Category: Environmental Stewardship

In a report commissioned by the UK government, Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, argues that the cost of waiting to take action to curb CO2 emissions will outpace other economic arguments against action on climate change.

The BBC reports (HT: Slashdot) that Stern found “that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%,” but that this opportunity cost for not taking action immediately could be offset by moving now: “Taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says.” This is essentially the same economic argument I’ve previously used against action on climate change, but reversed to endorse action.

UK prime minister Tony Blair echoed the report’s conclusions, “For every ਱ invested now we can save ਵ, or possibly more, by acting now.”

“We can’t wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto – we simply don’t have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto),” Blair said.

The BBC claims that Stern’s report “is the first major contribution to the global warming debate by an economist, rather than a scientist.” This may be true in a sense, but the Copenhagen Consensus of 2004 embodies the conclusions of a number of economists, although it does not, in point of fact, examine the issue at a length in excess of 700 pages.

The conclusions of the consensus differ from Stern’s. Robert W. Fogel writes, “The environment is considered to be important, but it is not yet time to do anything massive about climate change. But with continued research and development (R&D) it will be possible to address future catastrophes and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

Vernon L. Smith concludes, “It is clear from both the science and the economics of intervention that those of us who care about the environment are not well advised to favour initiating a costly attempt to reduce greenhouse gases (ghgs) build-up in the atmosphere in the near future based on available information. Although the ultimate dangers may turn out to prompt action, the current evidence indicates that it is much too soon to act relative to the many other important and pressing opportunities that demand immediate attention.”

The group’s consensus is, however, that our knowledge of the problem and potential solutions will increase over time, so that they leave open the possibility of recommending action in the future. Nancy L. Stokey sums it up well: “Future decision makers will be better equipped to decide whether more aggressive action is needed.”

Is two more years long enough? Have we learned enough in the intervening period to give greater weight to Stern’s conclusions?

One other item that Stern notes is that he’s hopeful about the possibility of curbing climate change. “I’m optimistic – having done this review – that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently,” he says.

Stern puts the emphasis on acting internationally. “Unless it’s international, we will not make the reductions on the scale which will be required,” says Stern. Just what international organization is envisioned as the arbiter of global climate change policy? The UN? The WTO? Or some as-yet uncreated entity, a la the Kyoto Protocol?

In the review summary (PDF), Stern writes, “The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol and a range of other informal partnerships and dialogues provide a framework that supports co-operation, and a foundation from which to build further collective action.”

Update: Arnold Kling adds some commentary on the report over at EconLog.

Futher Update: Not too surprisingly, an OPEC spokesman contends that the Stern report propounds “scenarios that have no foundations in either science or economics.”

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 26, 2006
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The Wired.com blog Autopia passes along this NYT story outlining some of the fundamental challenges facing plug-in hybrid electric cars. The basic formula for the appeal of such hybrids is as follows: “The electric system runs mostly on coal, natural gas and uranium, all relatively plentiful. Cars run mostly on oil, oil and oil, which lately has been expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect the two?” And as attractive an option as this might be, the NYT story writes that “despite the hopes of policy makers, engineers say there is no prospect of this happening in the near future.”

Coal Burning With Scrubbers

John Gartner is not so pessimistic about the short-term prospects for plug-in hybrids, and concludes, “The competition between the oil companies and electric companies will result in cleaner and more cost-efficient choices for consumers, and that we can all be happy about.”

But here’s the kicker for advocates of plug-in hybrids: The main source of electricity for the United States is fossil fuels, according to the DoE providing “nearly two-thirds of our electricity,” and more than half of that comes from coal. So it isn’t the case that moving from gasoline-powered engines to plug-in hybrids will move us away from the use of fossil fuels. It will, for the most part, simply shift the consumption from oil to coal.

