Prior to the United Nations’ green summit in Rio de Janeiro Bjorn Lomborg said “Turn On the Lights — Please: Poverty Pollutes.” Bjorn is author of ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist‘ and directs the Copenhagen Consensus Centre
Sustainability Easier To Sell Than Climate Change
Bjorn believes at this summit concern for development ‘almost entirely slid off the negotiating table’… lip service being paid to poverty eradication as westerners focussd on ‘sustainability’.
Was the summit’s ‘sustainable’ branding deliberate as this is an easier ‘sell’ though global warming is real?
The trouble is that almost every aspect of modern civilization is powered by fossil fuels and where are the cheaper alternatives?
Post Kyoto Protocol Progress
The abatement in CO2 emissions has been minuscule. Even the European Union, the treaty’s most enthusiastic supporter, has simply shifted much of its industrial production (and the resulting greenhouse-gas generation) to countries not covered by the Protocol, like China.
Bjorn maintains that green technological ‘solutions’ like solar panels and biofuels are not yet the answer while they are more expensive.
Germany, the world’s largest per capita consumer of solar energy, produces just 0.3 percent of its energy this way. And to achieve this No. 1 status, the country has paid $130 billion for $12 billion worth of energy. The net reduction in CO2 emissions will slow the pace of global warming just 23 hours by the end of the century.
Biofuel production consumes 40 percent of the US corn harvest and it supplies only 4 percent of the transport fuel used here. The expansion of biofuel crops is resulting in higher food prices and increased hunger.
The 3 Most Important Environmental Issues In Developing Nations
Bjorn is adamant that we will get nowhere until we can make green energy less expensive than fossil fuels.
Approximately 900 million people are malnourished
- 1 billion lack clean drinking water
- 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation
- 1.6 billion are living without electricity
Every year roughly 15 million deaths — a quarter of the world’s total — are caused by diseases that are easily and cheaply curable.
About 0.06 percent of all deaths in the developing world are the result of extreme weather.
1. Indoor air pollution is one of the biggest environmental killers – a problem unfamiliar to most people in rich countries. We take for granted switching on heat and light but 3 billion people in developing nations must use fuels like cardboard or dung to cook their food and try to warm their homes with an annual death toll of from breathing the smoke of these fires at least 1.4 million.
Outdoor air pollution is estimated to kill another 1 million people a year in the developing nations. Almost 7 percent of all deaths in the developing world come from air pollution…more than 100 times the toll from floods, droughts, heat waves, and storms.
2. The lack of clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene leads to about 7 percent of all deaths in the developing world – almost 3 million deaths each year.
3. Poverty: More than 1 billion people subsist on less than $1.25 a day so worrying about environmental issues is a distant luxury.
“If your family is freezing, you will cut down the last tree for fuel; if they are starving, you will strip the land bare to feed them. And if you have no certainty about the future, you will provide for it in the only way possible: by having more children to care for you in your old age, regardless of how much they will add to humanity’s demands on the planet.
Recent history suggests that when living standards go up, people and societies reduce their pollution, stop cutting down forests, and stop dying from dirty air and bad water.
In short, helping people to emerge from poverty is one of the best things we can do for the environment.”
In a report on ‘green jobs’ published last year by the International Labor Organization, the UN itself declared the world’s current economic model a failure:
“The model of growth and development pursued in the last decades has not delivered the inclusive growth and sustainable development aspired to by people around the world.”
Latest Figures on Global Poverty
The proportion of people living in absolute poverty has dropped massively, from 52 percent in 1981 to 22 percent today.
With the current economic model, the UN’s own climate panel is forecasting an extreme reduction of poverty worldwide over the coming century.
Per capita income in the developing world is projected to grow to more than 23 times the 2000 level by the year 2100. So how can the UN argue that such economic growth needs to be overturned and replaced with a
“complete transformation of technology on which human economic activity is based”?
“Economic studies show that a successful Doha Round of the World Trade Organization talks would do between 100 and 1,000 times more good for Third World countries than any realistic climate deal could ever achieve..
We need to ask for our Earth Summit back..
no more Kyoto Protocols..
no more forest-destroying, hunger-inducing biofuels..
much more focus on green R&D to tackle global warming..
mostly it means smart investments that focus on the problems that matter most right now.. responding to poverty in ways that accomplish more than just making donors feel good about themselves..
Genuine sustainability and a truly green economy can be achieved only if we ensure real growth and development, the kind that will lift many more people out of poverty—the kind that will ultimately enable them to make responsible environmental decisions for themselves. This means getting the Doha Round of trade talks back on track.”
Powerful and logical..