve people’s lives. We clearly do not have the means to do all of them, so prioritization is necessary. You are not giving sufficient credit to those who have sincere motives and wish to debate the appropriate prioritization of expenditures. This article, for example:
    http://www.garyandrewpoole.com/consensus.html
    …covers various reactions (both pro and con) to the Copenhagen Consensus, one attmept to prioritize spending on world problems. This consensus (the actual rankings produced are given at the end) is obviously debatable for various reasons, but it is an example of an attempt to decide how to prioritize things instead of just saying “we need to fix my pet issue”. Another example of an attempt to ask exactly what should be done to accomplish the stated aims of Live 8 would be this article:
    http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=733072005

    To me it seems clear that a lot of people have a lot of nice intentions, but fewer have thought seriously about exactly how to implement solutions to the various problems facing the world, and how to prioritize those solutions given finite resources to accomplish them.

    Now, to backtrack a little, I don’t actually completely disagree with your conclusion that the U.S. is selfish, perhaps more selfish than it should be. However, I think your supporting evidence (that the U.S. is not implementing the policies you feel are obvious choices) is suspect, and I think the correct fix is for Americans to become more active in meeting people’s needs at a personal, rather than governmental, level.

  10. Peter: it is fallacious to measure the cost of global warming merely in terms of lives lost. What would be the cost of a change in weather patterns which made the southern USA too arid to grow anything? How do you measure the value of submerging someone’s country under a rising sea?

    Also, fighting global warming and fighting AIDS are not mutually exclusive. (In fact, I suspect the hundred billion dollars Bush has spent on the war in Iraq would have gone a long way towards sorting out both problems.)

    I completely agree with your Scotsman article that good governance is important, and that money should not be channelled through governments until they are able to handle it honestly. In fact, Bob Geldof made that very point at an interview he did just before Live8. As I said in an earlier comment, no-one is suggesting that we should just forgive the debt, throw more money at the problem and wait for it to fix itself.

  11. Another visitor:
    “… unlike public or governmental schemes which just hold the status quo of
    poverty and governmental corruption.”

    Gerv:
    “Another visitor: perhaps you haven’t been reading that much about the message
    of Live8 and Make Poverty History. People have realised that just giving aid alone
    doesn’t work, which is why these organisations are pursuing a four-point strategy:

    * Debt cancellation
    * Short-term aid
    * Trade justice
    * Good governance

    But perhaps you’d like to present us with your alternative plan to deal with
    world poverty and global emissions?”

    Me, Eddie Maddox:
    That “Good governance” bit, good luck! Whoever said,
    “The poor you will always have with you, …” (Matthew 26:11, KJV)
    knew what he was talking about. Yes, it was Jesus, The Christ/Messiah.

    Jesus said this to his own Jewish government leaders:
    “”Adroitly YOU set aside the commandment of God in order to retain YOUR tradition.
    For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and,
    ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ But YOU men say,
    ‘If a man says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have by which you may get benefit
    from me is corban, (that is, a gift dedicated to God,)” — YOU men no longer let him do
    a single thing for his father or his mother, and thus YOU make the word of God invalid
    by YOUR tradition which YOU handed down. And many things similar to this YOU do.””
    (Mark 7:9-13, New World Translation)

    Governments today are still the same way, “… public or governmental schemes which
    just hold the status quo of poverty and governmental corruption.” (Another visitor)

    Rather than faithfully implementing generally accepted good (medical, financial,
    agricultural, logistical, educational, …) management practices (a “rational basis”
    in legal terms, the “word of God” in Biblical terms) to benefit their citizens
    (a legitimate government purpose, both legally and Biblically), governments today,
    including the USA and in Africa, still do “many things similar to” how the Jewish
    government in Biblical times did things, even though it is to the detriment of their citizens:
    1. Rationalizing/codifying their traditions.
    2. Handing them down (as “decisions”, “rulings” and “the law”).

    So, yes, it is true, the poor we will always have with us.
    Jesus knew all about “Good governance”. Good luck…

    Eddie Maddox.

  12. My intent was not to measure large-scale problems only in terms of “lives lost” but in terms of “overall impact”; poor wording on my part, originally. That does not negate my point that it is extremely difficult to quantify the overall impact of global warming both with and without intervention. (Of course, quantifying the impact of almost any large project is difficult and requires guesswork, but I consider global warming to be a particularly thorny case.)

    I certainly agree that multiple problems can be combatted at once; however, not an infinite number of them. My proposition is simply that there is reason to debate about what problems should be chosen to be tackled, and putting global warming at the top of that list is not a foregone conclusion. Similarly, while I agree that free trade and the eradication of corruption in government are good goals that will help Africans and can be at least partly achieved through high-level political processes, I don’t think “doing what’s best for America” is necessarily in competition with those objectives.

    On a separate and more cynical note, while I am convinced that you personally care about the issue, I am not so convinced that many of those who attended Live 8 concerts or watched on TV are as interested. “Good music for free? Woohoo! …Oh, hey, poverty stuff? Yeah, we should probably get rid of it…those do-nothings in government ought to fix the problem already! –I need another beer.” I don’t think holding a bunch of concerts is the best way to achieve anything meaningful, regardless of the intent or articulated proposals of the organizers. I think it’s a good way to get a bunch of lemmings together and pretend to care about a serious issue for as long as Pink Floyd keeps playing, and then go home and forget about things. And I think the results of Live Aid and other past attempts to do similar things support me. The reason there is still poverty and misery in Africa isn’t because those nasty American Presidents stonewall the effective processes of the rest of the world–it’s because relatively few people in ANY country think and care deeply enough about the problem to go and implement practical solutions to it.

