Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A Worthy Read

Check out Jane Galt's thoughts on global warming/climate change. Since finding Jane's blog, Asymmetrical Information, I have become a big fan. She is a great writer and someone who always has a clear argument to make, whatever the issue.

Some highlights from her blog entry include:

When most westerners talk about living "sustainably", they certainly aren't thinking about what this would really mean: living with rotten teeth, frostbite in winter and heatstroke in summer, once-a-week baths, the majority of the population working as farmers or manual labourers, washing 10 or 12 dirty diapers every day with water you heat yourself on the stove (hell, washing all your clothes in water you heat yourself on the stove . . . and washing the floor that way . . . and the children . . . ), going for years without eating a meal you didn't cook at least some part of, living within walking distance of where you work (and think, in New York City, of what close quarters this would entail in midtown!) Most people, I think, imagine themselves buying a hybrid car and doing a little gardening. But for carbon to stay in balance, everyone on the planet would be able to consume about, oh, what Americans did in 1900. People can't imagine that, for two reasons. First, because they are not educated; they have no idea how big the gap between their consumption and ours really is. But also, people who are at all educated about the era are generally educated by novels . . . but the novels are almost always written about the upper-middle class, or above. So that even someone with a more-than-passing familiarity with the era has little emotional grasp of how many people had to live in really quite abject poverty in order to support the thin layer of affluent Edwardians they've read about. Also, they tend to overgeneralise from their experience of spending a few weekend hours clearing brush or canning strawberries to what it was actually like to spend your whole life working on a farm. I'm really astonished at how little grasp women seem to have of the fact that what has freed women to work outside the home is not the feminist movement, but General Electric and the processed foods industry.


the biggest worry for environmentalists right now isn't the US -- it's the fact that China has 1.2 billion people getting richer very fast. They'll surpass the US as the leading emitters of carbon dioxide sometime in the middle of the next decade, and their government lacks even America's cordial disinterest in environmental protection. Not only that -- it looks like it's getting ready to get rid of the one-child policy. Then there's India's 900 billion coming up fast from the outside. It seems quite unlikely that these countries will endorse emissions reduction while they still have people living in dire poverty. There may be literally nothing the West can do about climate change short of invading two nuclear powers.

She captures the core of the climate change debate. The only way to address the issue is to take drastic action. There are two problems with this. First, there is no way an American politician is going to advocate this type of action, regardless of party. Second, the likelihood of crafting a global agreement that everyone can get on board with is about nil. Even Kerry was forced to admit this fatal flaw in the Kyoto accord (I wish I had the link and the quote but I threw out the magazine and its not available online) in the October issue of Field and Stream magazine.