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Climate and Environment

Conservation and Stewardship, Sustainability, Liberty

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October 5, 2022

Maintaining a vibrant, sustainable climate and environment is essential to sustainable human liberty.  The climate crisis has been politicized by both the political right and left, with neither taking steps necessary to promote long-term solutions.  Right-wing politicians have frequently denied scientific evidence regarding climate change and have opposed laws and regulations intended to protect the environment. Left-wing politicians have frequently sought to impose burdensome regulations which have come at exorbitant costs and limitations to human liberties with little scientific evidence for their efficacy.  Bills with limited impact have often been pushed for political gain, while more substantive issues have been ignored or given lip service. 

 

Little of the policy discussion has focused on scientific evidence for efficacy and common-sense, fiscally responsible measures demonstrated to make a difference. All the while, ongoing degradation of the environment poses an increasingly stark future.

 

These shortcomings cannot be blamed on politicians alone. Citizens of democratic nations have failed to demand responsible solutions from officeholders. Media coverage of environmental issues has often pushed political agendas rather than reliable information. Graduates of educational institutions have displayed little grasp of key facts or evidence-based solutions.  With the increasing trend for urbanization worldwide, individuals are increasingly remote from the habitat destruction incurred to support their lifestyles.  As individuals and companies do not bear the full costs of their consumption, little incentive is perceived for responsible behavior.

 

Climate Change and Ecological Decline are Real

Critics have noted that in contrast to climate change denial, various climate change models have tended towards exaggeration.[1]  Physicist Steven Koonin expressed the need, as summarized by the Wall Street Journal, to “reclaim science of a warming planet from propaganda peddlers.”[2]  Climate change is real, and science must neither be denied nor exaggerated.

 

Proposed legislation and regulation warrant careful, public scrutiny and discussion for consideration to optimize benefits while minimizing costs and burdens. Those who deny the need for any investment or sacrifice for common sense, evidence-based approaches to climate change and environmental conservation are not true advocates of liberty, as humankind cannot be free in a ruined world. Sensible environmental protection and initiatives for sustainable ecology do not belong to the political left or the political right, but to humanity, and warrant bipartisan support.

 

Ecological decline worldwide is already at a critical level.  Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising sea levels, and global warming are some manifestations of this crisis. These topics are treated extensively in other sources.  Here we hope to raise awareness of lesser known issues associated with ecological degradation, and note some issues that must be addressed as part of any serious solution.

 

The Worldwide Decline of Insects

Insects are at the base of the food chain and are needed for the survival of many species; they also perform indispensable functions for the environment.  In a comprehensive review of 73 reports of insect declines from around the globe, Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys wrote in the journal Biological Conservation that some 40% of insect species worldwide are threatened with extinction and an additional one-third are endangered, driven by habitat loss, pollutants, invasive species, and climate change.[3]  The decline of insect species is a "warning of ecosystem collapse," warns Jill Kiedalsch in Popular Science.[4]  Data from North America and Europe demonstrate that insect biomass has been declining by approximately 2.5% annually for the past thirty years, although data from Asia, Africa, and South America is needed for a global census.  Insects represent approximately 70% of species on earth and pollinate some three-quarters of food crops.  As some insect species die out, they are being replaced (albeit at a lower level) by other insect species "that are tolerant of pollutants, like flies and cockroaches" which do not serve the same ecological roles.

 

Impact of Diet on Greenhouse Gas

Research has found that food production accounts for approximately one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.[5] Oxford researcher Michael Clark and colleagues found that achieving climate change targets will be impossible without changes to the global food supply.[6]

 

Annie Lowrey writes in The Atlantic that Americans waste approximately one-third of food,: some two hundred pounds per person per year, and the biggest single component of America's landfills.[7] Most waste comes from households rather than restaurants or cafeterias. Americans are among the most wasteful and have become more wasteful over time.  Lowrey offers some useful tips to minimize waste, including to buy what you need, consume what you buy, and avoid misinterpreting food dating labels, with safe "consume by" periods often significantly longer than "sell by" dates that stores use for inventory management.  Lowrey summarizes key data:

 

"Roughly three-quarters of the world’s farmland is used to pasture livestock or raise crops to feed that livestock. That contributes to deforestation, destroys the planet’s natural carbon sinks, erodes the planet’s biodiversity, and uses up fresh water...Cattle are responsible for roughly two-thirds of the livestock sector’s greenhouse-gas emissions, while beef and dairy products are responsible for about one-tenth of global emissions overall. Gram for gram, beef produces roughly eight times more greenhouse-gas emissions than farmed fish or poultry, 12 times more than eggs, 25 times more than tofu, and even more compared with pulses, nuts, root vegetables, bananas, potatoes, bread, or maize.... Research by Clark and his colleagues has shown that foods associated with good health generally have low environmental impacts.”

