Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Deconstructing Emissions

To many, (not me) it is a self-evident truth that Kyoto is a good thing. As well, it is an article of faith that the whole wide world, save for the big bad United States, are strict adherents to the treaty. That is not true either, according to a recent UN report, as covered in the Toronto Globe and Mail. (via Belmont Club)

Looking over the record of industrialized countries in controlling their greenhouse-gas emissions is to see cases of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Among the countries judged to be good are Germany and Britain. They're undisputed leaders in showing the way for countries to curb their releases of planet-warming gases. Unfortunately, Canada is listed among the ugly.

...Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent.

One surprise in the figures is that Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto.

Mr. Bramley said the United States is "actually ahead of Canada in just about every area" of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states "is far ahead of any province in Canada."
It's a not a particular surprise to me, the United States has the most open, flexible, and technologically advanced economy in the world, and as much as it may offend the sensibilities of the Greens, it is capitalism that enabled the creation of the modern environmentalist movement. Environmentalism is a rich man's issue. The starving farmer in the third world could not care less about a spotted owl when he is worried about feeding his children, in fact he would surely kill all of the spotted owls and not give one thought to soil erosion if it meant his family would live on. Many greens, judging by their actions, would do the opposite, even if they never actually see an owl. Quote Thomas Sowell:
Green bigots operate internationally, just like the more famous fanatics. They are trying to stop a hydroelectric dam from being built in Uganda and they have already succeeded in getting "nature preserves" created in various parts of Africa - which is to say, vast amounts of land where Africans are forbidden to hunt for food because the green bigots prefer keeping the land "natural."

African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly when he said, "wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed." He asked: "What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?"

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans but it would also annoy the delicate sensibilities of environmentalists in Berkeley who like waterfalls.

The world must to be fed before it can be green. Open markets help with both the feeding and the green, corrupt governments, tyrannies, and especially communism have the opposite effect.

Back to the Kyoto article. On the surface, world wide emissions have been sharply reduced by an average of 5.9% which is greater than Kyoto's requirements of 5.2%. However individual countries are all over the map. The UN report, ironically, implicitly credits Ronald Reagan.
The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.

Many areas behind the iron curtain are still being cleaned up and are nearly un-inhabitable, but is that a surprise? Do you think that USSR allowed the existence of a Green Party? Does Communist China fund the Sierra Club? Or do wealthy Westerners?

Saddam Hussein drained the wetlands in Iraq to punish the Marsh Arabs, taking away their means of subsistence and of course, his burning of oil wells and dumping of crude into the Gulf has been well documented - his ruthlessness towards the environement only exceeded by his ruthlessness towards his own people.

Despite some leftist romanticism to the contrary, environmentalism is a luxury, it is only societies that have achieved a certain amount of stability and wealth that can afford to take up environmental causes. As more people take advantage of technology and telecommute for example, the less oil is burned by actual commuting. One day per week of working from home could reduce emissions by one fifth. Hybrid cars, despite their higher sticker price, are now a status symbol in the United States. As technology advances, more efficient and cleaner methods of energy production become more attractive. As well, developing countries now have the benefit of technology already developed in advanced countries and can make quantum leaps almost overnight, skipping right over much of the 'dirtier' industrial periods where huge polluting factories dominated cities. Free markets gave birth to the Green Movement, it should not now be viewed as its mortal enemy.

Below is a list of the of the changes in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990-2003. You'll notice that the highest negatives are former Eastern Bloc countries. The linked article also gives much credit to Germany and Britain. Germany most certainly was aided by the fall of the Berlin Wall, all they had to do was close the high polluting, inefficient heavy industrial factories in the East that they were going to close anyway and emissions would see a drastic fall. Britain, on the other hand, deserves some serious credit as they somehow managed to significantly reduce their emissions at a much higher rate than the rest of the continent while at the same time experiencing strong economic growth.

Country / Per cent change
Spain +41.7
Monaco +37.8
Portugal +36.7
Greece +25.8
Ireland +25.6
Canada +24.2
Australia +23.3
New Zealand +22.5
Finland +21.5
Austria +16.5
USA +13.3
Japan +12.8
Italy +11.5
Norway +9.3
Denmark +6.8
Liechtenstein +5.3
Netherlands +1.5
Belgium +1.3
Switzerland -0.4
Euro Union -1.4
Slovenia -1.9
France -1.9
Sweden -2.3
Croatia -6.0
Iceland -8.2
Britain -13.0
Luxembourg -16.1
Germany -18.2
Czech Repblic -24.2
Slovakia -28.3
Hungary -31.9
Poland -34.4
Russian Fed -38.5
Belarus -44.4
Romania -46.1
Ukraine -46.2
Bulgaria -50.0
Estonia -50.8
Latvia -58.5
Lithuania -66.2

(Note: Previous post on Canadian Environmentalism)


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