That has some attractive national security implications, since “one quarter of the world’s coal reserves are found within the United States,” as opposed to our need to massively import foreign oil. It is on this basis that Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. argues, “It makes eminent sense to make as rapid a transition to those plug-in hybrids as we can.” This of course assumes that the withdrawal of international trade actually improves rather than worsens the prospects for international peace. Let’s leave that questionable assumption aside for now, which contradicts Bastiat’s observation, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”

With respect to the “green-ness” of plug-in hybrids, their environmentally-friendly image belies the fact that such hybrids will to a large extent be running on the energy provided by coal. Until our nation’s electricity comes from renewable and alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power, the environmental attractiveness of hybrids will remain illusory.

In a previous commentary examining some related aspects of these issues, I ask rhetorically, “Just how many coal-powered SUVs have you seen lately?” Well, if there were plug-in hybrid SUVs, they would to a great extent be coal-powered…and not so green as you might first think.

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
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[Got a request to cross-post this from my other habitat.]

In the in-box from an "evangelical enviromentalist who prefers to remain anonymous," responding to the Moyers/Beisner fallout:

IF Moyers said what Cal claims, and tape recorders were running, where is the tape? IF no tape, presumably no statement, and Cal is, um, lying. Is this how a Christian defends his presumably biblical position to a sceptical journalist?

Looking at other transcripts on the same subject (linked here), Moyers certainly gives the impression that he sees ecology as devisive to evangelicals. But it’s also possible [Cal] Beisner could have jumped to conclusions on Moyers motives (vis a vis deliberately using ecology to divide evangelicals politically) and either interpreted what Moyers actually said in light of this, or deliberately put words in his mouth; the latter Cal clearly denies, by the way.

Don’t know though; wasn’t there, and yep – no tape.

The whole Moyers/Beisner kerfuffle was unfortunate because (a) litigation ain’t a great way for two Christians to resolve issues, and (b) it detracted from the discussion over God being green, which frankly benefits neither Beisner nor Moyers, regardless of political leanings.

The only redeeming thing may be if the noise will draw people to read the other Grist interviews. Thought the one with Cal DeWitt, for example, was fantastic.

Thoughts from the group?

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 20, 2006
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As noted here, last week PBS ran a special by Bill Moyers’, “Is God Green?” examining the “new” trend among evangelicals toward stewardship of the environment.

Arguably what is “new” about this move is its coherence with liberal/leftist environmentalism. As also noted previously, “The Judeo-Christian community for 5,000 years or more has taken its responsibility for the environment seriously. The whole concept of ‘stewardship’ is one that comes directly from sacred texts.” Stewardship isn’t new. Perhaps the method for stewardship proposed is.

In any case, Acton adjunct scholar and spokesman for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance E. Calvin Beisner appeared on Moyers’ program, as a counter-point to the majority of evangelical voices heard on the show. Blogger Jimmy Akin, a self-professed “old friend” of Dr. Beisner, posted a response by Beisner to his portrayal on the Moyers program, which included allusions that Moyers had confessed some overt political agenda by the timing and content of the program.

When Moyers became aware of the assertions, this apparently did not please him. His lawyers sent letters to Akin, claiming that “Dr. Beisner’s accusation is false and defamatory as it goes to the heart of Mr. Moyers’s integrity as a journalist,” and demanding “on behalf of Mr. Moyers a retraction from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance stating clearly and without qualification that Dr. Beisner’s statement was erroneous, that Mr. Moyers never made any such statement to Dr. Beisner or anything colorably close to it, and apologizing to Mr. Moyers for the error.”

The lawyers representing Moyers in turn accuse Akin: “You have also defamed Mr. Moyers. On behalf of Mr. Moyers, we demand that you immediately publish in full Mr. Moyers’s response to Dr. Beisner, as well as the retraction and apology of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, if any, all with at least equal prominence to that given the false statement of Dr. Beisner.”

Also linked at the above is the response from Akin’s lawyers. This story has been picked up by numerous bloggers, some of which are run down on this post at The Evangelical Ecologist.

