28 October 2009

Lord Stern loses the plot - some more

Lord Stern is known for his report on climate change for the British Government. He claimed the benefits of intervening to prevent climate change exceeded the costs, a cost of 1% of GDP to save "up to 20% of GDP". The report was warmly embraced by the usual suspects and widely condemned by others. Bjorn Lomborg said the numbers were dodgy, there have been other critiques of the analysis. However, let's set this all aside for a moment.

Now he has come about with claims that would frighten some, make many environmentalists smile, but overall look rather ridiculous.

He claims "southern Europe is likely to be a desert; hundreds of millions of people will have to move. There will be severe global conflict". Scaremongering is it not?

Furthermore, he wants people to stop eating meat: "Meat uses up a lot of resources and a vegetarian diet consumes a lot less land and water. One of the best things you can do about climate change is reduce the amount of meat in your diet"

Mind you he isn't a vegetarian himself.

Nile Gardiner in the Daily Telegraph welcomes it though:

"Still, Lord Stern has done us all a favour. His monumentally silly remarks about turning the planet vegetarian will only drive another nail into the credibility of the climate hysteria movement. I look forward to his next interview on why we should all stop driving cars and return to using horse and cart. With the exception of course of gilded grandees who need a limo to the next UN conference on global warming."

For me, until those who are concerned about climate change advocate, first, getting rid of the vast panoply of state interventions that INCREASE CO2 emissions, I'm going to be sceptical about whether they really do want to balance human beings with the environment. What sort of things do I mean?

- Price controls on energy including limits to the profits energy companies can make, and subsidies to consumers;
- Subsidies for any modes of motorised transport, including governments not demanding a real profit from their own transport assets;
- Subsidies for agriculture and trade restrictions on agricultural products that keep efficient producers (like New Zealand for dairy products and Thailand for rice) from supplying countries with inefficient producers (like the EU and Japan);
- Subsidies and protectionism for the motor vehicle industry, aircraft manufacturing sector, steel industry, indeed any industry at all that uses high amounts of electricity or fossil fuels;
- Welfare that rewards breeding;
- Subsidised waste disposal and landfills.


Mark.V. said...

Once the world has become vegetarian the only cows and sheep will be found in zoos.

BTW what are the gas producing qualities of vegetarian foods? All those beans have got to have an effect. Culling humans anyone?

Unknown said...

I agree with most of your prescriptions re removing subsidies for wasting energy. None of that alters the fact that Stern is quite correct about pastoral farming. Read the FAO's 2006 report 'Livestock's Long Shadow' for a good analysis of many of the problems that come from intensive livestock farming.

Note I say 'intensive'. Its unlikely we will see a widespread conversion to veganism any time soon, but reducing consumption of meat and dairy in the West would have significant environmental benefits - especially if people move to organic as well.

Libertyscott said...

Nandor: Good, these issues get pulled in different directions. It would be helpful if the food debate moved towards who produces food efficiently rather than food miles which grossly distorts things. I'd much rather developing countries get access to richer markets for food, given they do not get subsidies for fertilisers or being inefficient, than to maintain the status quo. The grossly distorted dairy and meat markets suppress prices because of EU and US subsidies, get rid of those and both will rise in price, reducing consumption, but also focusing production on quality. Sadly European environmentalists don't seem to notice this. It would be greener for Europe to get lamb from NZ than locally, for example.

Unknown said...

LS - It may be true that the carbon footprint for NZ lamb eaten in the UK is smaller than for UK grown lamb, although I would like to see that Lincoln food miles study replicated because I have read that there may be some questionable assumptions built into it although I haven't read it myself.

I certainly agree, as I said, with ending agricultural subsidies and I recognise two equity issues here. One is fair access to markets, the other is the dumping of subsidised food onto the markets of poor countries,devastating the economics of their own local production.

However even though it may be comparatively efficient, NZ agriculture is still a major cause of environmental degradation - not just climate change but water quality as well. Until NZ farmers are required to internalise these externalities, market mechanisms will remain badly distorted.