 

Changes to reduce greenhouse emissions from agriculture, including substantially reducing production and consumption of beef, are necessary for a sustainable future. Notwithstanding the high impact and low potential cost of such measures, they are rarely mentioned by politicians due to their unpopular nature.

 

The Anti-Nuclear Movement and Hidden Agendas

Nuclear power has been documented to be the safest,[8] cleanest,[9] and most reliable[10] source of energy as well as sustainable.[11] While wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy are important, they simply do not produce enough energy and are not sufficiently practical to meet growing energy demands worldwide, and so fossil fuels continue to account for the majority of energy production worldwide.

 

The abandonment of nuclear energy promoted by so-called progressive “Greenpeace Environmentalism” has been cited as “giving Vladimir Putin the keys to invade Ukraine.”[12]  The Sierra Club and some other environmentalist groups have been accused of waging a decades-long campaign of misinformation to stoke hysteria about nuclear energy while rejecting mainstream science;[13] the group has also received tens of millions of dollars in contributions from the gas industry.[14]  Considerable funding to anti-nuclear power initiatives has come from “dirty” energy suppliers and from authoritarian nations which benefit from high oil prices. 

 

Observers have long warned that “Russia is a primary beneficiary of well-marketed, illogical effort to slow nuclear energy.”[15]  Germany’s shuttering of nuclear power initiatives has led to dependance on Russian fossil fuels, allowing Putin’s Russia to engage in energy blackmail and to collect billions in energy revenues from Europe funding its genocidal war against Ukraine.[16] Investigations have exposed that Russia’s GazProm state oil company has funded U.S. and European anti-nuclear environmental groups for years,[17] and that prominent anti-nuclear activists and politicians have received Russian funding.[18]  Reuters reported that a German "climate" fund has attempted to help Russia dodge sanctions.[19] One climate group influencing the Biden administration has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party.[20]

 

Economist Stephen Dubner reported from interviews with researchers that at least a million people worldwide are estimated to die each year from coal-related causes, including environmental pollutants contributing to lung disease and cancer.[21] Scientists and researchers have acknowledged that had the U.S. and the world remained on track in transitioning to nuclear energy in the 1970s, today’s climate crisis would not exist.  The 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor which has fueled nuclear hysteria was attributed to a series of errors violating established protocols so severely that informed researchers have rejected designating it as an accident.

 

Dubner describes how the environmental movement, once pro-nuclear, became anti-nuclear in the 1970s and thus ironically dramatically accelerated the crisis of global warming which they profess to combat.  Republicans have often engaged in climate change denial and opposed environmental-friendly measures. Dubner noted that US Democrats, while ostensibly claiming the fight against climate change as a core platform, irrationally reject nuclear power in favor of more costly, more polluting, and less effective alternatives. 

Need for Global Coordination

Another key need is for global coordination regarding climate change. China is the leading global polluter. Global emissions are increasing rapidly  in the developing world due to population growth and industrialization.  Initiatives which pose high burdens and costs in developed nations but that do not involve enforceable measures to limit or reduce emissions in high polluting nations are little more than political gimmicks which do not create a sustainable future.

 

International climate change dialogue is necessary, but climate accords to date have had little efficacy and failing to evenly engage and hold accountable major polluting nations. Nor can the need for cooperation on climate change justify ignoring human rights violations by authoritarian nations.[22]

 

For a sustainable and free future for mankind and our planet, long-term national and international policies are needed which are effective, cost-efficient, and integrated into both domestic and foreign policy. These issues require proper education and coverage to become bipartisan matters of national and international consensus.

 

References

[1] Nova, Joanne. “Climate computer models running way too hot.” CFact, April 25, 2021. https://www.cfact.org/2021/04/25/climate-computer-models-running-way-too-hot

[2] Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “How a Physicist Became a Climate Truth Teller.” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-physicist-became-a-climate-truth-teller-11618597216

[3] Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, Kris A.G. Wyckhuys. Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation 32(2019):8-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.01.020.