    So, as I said before, I think your conclusion is warranted — Americans are, indeed, selfish, as well as being locally, rather than globally, focused. But I think that’s true of other countries as well; I think many proposals to “fix” the problems are political tokens that are inefficient uses of resources but sound good to the populace that “wants to see something get done”; and unless people on a personal level seek to understand the problems and do something constructive about them, this will not change.

  13. Self interest drives humanity. Is the United States self-concerned? Absolutely. Are the European states self-interested? Absolutely. The billions that the EU nations give to foreign nations in need isn’t because of the European governments’ benevolence; Europe simply trying to usurp United States global dominance through soft power. The soft power doctrine hopes that by getting in enough nation’s pocket books they can push around the United States in international organizations. American are greedy – yes – but lets not forget we’re all human in the end.

  14. Gerv,

    I disagree that Make Poverty History isn’t just about aid. That has not been communicated very well at all in my opinion and if you ask anyone on the street what it’s all about they will certainly say aid far above anything else.

    Anyway, in response to:

    * Debt cancellation – not sure if this has been well thought through. Guess what all these countries plan to do after all the debt is cancelled? Get more loans, which somehow they will pay back even though they failed last time and are in arguably a worse position than last time. Debt also indirectly forces the government to keep its accounts in order – the world bank gets much more pissy about their debt not being paid back than some country messing up their tax system with no consequence to them.

    * Short-term aid – what? I don’t know where you got ‘short-term’ from. Perhaps to appease me but none of the literature that makepovertyhistory has seems to support this.

    * Trade justice – agreed, but it’s not the US that is really to blame here. The EU is far more to blame than the US. The US has also been very proactive with NAFTA which has helped Mexico.

    * Good governance – How is this going to happen? Do you honestly think a few hippies in Edinburugh smashing up shop windows is going to get Mugabe to go ‘Ah yes, I’ll just cede my power away’.

    Anyway, the corruption is so deep in Africa that I doubt any sub-saharan countries are even moderately corrupt. Massive rackets will of been set up cross nation so just because you don’t give to Zimbambe but you do give to Botswana doesn’t mean that the aid will not trickle through still.

    What would be my solution to make poverty history? Get rid of trade barriers. The US is actually one of the most proactive countries on this but have slipped lately with China. Keep some subsidies for farming in the EU/US because of their strategic need – in war or massive economic problems you need your food locally and it’s a lot easier/cheaper to have a small reserve of farms left.

    I would then stop giving all but the most needed aid to Africa and put it into very well audited tax-breaks for corporations who invest in Africa. This obviously won’t happen with the current climate of outsourcing hatred but it would work many many times better than the current attitude towards aid. Perhaps keep a few billion back to set up a grant scheme for African companies to set up/upscale their operations with an emphasis on infrastructure development – railways, telecoms, airports, roads and the like. This would provide employment for the un and semiskilled and also help development in other areas.

    On Global Warming, I don’t have a solution. I would get rid of the Kyoto protocol though, as it will do much more harm than good. I think waiting 10-20 years and re-evaluating whether we actually need a global level program would be an exceptionally good idea. I have a feeling that the US will sort itself out, as many members the senate are coming round to the idea and we are seeing many state-level carbon dioxide reduction schemes come up.

    There is a lot of irony in the way you want to solve global poverty and also global warming. On the one hand, you say remove trade barriers and drop the subsidies. But for global warming you advocate a program which would create more trade barriers and increase subsidies. Which one will it be?

  15. Another thing.

    You also all forget to measure in the huge rise in the cost of Oil which is going to happen soon. Even most oil traders subscribe to this and we could easily see $100/bl costs this winter.

    This is going to force _everyone_ to look much more closely at alternatives and thus, reduce dependance on sources of fuel which create greenhouse gases.

    I’m a huge proponent of not involving the government apart from where absolutely needed and this is one of those cases. I have a feeling that global warming is going to become a y2kbug style issue.

  16. I think it’s hard to believe what you say, in the tone and direction you say it. Yes, people are dieing while some are thriving… it has been this way since the beginning of time… We all do and always have wished it were not so off center. But, to wish against the thriving, is in fact to wish for the dieing? No, nothing is so simple as you make it seem… There is no injustice for those that choose life, only for those that choose otherwise. People, in position of power have made very poor and despicable choices – fighting fire with fire, choosing self before neighbor. I for one do not believe accusation or otherwise hateful remarks will make the fires disappear, they’ll only bring it to a simmer, waiting for some more timber… Enough, stupid words, I agree with you, but I think you need to work only on how and what is wrong, in no way is America all disgustingly rich non-caring Joe users as you make it seem. We are people too, and so maybe the first thing that someone such as your self might try to do is stop judging and start helping… But then again, what have I just done, I’ve judged, so shame on me :-( around and around we shall go… sigh, I really am trying to say look we’re all people even bush is a person, a misguided person, but still a person. I believe, it is life that we must learn to love before we as a people can really make good of the all the people of the world… Some how we must find away or means of managing the insane, and the lost whom strive to take from others… After all it shouldn’t be about taking from others it should be about what we can give to others…

  17. Gerv,

    I read your post this morning and its been troubling me all day. “Don’t fool yourself, O American…Yes, some of your countrymen may not have a big-screen TV and air conditioning… Get some perspective.” The tone that comes through in your post seems to be the high-and-mighty talking down to the selfish, ignorant American. From what I know about how to influence people, this approach has poor to counter-productive effects, and leaves even me, a Canadian, with all my FUD radar in deep-scan mode for the rest of your post. Maybe you didn’t intend the post to sound this way.

