Well, I just got back from the Transformers movie (mini-review: it’s completely ridiculous, but it has Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime and lots of stuff blowing up, so it’s worth at least the matinee price, if you’re into that kind of thing), mowed the lawn (sorry – not carbon-neutral), and now I’ve stumbled upon the broadcast of Live Earth on Bravo. According to Al Gore, the concerts are not about fundraising, but are occurring simply to “raise awareness” of the issue of climate change.
A couple of points here: first, does awareness of climate change really need to be raised? Am I the only one that notices the ridiculous amounts of coverage that this issue gets every time a member of the IPCC so much as clears their throat? Is it possible for any reasonably informed person to be unaware of the issue? I tend to think that if you’re not aware of the issue at this point, no amount of awareness raising is going to do much good.
Second: isn’t it a bit odd that this big spectacle on behalf of the planet is going to end up needlessly causing a whole lot of damage to the planet, at least by the standards of the organizers?
It has been estimated that between the actual concerts, web streaming and television broadcasting, the Live Earth concert series could produce as much as 200,000 metric tons of carbon, after the conversions from electricity have been calculated. In other words, the Gore concerts could produce more carbon dioxide than was produced by all of Afghanistan in 2006.
Or put another way: “The concert will produce more CO2 in one day than the total daily fossil fuel emissions for Austria, Chile, Finland, Greece, Iraq, Kuwait, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Sweden, the Virgin Islands, and a dozen other countries combined“.
As for what I’ve seen so far of the music – John Mayer is Waiting on the World to Change, Melissa Etheridge is making the musical statement that “Truth is of the people, by the people, for the people” and praising Al Gore as a great truth teller, and Shakira reminded us all that Hips Don’t Lie. (I’m sure her performance raised awareness of something, but I’m almost positive it wasn’t the climate. Yusuf Islam – the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens – is performing at the same Hamburg venue; I wonder if he caught that performance?)
Well, perhaps raising awareness isn’t such a bad thing after all, considering that the people that already know about the “climate crisis” think it’s a pile of crap – literally:
The public believes the effects of global warming on the climate are not as bad as politicians and scientists claim, a poll has suggested.
The Ipsos Mori poll of 2,032 adults – interviewed between 14 and 20 June – found 56% believed scientists were still questioning climate change.
There was a feeling the problem was exaggerated to make money, it found…
The survey suggested that terrorism, graffiti, crime and dog mess were all of more concern than climate change.
Hmmm. I just saw Al Gore introduce the Foo Fighters. I think that might be a sign of the apocolypse. I’m off to take shelter as best I can…
From Luther’s exposition of the fourth commandment in his Treatise on Good Works (1520), alluding to King Manasseh’s actions in II Kings 21:
What else is it but to sacrifice one’s own child to an idol and burn it when parents train their children more in the love of the world than in the love of God, and let their children go their own way and get burned up in worldly pleasure, love, enjoyment, lust, goods, and honor, but let God’s love and honor and the love of eternal blessings be extinguished in them? (LW 44:83)
Henry I. Miller, a doctor and fellow at the Hoover Institution, author of The Frankenfood Myth, weighs in on the milks wars over the artificial hormone rBST.
In “Don’t Cry Over rBST Milk,” Miller writes, “Bad-faith efforts by biotechnology opponents to portray rBST as untested or harmful, and to discourage its use, keep society from taking full advantage of a safe and useful product.”
Whether or not scientific studies show that the use of rBST is as safe as not using it, I think it is bad faith to say that milk consumers should not be able to buy rBST-free milk if they so choose.
So, Miller writes, “Some milk suppliers and food stores have increased the price of milk labeled ‘rBST-free,’ even though it is indistinguishable from supplemented milk, and offer only this more expensive option, pre-empting consumers’ ability to choose on the basis of price.” Try reading that paragraph while drinking a glass of cool milk and not do a spit take, or laugh so hard that some of it comes out your nose.
The fact is, consumers can freely choose to patronize any one of the millions of markets that don’t carry rBST-free milk (much less carry it exclusively). If rBST is so safe and so effective, why not let it compete in the marketplace against non-rBST milk? Let milk companies proudly use the label, “A Proud Product of rBST-Supplemented Cows,” and see how they do.
I’m not in favor of banning rBST. But neither am I in favor of banning non-rBST labeling. And it’s the latter impulse that is driving so much of the lobbying in the milk wars.
The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) has published a paper titled, “Taxing the Poor: A Report on Tobacco, Alcohol, Gambling, and Other Taxes and Fees That Disproportionately Burden Lower-Income Families” (PDF).
The paper highlights state lotteries as particularly regressive taxes: “The dollar amount spent on the lottery by the lowest-income individuals (earning less than $10,000 annually) is twice as much as the highest earners (earning more than $100,000 annually).” I wrote a piece reacting to a poll with a similar finding awhile back.
The NCPA study also points out that “lotteries have worse odds than other forms of gambling; in fact, states retain some 33 cents of each dollar of lottery revenue — whereas privately owned casinos keep just 4.4 percent of the take.” And of course that casino take depends on the type of game played. Keno has the worst odds, with roughly 1/4 of the take going to the house, while games like roulette, slots, or blackjack have less than 5% house takes.
The paper also studies other popular sin taxes, like tobacco and alcohol, and one of the newest potential additions to the sin tax category: gasoline.
It happened last week. In response to Rep. John Dingell’s decision to hold of off consideration of an energy bill that would include new corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards, instead favoring directly targeting greenhouse gas emissions: “That brought a warm response from MoveOn.org, the liberal group that picketed Dingell’s office Wednesday over his stance on global warming and fuel economy standards. At Dingell’s Ypsilanti office, about half a dozen MoveOn supporters received an unexpected welcome from roughly 60 UAW members, including President Ron Gettelfinger, who rallied to support Dingell.”
That’s how the Free Press article concludes, but today’s Ann Arbor News has a longer piece devoted to the dynamics of the dispute between MoveOn.org and the UAW, “MoveOn, UAW face off on CAFE.” MoveOn.org protesters were picketing Dingell’s office, but then were swamped by many more UAW supporters of Dingell.
David Roberts over at Grist thinks the MoveOn.org attack on Dingell is premature: “I don’t think people quite appreciate what Dingell’s done here. He’s the first member of Congress with any power or seniority to even mention a carbon tax, much less endorse it.”
The Evangelical Climate Initiative has called for the federal government “to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program.”
I question the prudence of making such specific policy recommendations a matter of a lobbying platform, especially when speaking for the church. What if it turns out that cap-and-trade measures aren’t all that effective? Do you need then to revise your “call to action”?
Update: The WSJ editorializes on this topic today.