We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.

Update: Dr. Beisner’s response through counsel has been posted here.

Blog author: dwbosch
Monday, October 16, 2006
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Dr. Joel Hunter, President of the Christian Coalition and Pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, FL, Dr. Paul De Vries, National Association of Evangelicals board member and President of New York Theological Seminary, and Rev. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and civil rights leader held a teleconference last Thursday to "address the importance of this issue to their communities and will take questions from reporters about the Statement, the Call to Action, and the potential implications of both on the American religious and political landscape."

(more…)

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 13, 2006
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David Roberts of Grist magazine, responding to his recent read of George Monbiot’s new book Heat, wrote about skeptics of climate change:

When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.

Following this, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works issued a statement calling Roberts to task and deemed his comments to be part of a broader movement, noting a “new found penchant by environmentalists and some media members to charge skeptics of human caused catastrophic global warming with ‘crimes against humanity’ and urge Nuremberg-style prosecution of them.”

Roberts later responds by saying that he “was, as might be obvious, rather angry,” and that “Too often, this kind of thing is treated like a partisan political squabble, a game of rhetorical sparring between the ‘sides’ of a debate.” Not much rhetorical about calling for Nuremburg-style criminal tribunals, though, eh?

Yesterday the New York Times editorialized and took Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, to task, “He accuses scientists and the media of hysteria. But if there is such a thing as a hysteria of doubt, then Mr. Inhofe is its master.” Might the Times editorial staff be amenable to the sorts of trials Roberts called for?

If the scientific case is so rock solid and the consensus is so sure, why are climate change believers so worried about criticism? Are they truly that thin-skinned? Or is the evidence perhaps not as airtight as they would have us believe?

Talk about an affront to a free and open public debate.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
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Tonight at 9 PM on PBS stations across the country, Bill Moyers’ program, Moyers on America, will take up the question, “Is God Green?”

The one-hour documentary goes inside the conversation among evangelical Christians over the environment. The debate is not about whether or not Christians are called to care for creation. There is no disagreement about that. For more on this point, see Rev. Gerald Zandstra’s, “What is Evangelical Environmentalism?”

The debate is rather about how we should best care for the environment. Moyers’ program will feature Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association for Evangelicals and E. Calvin Beisner, an Acton Institute adjunct scholar and professor at Knox Theological Seminary, discussing the evangelical views on the challenge presented by climate change.

In case you are wondering about the level of journalistic insight to expect, you can check out this interview with Bill Moyers conducted by Grist magazine about the show. Moyers provides some insights into his (paranoid?) interpretations of politics, and even contends that the letter sent by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (PDF) to the National Association of Evangelicals last year was one of Karl Rove’s political machinations. Res ipsa loquitur:

When news leaked of the impending statement by 86 evangelical leaders [on global warming], the other side hit back so hard and so fast and with such firepower. That letter from Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Richard Land came so quickly that I knew it had to originate in the White House, inside the political religion. I knew it was an orchestrated response, because Karl Rove was upset at what these evangelical leaders were letting loose.

You can view more PowerBlog coverage of the ISA letter to the NAE concerning the ECI here.

Check your local listings.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, October 6, 2006
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With the latest news announced yesterday that British scientists are planning to create rabbit-human chimeras in the attempt to “find a ready source of ‘human’ embryonic stem cells without the ethical problems of tampering with human life,” it seems fitting to plug last week’s series of posts containing a biblical-theological case against chimeras.