    The plea for Americans to bleed a little (give up some of their “American Dream”) for the sake of world-wide humanity – now that’s a noble thing, but after the sarcasm, a reader is likely to be left wondering what bleeding Gerv himself is doing for the sake of humanity.

    I don’t think this is the way, Gerv. The cause is right, but this is not the way.

    P.S. You are obviously a thinking man. If you haven’t read it already, I believe you would enjoy, The Ingenuity Gap, by Thomas Homer-Dixon. It speaks of the issues you mention, their complexities and the ingenuity needed, and HOPEFULLY available, for their solution. I would be interested in reading your thoughts on it.

  18. Re: “And don’t fool yourself, O American “. See Matthew 7:1-5 http://www.christianbiblelinks.com/WebMatthew7Comm.html for commentary on speck versus beam.

    Re: “It is clearly in your best interests, within George Bush’s political lifetime, to continue to pollute the atmosphere and to keep protectionist trade barriers.”

    On pollution, if you mean the kyoto protocol, then Anothervistor has nailed it. China & Indian are developing nationss & but in my opinion they are up & coming superpower nations. It will happen. To let them off the hook and penalize Europe & USA on future pollution is a joke at best & a fatal mistake at worst.

    On protectionist trade barriers, in theory free trade agreements like NAFTA should result in more competition & lowers the cost of goods. I can tell you first hand that NAFTA was used as a vehicle to export 1200+ jobs from Long Island, NY, USA to Mexico. The cost of the company’s products did not go down after the move to Mexico even in light of reduced costs (mostly labor) by 75%. I know all this because I worked there as IT staff and I watched my father’s job become a Mexican’s job. In a time where globalization makes the world seem a little smaller & makes us more mindful of who & where we are, we continue to see practically zero progress. The CEOs get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class become marginalized and is slowly sliding into porverty. Should free trade exist? Yes. Free trade versus protectionistic tendencies needs to be balanced. One should not cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. We should not support so called free trade if it results in the marginalization of our own workforce or the degradation of our own nation’s economy (consumer buying power).

    Re: “Fellow human beings in Africa are dying of hunger and preventable disease at the rate of one every three seconds. Get some perspective.”

    As a missionary my uncle has visited Ukraine, China, Mexico, and 6 months after 9/11 Afganistan. My brothers are at this moment not on USA soil but are in Wales, UK helping spread the good news of Christ to the Welsh. Please get your own perspective. 1 Timothy 3:1-7. We have poverty, hunger, violence and injustice in our own neighborhoods, in our own USA & Europe. Perhaps you have heard of the phrase “Charity begins at home.” I will support local minitries & initiatives for helping solve poverty & hunger. I support & give aid (through my federal income tax) to nations in need. I will not support initiatives that in an attempt to level the playing field will bankrupt myself or my nation.

  19. Another Christian: First, I’m an atheist. I don’t think people spreading Gospel is any good or helps anybody on the long term, or is related to the issue at discussion, I’m afraid. Now, if the person who was Jesus Christ could see what people like you, who supposedly follow his cause, say, would be ashamed: “help the poor, but only my local poor, not the really dying, foreign, poor, because that could make me live a little bit worse, and the remote possibility that it might make my country not being n�1 anymore, pisses me off.” Nice.

    As to Kyoto, it’s as simple as this: so all world (except a few 2nd 3rd world nations) are willing to make an effort to stop pollution, but USA, who is among (if not) the most contaminating one, but also the most powerful economy in the world, refuses to do so, because that would hurt that economy. So, the other countries who have weaker economies can make an effort but USA cannot? Pure selfish behaviour, a shame for the rest of the world.

  20. First, on the poverty issue, I like the approach of a charity called KickStart (formerly ApproTec). From their website:

    KickStart is a non-profit organization that develops and markets new technologies in Africa. These low-cost technologies are bought by local entrepreneurs, and used to establish highly profitable new small businesses. They create new jobs and new wealth and allow the poor to climb out of their poverty forever.

    KickStart’s Impacts To Date
    Over:

    * 35,000 new businesses started
    * 800 new businesses per month
    * $37 million a year in new profits and wages generated by the new businesses
    * New revenues equivalent to more than 0.5% of Kenya’s GDP and 0.2% of Tanzania’s GDP

    Pretty impressive for one small charity. As families gain more income, they are able to pay for more food, education, health services, means of communication, etc., and the more educated they are, the more likely they will be to demand good governance. I think this is a much better approach than simply dumping aid money in a country.

    As for the debt, I like the idea of only forgiving debts in response to reforms aimed at transparent, democratic governance and protecting human rights, eg. forgive half a country’s debt if they allow freedom of speech and press.

    About the zero-sum deal: over the long-term, the more poor countries develop, the more they will be able to afford US goods, the less aid they will need, the less likely they will become breeding grounds for terrorists, and the more scientific and technological discoveries they can make, so it benefits everyone.

    Now for the global warming issue: ever buy an expensive PC, and a few weeks later, due to the release of some newer model, the price of the same system drops significantly? Happens all the time. On science websites, they often describe new technological breakthroughs that will help the environment. For instance, someone is researching using genetically-modified bacteria to absorb CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Someone else is using spinach to make solar cells with really high efficiency. One company recently came out with a product that uses algae and sunlight to convert powerplant emissions (including CO2) into biofuel. Exciting stuff.

    I’d love to see the US and/or other countries make a big decade-long push to develop all sorts of new environmentally-friendly technologies, just like we made a big push in the 60’s to put a man on the moon. This would be a far better use of resources than Kyoto, and would get more done. Show businesses that they can make money by developing environmental technologies (by selling them to power plants and other businesses), and they will rush to do it.

