Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 12, 2001
Come to grips with global warming
World is living beyond its ecological means
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
As one who affirms free market economics, political conservatism, Christian traditionalism and environmentalism, some might say that I am in ideological conflict with myself. I think not.
I like things that work, and my take on the respectively simplistic ideologies of laissez-faire capitalism, and leftist-style environmental solutions is that neither do work or can be made to work sustainably.
One salutary example is the reflexive dismissal and hostility expressed by a business-oriented people and many conservative Christians with regard to the issue of global warming.
The attitude seems to be that because many partisans of the left, and the reviled United Nations are concerned about global warming, one is letting the side down, as it were, by not declaring global warming to be bunkum at minimum, and probably a collectivist conspiracy.
On the other hand, too many environmentalists blithely ignore the fact that a healthy economy is necessary to ensure social well-being, and that collectivist solutions and central planning have certainly not created ecological utopias. In fact the opposite obtains, as the miserable environmental records of communist and formerly communist nations attest.
With regard to global warming, while there are still many imponderables, suggesting that it is some sort of devious, anti-business conspiracy is beginning to sound as quaint as insisting that the earth is flat. Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents over 100 governments, released a report that contends that global warming is not only well advanced, but that much of the damage is irreversible.
The report predicts increasingly violent weather phenomena, widespread suffering and death from heat stress, water shortages and disease, massive population displacement and astronomical economic losses as rising seawater levels inundate coastal regions, and accelerated species extinction.
It is hard to credit that these prognostications are entirely based in some sort of anti-business leftist conspiracy. The few scientists who still dispute global warming as fact are relegating themselves to the status of cranks.
It is consequently not only environmentally prudent, but also economically prudent to proactively address the global warming issue with measures like the Kyoto Accord on carbon release, which, despite the bleating and wailing from shortsighted business interests and anti-environmentalists, is still only a baby step in the right direction.
Yes, dealing with global warming is going to require some radical lifestyle changes here in the affluent West, and there are definitely going to be economic casualties. But it is foolhardy to remain in denial about the implications of not taking positive action. Suicidal even.
On the other hand, environmentalists need to realize that imposition of a top-down, big government, environmental agenda is almost guaranteed to ensure a populist backlash that will ultimately result in backlash against draconian regulatory controls. Unless there is to be dictatorship, people will have to be convinced that the threat to their well-being justifies the necessary sacrifices.
Then there is the somewhat schizoid and/or fatalistic of perspective of many conservative Christians who will predict an imminent apocalypse one breath, and then deny the reality of the apocalyptic portent of global warming in the next.
Others will contend that the world is indeed going to hell in a hand basket, but there's nothing we can do about it anyway, so why deprive ourselves of the material blessings of consumer industrialism in order to mollify a bunch of pagan, tree-hugging, leftist whackos?
I would gently remind these folks of Martin Luther's dictum,: "Even if you know the world will end tomorrow, you still plant a tree," or the Russian private: "Pray to God, but keep rowing to shore."
Everyone is an "environmentalist," so long as protecting the environment doesn't disrupt business as usual, and if we can go on living a reasonable facsimile of the lifestyle to which we are accustomed.
In the preceding century, we consumed more of the world's mineral wealth than was used up in all the "human centuries" preceding. In just 30 years between 1970 and 2000, we consumed three to four times the amount of minerals than were mined in all prior history.
New York City uses more energy in a week than all of Africa does in a year. Americans own 30 per cent of the world's entire automobile fleet.
The first world uses more fuel for vehicles than the Third World does for everything. Our garbage "production" has increased by more than 80 per cent since 1960, and 50 per cent of it is packaging.
This obviously cannot continue. A study released last week by the UN Population Division projects that world population will grow by another three billion - more than 50 per cent - by 2050, with nearly nine of every 10 people living in a developing country. Think about it.
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