The following from Herman Bavinck underscores my basic approach:

…man constitutes among all creatures a peculiar kind and occupies a unique place. He is indeed related to all these creatures, and this relationship is, according to the Scriptures, much more intimate than many usually present it. Man is formed according to his body from the dust of the earth; Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Eccl. 3:20; 12:7; from loam or clay; Job 33:6; he is dust and ashes; Genesis 18:27; of the earth, earthy; I Cor. 15:47. And chemistry teaches us nowadays that the human and animal body contain the same elements which occur outside of us in the visible creation. That relationship becomes still more evident in this that the first man, receiving from above the breath of life, became “a living soul.” With this word “soul” one must not think of the meaning which we at present associate with it and which we really have borrowed more from philosophy than from the Holy Scriptures. “Living soul” simply means here that man, by the inbreathing of God, became a living being; the word is therefore applied elsewhere to all living beings. Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30. Further, the difference between man and animals does not lie in this that the “breath of life” was breathed into the former, because in Genesis 7:22 mention is made much more strongly of a breath of the spirit of life in all animals. Thus the relationship of man and animal is so close that Scripture includes them under the common name of living souls; man belongs, in a certain sense, to the kingdom of animals.

But nevertheless, there is a difference as wide as the heavens between both. In the creation it becomes evident that man was created according to a particular decree of the counsel of God; that he, in distinction from the animal, received from above the breath of life by a particular act of God; that he form that moment bore His image; that he thought, spoke, gave names, knew, was obedient to God’s law, and could live in his fellowship. All these gifts of knowledge, language, morality, religion, did not come later to man in a fearful struggle for existence, in the centuries-long way of evolution. But they are originally his own; they belong to his nature; they lie ineradicably rooted in his essence; by them he is man. Rob him of these, and he ceases to be man. Scripture enables us to reject the false ideas in the theory of evolution and descent; but, at the same time, to recognize fully the truth in it.

Herman Bavinck, Bijbelsche en religieuze psychologie (Kampen: Kok, 1920); ET: Biblical and Religious Psychology, trans. H. Hanko (Grand Rapids: Protestant Reformed Theological School, 1974), 13-14.

Blog author: dwbosch
Thursday, October 5, 2006
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…to go with this one, folks!

In Malibu, talk of septic tanks, leach pits and the ubiquitous foul stench known as the "Malibu smell" is hardly new. After rainstorms, officials often must post signs on Malibu beaches urging swimmers and surfers to steer clear because of health dangers.

Celebrity residents Pierce Brosnan and Ted Danson are among many who have championed the cause of better water quality…

In May, Malibu suffered a black eye in the annual statewide beach survey released by Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay. Escondido Beach "was the most polluted beach in the history of our report card," said Mark Gold, Heal the Bay’s executive director.

If there’s a more practical example of a mote in ecology today, I’m not sure what it would be. (hat tip)

Michelle Malkin has a report up at HotAir on how God’s been edited out of our favorite cartoon veggies. Mostly a poke at NBC, but apparently Big Idea is running out of big ideas too.

Is it time for a write-in campaign from all you Christian vegetarians out there?

Here’s Big Idea’s explanation for the whole thing:

Recognizing that we are making a difference to Saturday morning TV by bringing programming that is “absent of bad and has a presence of good” to homes across America, would we still prefer to air the un-edited versions of VeggieTales on TV? Absolutely! It’s there where we’re able to share a Bible verse and encourage kids by telling them God made them special and He loves them very much. For now, we’re hoping a new cross section of kids will fall in love with Bob & Larry, go deeper into VeggieTales and eventually fall in love with the God who made them. It’s the same “big idea” we’ve worked on for over 13 years.

Emailing NBC would be fruitless, but you can contact Bid Idea at this email address here and tell them what you think.

I think it’s a mistake, and I’ll tell ya why: We had a yard sale last month that included hundreds of kid videos we’ve collected over the years. The very first to go were all the VeggieTales vids, uncut and full of all that God stuff. There’s no question that people are hungry for the Word, and know it when they see it. Even in a kid’s cartoon.

Ever seen plastic fruit on a dining room table that looked good enough to eat? You can add a plastic Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber to that display now.

UPDATE: Wittenburg Door -" VEGGIETALES CHOPPED IN NBC JUICE-A-MATIC®"  Heh.