    Oh, and I did read about a theory that the Earth’s rising temperatures last century were actually due to increasing activity from the Sun or some other natural cycle (remember that the Earth has gone through ice ages and tropical ages on its on before), but I don’t know how likely that is.

  21. So, does anyone have any actual evidence that stricter emission controls will screw up the American economy? Without any paticular background in economics [1] it’s not clear to me that forcing tight emission controls on *everyone* can’t artificially stimulate competition as companies look for innovative ways to meet the regulations and keep prices down. Indeed, I was under the impression that competition was supposed to be the driving force behind the success of the American economy…

    As for Africa – well suffice it to say I have a great deal more sympathy for the starving millions suffering under their corrupt leaders than I do for the obese millions of the west doing rather better under their corrupt leaders.

    [1] As far as I can tell this discussion doesn’t require anything as difficult to obtain as a Clue for participation. Certianly there seems to be no prerequisite to have a background in climateology or indeed in any science at all to have an opinion on global warming…

  22. jgraham: If you force American industry to vastly increase their cost base while the Chinese factories get cheaper, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen.

  23. another visitor: jgraham: If you force American industry to vastly increase their cost base while the Chinese factories get cheaper, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen
    by your logic earth is in the middle of the universe, blacks are inferiour beings etc. scientific analysis (yes economics uses this) is required before making any decion.

    @James Napolitano: I’d love to see the US and/or other countries make a big decade-long push to develop all sorts of new environmentally-friendly technologies…This would be a far better use of resources than Kyoto, and would get more done …
    this ‘push’ is already happening, most state governments have many tax breaks and other laws that help enviromentally friendly techs. The thing about Kyoto is you have to start somewhere and this is seen as a stepping stone. Your comments about other theories: there is almost zero doubt (within the scientific community) now after the last 3-4 years that this global warming is caused by humans.

    @AnotherChristianOn protectionist trade barriers, in theory free trade agreements like NAFTA should result in more competition & lowers the cost of goods. I can tell you first hand that NAFTA was used as a vehicle to export 1200+ jobs from Long Island, NY, USA to Mexico. The cost of the company’s products did not go down after the move to Mexico even in light of reduced costs (mostly labor) by 75%…The CEOs get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class become marginalized and is slowly sliding into porverty…

    You forgot that even though there are jobs being lost from the US the poor in the other countries are slowly gettng richer. So the wealth is being distributed.

    @Todd: We (the US) consume more matierials than the rest of the world. We create more trash than the rest of the world. There are more statistics like these and yes I cant provide sources. Just something for you to think about.

    @rgw: you are a pragmatist, it seems the world is too full of people like you we need more idealists who can take actions for their ideals.

    @maddox: Jesus also talked about slavery, does that make it right? Ah yes lets use a biblical governance structure, kinda like in the middle ages? that worked out pretty well.

    more later

  24. Peter Kasting: your cynicism is a little disappointing. But if an event as global and high-profile as Live8 can’t persuade people to start taking these issues seriously in their day-to-day lives, what can?

    Another Visitor: claiming that America isn’t to blame on Free Trade because they’ve done things with NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) is simply incredible.

    I think waiting 10-20 years and re-evaluating whether we actually need a global level program would be an exceptionally good idea.

    And if we then decide we do, we’ll have an even bigger mountain to climb than now! I don’t really care if it’s a global program or a country-by-country program, but countries (particularly the US, which is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions) need to start reducing their carbon output right away. Don’t call it “Kyoto” if you are scared of the word. Fine.

    marwya said: The tone that comes through in your post seems to be the high-and-mighty talking down to the selfish, ignorant American.

    Possibly. I was aiming for “grand and visionary”; maybe I only hit “condescending”.

    a reader is likely to be left wondering what bleeding Gerv himself is doing for the sake of humanity.

    Any reader who is wondering can email me and ask. I suspect publically posting a self-promoting list of “stuff I do that is green” isn’t really going to help. But I’m happy to admit I have a long way to go too. But at least my leader, with whom I often disagree, is doing the right thing and taking a lead on this issue.

    AnotherChristian said: We should not support so called free trade if it results in the marginalization of our own workforce or the degradation of our own nation’s economy (consumer buying power).

    I find it sad that someone who self-identifies as Christian sees the right of people to buy more stuff as something vital. Fofy makes a fair point, although not perhaps in words I’d use.

    And, actually, it would be a great thing if China became a world superpower in 30 years. By then it’ll be a Christian country. The signs are there.

    James Napolitano: KickStart sounds like a great target for some aid budget money. I agree we need to get away from thinking of “aid” as cash or food handouts.

    If you force American industry to vastly increase their cost base while the Chinese factories get cheaper, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen.

    So America gets to industrialise in a polluting way but China doesn’t? Don’t get me wrong, I think that emissions are everyone’s problem, but saying “We industrialised messily, and now we won’t fix our emissions because other poorer countries are going through the same process” seems poor justification.

  25. And, actually, it would be a great thing if China became a world superpower in 30 years. By then it’ll be a Christian country. The signs are there.

    Can I note that I find this attitude very disturbing. Not only are you apparently advocating cultural imperialism but you make a strange and unwarranted link between the prevalent religious leanings of a country and its ability to use power responsibly. Need I remind you that the United States government is self-described as Christian?

    It’s quite distressing that religion can act as such an inhibitor to intelligent thought.

  26. My point was merely to counter the “Ooh, China, communists, wouldn’t it be terrible if they got power” attitude.

    I think that if a government truly does follow Christian principles, then it will be a good government. (I’m sure you would hardly expect me to believe otherwise!) I don’t actually think the US Government self-describes as Christian; in fact, some of those within it are those who have taken the founders’ ideas about “no establishment of religion” (i.e. no official state church like the Church of England in the UK) and morphed them into this nebulous “separation of church and state” concept which is used to actively discriminate against Christians.

