Climate and Environment
Conservation and Stewardship, Sustainability, Liberty
October 5, 2022. Updated March 28, 2023
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
Climate change and ecological preservation require sober, forward-looking solutions with neither complacency nor hysteria. Critics have noted that in contrast to climate change denial, various climate change models have tended towards exaggeration. Prominent apocalyptic voices have repeatedly been proven wrong due to failure to account for human ingenuity. Physicist Steven Koonin expressed the need, as summarized by the Wall Street Journal, to “reclaim science of a warming planet from propaganda peddlers.” 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. The decline of insect species is a "warning of ecosystem collapse," warns Jill Kiedalsch in Popular Science. 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. Oxford researcher Michael Clark and colleagues found that achieving climate change targets will be impossible without changes to the global food supply.
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. 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, cleanest, and most reliable source of energy as well as sustainable. 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.” 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; the group has also received tens of millions of dollars in contributions from the gas industry. 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.” 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. Investigations have exposed that Russia’s GazProm state oil company has funded U.S. and European anti-nuclear environmental groups for years, and that prominent anti-nuclear activists and politicians have received Russian funding. Reuters reported that a German "climate" fund has attempted to help Russia dodge sanctions. One climate group influencing the Biden administration has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
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. 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. Jesse Velay-Vitow also addressed “Why is nuclear energy so often sidelined in the discussion of alternative energy sources” in this article.
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.
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.
Threats from Corruption and Extremism
Corruption and extremism on both the political right and the political left pose threats to the environment and sustainability. U.S. Republicans have blocked or rolled back regulations on energy efficiency, burdening the poor and promoting unsustainable consumption of limited resources. Far-right political figures including Sarah Palin have denied climate change and pushed bizarre falsehoods that rising climbing emissions are beneficial. Conservative think-tanks have pushed conspiracy theories and complacency towards climate threats, including false claims that “climate change is a fraud” and that “climate change is basically caused by sun flares and there is not a blessed thing you can do about them.”
On the left, the Huffington Post noted that the Biden administration is “mysteriously defying a law that could spur 20,000 new green homes per month,” leading to environmental damage and higher costs for homeowners. The U.S. House of Representatives noted that “President Biden is Handing our Energy Security to China,” perpetuating dependence on China for rare earth minerals and other resources used in technology while failing to develop U.S. production.
The Biden Administration has greenlighted the import of dirty energy from totalitarian states. These include Venezuela, where the Biden Administration has approved Chevron working with the state oil company despite massive human rights abuses documented by the United Nations including death squads. Biden has propped up the tyrannical Maduro regime, which has perpetrated over 7,000 documented extrajudicial killings, while Venezuelan pro-democracy activists have cried foul.
Despite knowledge that the company building the Russian Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and its CEO, a Putin ally, “engaged in sanctionable activity,” and Ukrainian President Zelensky’s warning that the pipeline was a dire national security threat and “a real weapon ... in the hands of the Russian Federation,” Biden waived sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline soon after his election.
Biden allowed export of Iranian oil despite international sanctions, giving Iran no reason to engage in good faith negotiations and thus facilitating its hybrid warfare, terrorism, and development of nuclear weapons. The administration’s unilateral concessions to anti-democratic state terror regimes contrasts with its “outright hostility” and obstructionism towards cleaner U.S. energy production.
Far from being a climate ally, China is building six times as many coal plants "as the rest of the world combined…despite the fact that much of the world is getting off coal." Yet Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has effusively praised China’s energy policies, while ignoring grave human rights abuses and despite her knowledge that China is the world’s biggest carbon polluter. During Granholm’s tenure as the governor of Michigan, the state had the highest unemployment rate in the U.S and Granholm pushed dubious green energy products which failed to produce the promised results.
The Wall Street Journal observed “Why Beijing loves Biden and Paris,” noting of the Paris accord which Biden rejoined: “China is the most pleased because it knows the accord will restrict American energy while Beijing gets a decade-long free ride” at a time when China is seeking to eclipse U.S. economic and political influence globally. Biden climate czar John Kerry has greenlighted China's genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority for a climate deal that offered no real concessions from the Chinese side, cynically stating that life is “full of tough choices.” Kerry has bizarrely defended climate activists taking polluting private jets to conferences rather than living environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles. The shortfalls of these boondoggles with little benefit to the climate have received scant press attention, while often being represented as if they were bona fide accomplishments saving the earth.
The earth, humanity, and all living things deserve better. Sober-minded, disciplined solutions are needed. Our future depends on it.
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