[4] Kiedaisch, Jill. "The Staggering Worldwide Decline of Insects Is a Warning of Ecosystem Collapse." Popular Mechanics, February 13, 2019.  https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a26323324/insect-population-ecosystem-collapse/

[5] Poore, J. and T. Nemecek.  "Reducing Food's Environmental Impact Through Producers and Consumers."  Science, June 1, 2018. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987

[6] Clark, Michael A, Nina GG Domingo, Kimberly Colgan, et al. "Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C Climate Change Targets." Science 370/6517 (6 November 2020):705-708. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba7357 

[7] Lowrey, Annie. "Your Diet is Cooking the Planet." The Atlantic, April 6, 2021.  https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/04/rules-eating-fight-climate-change/618515/

[8] Conca, James. "How Deadly Is Your Kilowatt? We Rank The Killer Energy Sources."  Forbes, June 10, 2012.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/

[9] Ritchie, Hannah. "What are the safest and cleanest sources of energy?" Our World in Data, February 10, 2020. https://ourworldindata.org/safest-sources-of-energy

[10] "Nuclear Power is the Most Reliable Energy Source and It's Not Even Close." Office of Nuclear Energy, March 24, 2021. https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/nuclear-power-most-reliable-energy-source-and-its-not-even-close

[11] “3 Reasons Why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable.” US Office of Nuclear Energy. March 31, 2021. https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/3-reasons-why-nuclear-clean-and-sustainable

[12] Hynes, Patrick. "‘Greenpeace Environmentalism’ Allowed Putin to Invade Ukraine." Real Clear Energy, March 7, 2022. https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2022/03/07/greenpeace_environmentalism_allowed_putin_to_invade_ukraine_820399.html

[13] "Sierra Club." Activistfacts.com (undated article).  https://www.activistfacts.com/organizations/194-sierra-club/  

[14] Adams, Rod. "Not so strange bedfellows - Sierra Club accepts natural gas money." Nuclear Newswire, February 7, 2012. https://www.ans.org/news/article-930/sierra-club-natural-gas-money/

[15] Adams, Rod. “Russia is a primary beneficiary of well-marketed, illogical effort to slow nuclear energy.” Atomic Energy, June 15, 2011. https://atomicinsights.com/russia-is-a-primary-beneficiary-of-well-marketed-illogical-effort-to-slow-nuclear-energy/

[16] Anslow, Louis. "Fossil fools: How Germany’s fear of nuclear power put Putin in charge of Europe." BigThink.com, March 22, 2022. https://bigthink.com/pessimists-archive/germany-nuclear-power-russia-putin/

[17] “Here’s how Gazprom funded no-nuclear and pro-gas environmentalists (Russian).”  Vogon.com, March 19, 2022. https://www.vogon.today/startmag/heres-how-gazprom-funded-no-nuclear-and-pro-gas-environmentalists-russian/2022/03/19/  Translated from Italian: Oldani, Tino. “Rivelazione shock: gli ambientalisti contro il nucleare e pro-gas russo sono stati finanziati da Gazprom negli Usa e in Germania.”  Italia Oggi, March 18, 2022. https://www.italiaoggi.it/news/rivelazione-shock-gli-ambientalisti-contro-il-nucleare-e-pro-gas-russo-sono-stati-finanziati-da-gazprom-2555825

[18] "Is Russia Funding European Environmental Activists?" National Interest, June 7, 2022. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russia-funding-european-environmental-activists-202846

[19] Escritt, Thomas and Sarah Marsh. "Explainer: How a German 'climate' fund set out to help Russia dodge U.S. sanctions." Reuters, February 11, 2022.  https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/how-german-climate-fund-set-out-help-russia-dodge-us-sanctions-2022-02-10/

[20] Catenacci, Thomas. "Green group influencing Biden admin has deep ties to Chinese government." Fox News, September 26, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/green-group-influencing-biden-admin-deep-ties-chinese-government

[21] Dubner, Stephen J. “Nuclear Power Isn’t Perfect. Is It Good Enough?” Freakonomics Radio, episode 516 (September 21, 2022). https://freakonomics.com/podcast/nuclear-power-isnt-perfect-is-it-good-enough/

[22] Goldsberg, Jenny. "John Kerry complains Ukraine is diverting attention from climate change." Washington Examiner, February 24, 2022. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/watch-john-kerry-complains-ukraine-is-diverting-attention-from-climate-change