    However, it’s true that the US President does describe himself as such, and I find it very sad that he can do so and also support initiating military hostilities against another country. I would encourage all Christian Americans to pray for him and their government.

  27. Please tell me how seperation of church and state discriminates against christians specifically?

  28. poningru:
    “@maddox: Jesus also talked about slavery, does that make it right?”

    Does gravity now exist merely because Albert Einstein talked about relativity?

    Mere talk is unable to make gravity exist, or to make things right/beneficial in this world,
    as Jesus was merely trying to point out with his observations on slavery, poverty
    and bad governance practices in his day, none of which has changed much since then.

    poningru:
    “Ah yes lets use a biblical governance structure, kinda like in the middle ages?
    that worked out pretty well.”

    Is “… faithfully implementing generally accepted good … management practices …
    to benefit their citizens …” “kinda like in the middle ages?” No. Instead,
    it is kinda like the later 20th century, I think, even though the basic concepts of what
    constitutes such generally accepted good … management practices/
    “Good governance”/”biblical governance structure” have been understood since at least
    the time of King Solomon when the book of Proverbs was composed.

    Where “faithfully” implemented, generally accepted good … management practices
    do tend to work out pretty well in providing benefits to citizens rather than detriments.
    Most such faithfull implementations of generally accepted good … management practices/
    “Good governance”/”biblical governance structure” are found in the private sectors of nations
    and far too few in public sectors.

    Eddie Maddox

  29. The Americans can help reduce global warming

    Gerv make a good point (as usual) about the need for America to join the rest of the world in doing something about global warming. However I noticed these figures in today’s Independent.

    Country
    CO2/capita
    change 1990-2002
    Energy effi…

  30. funny how easy it is to throw stones Gervase.

    I have no idea what country you are from but I gather it isn’t the USA. I am the first to admit that we ‘Americans’ as we like to call ourselves {in spite of the fact that we are anything but Americans} are arrogant and can be self-assured beyond belief. However in my 17+ years of working in CA countries I have noticed a couple things, first I constantly run across groups of, and individual, US citizens who donate their own money and time to come to Central America and other places like it to take some part, as small as it may seem, in relieving other peoples hunger and pain. I have occasionally run across a group from other places, like Great Britain or Australia, but they are not at all common.

    But if I go to the tourist areas of say Belize, or Honduras, both very poor countries, I find resorts full or people from all over including the USA. It seems that people from other countries are more then happy to spend there time and money having a good time and then to turn around and denounce the USA as the great evil in this world when they have never lifted a personal hand to help anyone else. Of course this is not the case for every single person but generally as a group it holds out from my experience.

    If you really want to make a difference let me take you El Soccoro, a village in Honduras where a 7-year-old girl carries her 5 year old crippled sister two miles down a mountain every day to school and then back up. Let me show you a village where water is available 1 day a week and then it isn�t even drinkable. Get your hands dirty digging a well or clearing a road to some remote place. Our president and congress will never do these things but as citizens many of us do. If you really want to make a difference you can but it cost.
    .

  31. Gerv, ideals are great…if it wasn’t for people fighting for ideals, humanity would never move forward. The problem is discerning which ideals are worth-while, practical, or successful in solving the problem they set out to do. Yes, I’m a true pragmatist.

    Another point I’d like to state is the importance of NAFTA and CAFTA. The European Union is turning into the dominant economic player in the world, and they’ve done it without running its workers into the ground like the American social model does. Of course, Europe is able to do this by having a defense budget an American official would laugh at (if your going to have the cradle-to-grave welfare state, something is going to have to give in the budget). Anyway, back to my point. No matter how powerful the combined economies of the European states are, the Americas are more mineral rich and have much more potential. We need to turn the Americas into a large free-trade zone to get U.S. consumer goods into the Latino nations and import those precious resources from Latin America. That isn’t the only thing the US needs to do: we need to commit a good percentage of our GDP to bringing Latin American nations into the first world. Think of it as a sort of Marshall Plan for the home-front. Once we do that, we will have created the largest group of consumers in the world and a Union with plentiful resources to sell to the third rising economic power: China.

  32. Gerv

    As usual, I find myself pleased that despite our differences (largely those of religion) you’re pretty much spot on here. What’s so sad is all the cynicism behind events like Live 8 and Make Poverty History.

    More sad though, and what the original point of your post was to a large extent, is the reality of the world is that some things do need to change – we need to stop placing such demands on the environment, we need to stop wanting goods at such cheap prices that appaling labor conditions are the only way to make them, we need to stop putting our aid money into schemes that benefit the country giving the aid and more – the trouble is, some of these things will mean minor changes to the lives of us in the privaliged first world – maybe the DVD player will be more expensive, or petrol prices will be higher. I just wish people could accept that sometimes their own back-pocket isn’t the be all and end all of what matters.

    Tom

  33. Some good points (although I wouldn’t be quite so condescending myself, it tends to provoke rash responses.) I’m glad Live8’s main aim wasn’t financial. Financial aid will do (and has done) largely nothing for Africa until other problems have been resolved. Abismal governing as you mention is one area that needs to be addressed for sure (don’t ask me how, I don’t want to involve myself in a debate about the UN, war or any other tactic, nor on the merits of any method.) Take Mugabe who has multiply more money than his entire country, and any money that is received is spent on nice shiny weapons.

    Civil war. Doesn’t help many people. Wastes lots of life and money.

    And then after that, money could be given to Africa, spent well, educate, train and then sort out trading, so that Africa can use their natural resources (of which, in continental terms, they have the most,) to make _their own_ money.

  34. Mere talk is unable to make gravity exist, or to make things right/beneficial in this world,
    as Jesus was merely trying to point out with his observations on slavery, poverty
    and bad governance practices in his day…

    Exactly my point simply because our saviour said that doesnt mean that these things will exist always so it is wrong for us to say ‘look JC said this hence no matter what I do it will not go away, so let me not do anything’ which is what I got from you earlier comment.

    … none of which has changed much since then.
    Sorry I have to disagree with that, althought the situation has not changed as in slavery is still prevelant and poverty even more so, what has changed is the attitude of the people, 2000 years ago or even 200 years ago this discussion would not be happening because most of us would agree that slavery and poverty are all a natural part of the world and nothing can be done about it.

    I have to completely disagree with your last few statements, because what you are thinking of is not what is considered to be ‘good’ according to the biblical sense, for example our judicial system (men judging men, men judging ideas etc.) is the antithesis of what is good in the biblical sense, but our judicial system is one of the best systems in the government right now, getting rid of such unfair practices as segregation, etc.
    Oh and your comment about the private sector, the entire private sector is involved in making money thats it nothing more everything points to this end nothing else. Please tell me how greed is good.

  35. poningru asked: Please tell me how seperation of church and state discriminates against christians specifically?

    The principle does not, but its most common use is to prevent Christians exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to do things which, if done for a secular purpose, would be permissible. Here’s one list of a few incidents. Googling can probably find you more.

    Matthew: it’s great that individual citizens are doing things – my point was not that every American is lazy and self-centered. Nor am I claiming that people from other countries are all hypocrisy-free saints. But the efforts of individual people are dwarfed by the effect of central government policy – primarily on trade. It’s great to dig a well, but if the entire village has no market for their crops, they are going to stay poor for a very long time.

    poningru said: for example our judicial system (men judging men, men judging ideas etc.) is the antithesis of what is good in the biblical sense

    It’s not particularly relevant to this discussion, but I think you have misunderstood the Biblical teaching on “judging”. Email me if you want me to explain more.

  36. poningru:
    “… so it is wrong for us to say ‘look JC said this hence no matter what I do it will not go away,
    so let me not do anything’ which is what I got from you earlier comment.”

    May I parse this, please?
    – ‘… JC said this
    – hence no matter what I do
    – it will not go away,
    – so let me not do anything’
    – which is what I got from you earlier comment.

    Well, what I get from your comment here is this:
    1. You forgot some things in my earlier comment.
    2. You added some things to my earlier comment.

    1. You forgot some things in my earlier comment.:

    Gerv:
    “People have realised that just giving aid alone doesn’t work, which is why these organisations
    are pursuing a four-point strategy:

    * Debt cancellation
    * Short-term aid
    * Trade justice
    * Good governance”

    Me, Eddie Maddox:
    “That “Good governance” bit, …”

    So all my comments relate to the theme of “Good governance”.

    Jesus:
    “”Adroitly YOU set aside the commandment of God in order to retain YOUR tradition.””

    In today’s lingo: “You government folks cleverly outlaw generally accepted good
    governance practices in order to retain your traditions that are detrimental to your citizens
    rather than being beneficial to them.”

    Also omitted:
    “Governments today are still the same way, “… public or governmental schemes which
    just hold the status quo of poverty and governmental corruption.” (Another visitor)”

    In other words, poningru, you omitted the pertinent facts of the situation. Jesus and Another visitor,
    as with Albert Einstein and my local weather forcaster, are merely trying to inform us,
    sound the alarm, even, that there is information we may need to know about
    in order to better understand things, be that gravity, thunderstorms, or the sociology of governments.

    Therefor, it is not, ” ‘… JC said this hence no matter what I do it will not go away,”.
    Rather, it is, “Government folks cleverly outlaw generally accepted good governance practices,
    hence no matter what I do it (poverty) will not go away,”.

    2. You added some things to my earlier comment.:

    ” so let me not do anything’ which is what I got from you earlier comment.”
    Contrast that with:
    “That “Good governance” bit, good luck!”
    and:
    “So, yes, it is true, the poor we will always have with us.
    Jesus knew all about “Good governance”. Good luck…”
    and:
    “- Debt cancellation
    * Short-term aid
    * Trade justice
    * Good governance”

    By your saying “so let me not do anything'”, you are trying to expand the scope of my
    comments far beyond the “Good governance” theme I explicitly limited my comments to.

    Further, “so let me not do anything’ which is what I got from you earlier comment.”,
    scares me since you seem to be trying to read into my earlier comment some sort of
    personal coaching from me for your own life decisions.

    Example: if my local weather forcaster said, “There are thunderstorms coming, Big ones!,
    and nothing within our power can stop them from coming.”, does this mean that
    we are out of options in figuring out what we should do? Or are there other things we can do
    to cope with the situation besides just trying to stop big thunderstorms from coming?

    As pointed out by both Jesus and Another visitor, we are powerless to permanently stop
    bad governance and thereby help stop poverty, too. But, does knowing that keep you
    from figuring out and learning about what other things can be done to help cope with
    bad governance and its detrimental effects on citizens?

    Eddie Maddox

  37. Some other ideas that came to mind, although rather late:

    @poningru:

    this ‘push’ is already happening, most state governments have many tax breaks and other laws that help enviromentally friendly techs.

    Yes, but not of the national or even international scale and scope that I was talking about.

    The thing about Kyoto is you have to start somewhere and this is seen as a stepping stone.

    And my point was that it wasn’t the best first step to take. If you’re not able to solve a problem effectively now, build better tools and then go at it. Advancements like the carbon-fixing bacteria I described and fusion power could potentially solve the whole global warming problem themselves.

    there is almost zero doubt (within the scientific community) now after the last 3-4 years that this global warming is caused by humans.

    While this is indeed the dominant view by scientists, there still is some debate on the issue. Climatology still is an inexact science, and even that distributed climateprediction.net project falls far short of the amount of computational power to accurately model the Earth’s climate. See here for more information. Of course, none of this is to say that we should wait until we are uncertain to act and make plans.

    @Gerv:

    the US, which is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions

    I’ve heard this statistic many times and I wish I knew where it came from. With lots of manufacturing haven been outsourced to other countries, I bet the figure is different now. And keep in mind that large portions of the world population resides in unindustrialized countries. Regardless, you have to take into account that the US economy represents from 20% to 25% of the world economy. I believe (as an American) that we can conserve and cut down on waste a lot more, but my point is that we are not as wasteful as that statistic implies. Perhaps CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP would be a better metric to examine.

  38. I’ve heard this statistic many times and I wish I knew where it came from.

    Here.

    Regardless, you have to take into account that the US economy represents from 20% to 25% of the world economy.

    If economic growth were an end rather than a means, that might be a relevant observation. :-)

  39. Well, first, thanks for the link.

    If economic growth were an end rather than a means, that might be a relevant observation. :-)

    It is relevant. The more activity you do (roughly represented by the size of your economy), the more energy is required and thus the more emissions you will have. For example, put a computer in every household in your country that doesn’t already have one (a worthy goal), and you necessarily raise emissions because you need energy to both produce and run those computers.

    Actually, now that I think about it, we’d want to distinguish between energy (or emissions) spent on different things, like basic needs (transportation, heating, food production, etc.), luxuries (high-def TVs, entertainment systems, off-road vehicles, etc.), military uses, etc., to get a better idea of how wasteful or efficient a given country is.

    Also you have to take into account the differences in natural resources between countries. For example, France has large sheets of bedrock in which it can safely store away nuclear waste and so gets 90% of its energy from nuclear reactors, which produce no emissions. Iceland can get lots of its energy from geothermal sources. The US, on the other hand, is sitting on loads of coal, which is quite dirty.

  40. In case anyone feels like reading it, here is an article I saved from the APS (American Physical Society), an organization of Physicists. (Sorry, the article isn’t online anymore, so I have to post it here rather than link to it). It makes a number of interesting points, emphasis mine:

    Energy, Economic Growth Can Be Compatible with Environmental Preservation

    By Lawrence B. Lindsey

    We all know that scientific research lies behind our nation’s long-term economic success. Good science is also the key to both defining and addressing many of the great policy challenges facing our country, including energy and global climate change. Ultimately it will be the work of scientists – in laying the foundation for new technologies and increasing our understanding of the world around us – that will enable our nation to address these important policy challenges.

    During his campaign, then-Governor Bush spoke of energy as a storm cloud forming over the economy. America’s reliance on energy had continued to grow, but its supply had not kept pace. We now know the consequences. A few years ago, many people had never heard the term “rolling blackout,” but now everybody in California knows the term all too well. Throughout the country, we’ve seen sharp increases in fuel prices, from home heating oil to gasoline hitting $2 a gallon in Chicago. In the Northeast, communities face the possibility of electricity shortages this summer. Energy costs as a share of household expenses have been rising, and families are feeling the pinch.

    Similarly, we confront a potentially major challenge in human effects on the global climate. We also face the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. The absence of a clear, coherent energy strategy means we will neither have energy nor a clean environment. One cannot stress enough the interdisciplinary nature of determining public policy on these issues. Economics and engineering are both involved in the process, but so too are physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, law and political science.

    To some, the task of providing energy and economic growth is incompatible with the preservation of a clean environment. But the data suggest that science, technology, and sound economic and public policy make both possible. Since 1973 the US economy has grown four times faster than our energy use. In recent years, very robust growth in the nation’s GDP has been accompanied by a slowdown in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. In both 1998 and 1999, US GDP grew by more than 4% each year while CO2 emissions grew by less than 0.15% in 1998 and 1.3% in 1999. Our success in reducing other, more immediately health-threatening emissions has been even greater. Since 1970, for example, the economy has grown nearly 125%. But our emission of sulphur oxide is down 36%, and we have 98% less lead in our air. We have cut nitrous oxide emissions almost in half per unit of GDP.

    These successes are due to major improvements in technology, which have already led to significant reductions in pollution from coal-fired plants. Coal currently provides half of all the fuel for electricity generation in this country and will, of necessity, play an important role for decades to come. But further progress is still possible. Two-thirds of the energy used in a conventional coal-fired power plant is wasted in the production of electricity. These losses can be minimized through numerous innovations, including the installation of high-efficiency steam turbines, reducing steam leaks, and using software to optimize combustion efficiency. New coal-burning power plants can achieve efficiencies of over 40% using existing technology and companies are investing in the search for even more efficient technologies. In addition, wasted energy can also be recycled for use in industrial processes or for heating buildings.

    Technology also allows us to make efficient improvements in our use of energy on the demand side. For example, advanced sensors and controls enable buildings and factories to operate more efficiently, and allow equipment and lights to be turned off or dimmed when not in use. Furthermore, new technologies are allowing the market to work better. One example is time-of-day pricing, which provides consumers with an incentive to smooth out their electricity use, thereby minimizing the need for peak power production. The same type of improvements in energy efficiency can be obtained by a more interconnected electric grid.

    It is an economic fact of life that science and technology, as well as the environment, prosper in a growing economy. Prosperity allows us to commit ever-increasing resources to cleaning up our environment, and to developing S&T which will lead to future economic growth and environmental improvements. This is not principally the case for larger commitments of public sector resources made possible by larger tax collections from a bigger economy. In fact, the great majority of scientific and technological advances and their applications take place in the private sector.

    Currently, the average annual real rate of return on corporate investment in America is about 9%, including both plant and equipment investment, as well as research and development. A stream of research that yields 9% return over a century will lower the cost of doing something by a factor of 5000. For example, in 1900 a light bulb cost roughly $20 in today’s currency; today it costs 40 cents, lasts at least 10 times longer, and uses a fraction of the electricity to generate the same amount of candlepower. When confronting long-range challenges like the environment, investments in the R&D of new technologies, with actual applications decades in the future, are far more cost-effective than trying to act with existing technologies.

    It is precisely for this reason that the Bush Administration opposes the Kyoto Protocol. We believe it could damage our collective prosperity and, in so doing, put our long-term environmental health at risk. We believe the protocol both will fail to significantly reduce the long-term risks posed by climate change, and, in the short run, will seriously impede our ability to meet our energy needs and foster economic growth. Furthermore, by imposing high regulatory and economic costs, it may actually reduce our capacity both to find innovative ways out of the environmental consequences of global warming and to achieve the necessary increases in energy production.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the estimated level of greenhouse gases expected in the year 2010 will instead be delayed by a little over a decade. Few of the developed nations who claim to support the treaty have, in fact, undertaken domestic policies to lend credibility to the idea that they will meet Kyoto’s targets, with two exceptions: Britain and Germany.

    In Britain, the abandonment of intensive use of coal and a switch to the use of new natural gas discoveries made the conversion fairly easy, while in Germany, the inclusion of the industrial base of the former DDR after reunification made attainment easy. It would have been cost-effective to shut down much of East Germany’s highly polluting electricity generation even without Kyoto. However, looking at other nations, attainment of the treaty’s goals is not realistic. A further 27% reduction by Japan and a 22% reduction by Canada are as unlikely as the 30% by the US from its projected 2010 levels.

    The treaty does little to promote investment in new technologies, even though these advances offer the greatest long-term potential reward in terms of reducing the effects of global warming and improving quality of life on the planet. Technological solutions are most likely to succeed if investment and research are allowed to take place over a long period of time. Kyoto, by requiring dramatic upfront reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by those countries with the greatest ability to do such research, turns this on its head. The treaty makes innovation largely irrelevant by imposing onerous restrictions before technological solutions can be developed. Kyoto compounds this problem by making no requirements for much longer-term greenhouse gas emission reductions or for mitigation of the environmental effects of global warming.

    A study done by the Clinton Administration estimated that the Kyoto Protocol would involve costs of between 0.6% and 4% of GDP. [that would be $60-480 billion!] Electricity prices would run anywhere between 20% and 86% higher than current levels. There would also be an increase in gasoline prices of between 14 and 66 cents per gallon. In light of the very limited environmental benefits, a commitment as structured as this is not prudent. Worse, the treaty goes out of its way to raise these costs. This anti-economic reasoning involves treaty-imposed inflexibility in allowing the use of a number of creative options. Proponents of Kyoto have worked against such promising solutions as reforestation and more sensible agricultural land use that would likely provide enormous quality of life externalities for people on all parts of the planet, and these options should not be excluded from consideration.

    And of course, it is natural that the US government would object to a treaty that requires twice as much reduction in emissions from the US as from Europe and Japan combined. This is not a judgment of the Bush Administration, but reflects a long-standing view of the political process. In 1997, the Senate approved a resolution by a vote of 95-0 not to ratify the Kyoto agreement in its present form. In last year’s presidential election, neither party platform supported ratification of the Kyoto treaty.

    We oppose this failed attempt at negotiating a solution to excessive emissions of greenhouse gases. Sound public policy should encourage efficiency, not dictate austerity by telling families and businesspeople to choose how to ensure their health, safety and happiness by restricting the efficient use of energy. While our plan reduces wasteful energy, it does not seek to shrink our economy or lower living standards.

    To speak exclusively of conservation, of environmental protection, or of increased energy production is really to duck responsibility for all the consequences of what one proposes. Sound, comprehensive energy, economic and climate change policies require that we focus on multiple objectives. Happily, if we make the right decisions today and establish an environment where innovation can flourish, these objectives are achievable. America’s energy and environmental challenges are serious, but not unsurmountable, and it is impossible to overstate the role that science and technology will play in solving these problems.

    Lawrence B. Lindsey is the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs. This article was adapted from his keynote address at the AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy on May 3, 2001. The full text is available at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/colloqu.htm. [link no longer valid]

    Copyright 2001, The American Physical Society.
    The APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newsletter provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

  41. And of course, it is natural that the US government would object to a treaty that requires twice as much reduction in emissions from the US as from Europe and Japan combined.

    It’s natural that they’d object; but given that they emit twice as much, the percentage decrease is the same for all. Seems more than fair to me.

    gasoline hitting $2 a gallon in Chicago.

    It’s a measure of how out of touch with the rest of the world this guy is, that he thinks $2 a gallon for petrol is expensive…

  42. You are focusing on two points that are irrelevant to the gist of the article, which deals with how to best tackle the global warming problem. I put the important parts in bold; you can forget most of the rest.

  43. Just to clarify: I *do* think the US should spend more money to curb emissions and help the environment. What I am arguing for is what I think is a more effective approach to spend that money on, just as I argued that the Kickstart charity I described above is a more effective means of aid than just delivering food.