Global Warming is Killing Environmentalism

I have written many times that someday we will look back on the early 21st century and decide that the obsessive focus on Co2 and global warming gutted the environmental movements effectiveness for a generation.  While we focus on overblown fears of global warming, warming that may be more expensive to stop than it actually hurts us, real environmental problems we know how to solve go neglected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first report on children's health and the environment, showing that the effects of pollution are felt most strongly by the very young. Of the deaths of children under five, a quarter are caused by smog, second-hand smoke, inadequate hygiene, unsafe water and other environmental risks. "[Young children's] developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

Much of this is sadly preventable. WHO said that 570,000 children were killed by respiratory infections like pneumonia that are attributable to second-hand smoke and indoor and outdoor air pollution, for instance. 361,000 were killed by diarrhea caused by a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. 270,000 infants died in their first month from conditions like prematurity, caused by unclear water and air.

WHO said many deaths are caused by environmental hazards like electronic waste that exposes kids to mercury, lead and other toxins. Air pollution is another obvious problem, especially in large cities like Beijing and Paris

These are all things we know how to fix.  We are not sure how to run a growing modern economy with current technology without producing CO2, but we sure as heck know how to fix this stuff.  The global warming obsession diverts resources and attention from things we really could improve.  What is more, many of these things - like access to clean water - can only be hurt by the current environmental obsession to eliminate fossil fuel use and (among the extreme) upend market capitalism.  Economic growth and development is what tends to fix many of these problems, which certainly is not going to happen as rapidly if energy costs skyrocket.

But it is even worse.  The linked article begins with a view of polluted Paris.   How can Paris be such a mess?  I thought all we Americans were environmental Neanderthals compared to Europeans, but none of our cities look like this any more.  And France actually has the largest commitment to clean nuclear power in the world, so what is up?  One likely cause is the EU's fixation on pushing consumers into diesel cars in the name of fighting global warming.  Diesel cars produce a smidgen less Co2 per mile (because they are efficient) but also produce all sorts of pollutants that are hard to eliminate.  That picture of Paris might be labelled "Paris after obsession with global warming".

The article and report does of course mention global warming.  One of the first rules of modern environmentalism is that no negative environmental report or study can be published without blaming global warming in some way, even if there is no evidence for it.  From the same article:

Climate change is also a leading issue, since it causes pollen growth that is "associated with increased rates of asthma in children," the organization says. Between 11 and 14 percent of children under five currently report asthma issues, and around 44 percent are related to environmental exposure.

Seriously, this is what they have?  Pollen?  While 44 percent of asthma is from environmental sources, they present no evidence (because none exists) of how much asthma is from incremental pollen from  global warming.  This is so weak compared to the other problems they outline that I am amazed they can't see themselves how weak the contrast looks.  (If you were tasked to reduce asthma from manmade sources in  China, would you look at particulates in the air that create the brown clouds over Beijin or would you go after pollen from global warming?)

By the way, the Engadget article (Engadget is apparently abandoning blogging about gadgets in favor of becoming the next online MSNBC) concludes:

Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled congress and Donald Trump have rolled back environmental protections, and the White House plans to cut the EPA's budget up to 40 percent. That's a major setback for environmentalists and other activists, but the WHO report is a timely reminder of exactly for whom we need to clean things up.

Twenty years ago, the clean air and water acts enjoyed tremendous public support, even grudgingly among Republicans.  No one, even in the Left-hated Reagan Administration, ever made a serious effort to impinge on them.  However, over the last 20 years, environmentalists have overreached themselves.  Their obsession on climate and other crazy overreaches (like the Waters of the United States rules) have caused a lot of people to starting thinking all environmentalism is bullsh*t.  Yet another way the global warming obsession is undermining the environmental movement.

Postscript:  This is also the reason for my climate plan with a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Give global warming folks what they are asking for in a very low cost way and then lets move on to fixing stuff that matters.

  • J_W_W

    But as you stated in your previous post, you found out that they don't really want revenue neutral taxes.

    I have come to believe that the Left truly believes that there is no problem that more taxes cannot fix. They also cover their ears and screech 'la la la la can't hear you' if you even mention the Laffer curve.

    Oh and as for those "waters of the US" rules... There have been few policies that openly hostile to farms as that one. It lost Dems many many votes in my state.

  • Ike Evans

    The first rule of fanatics: when you lose site of your goal, you redouble your efforts.

  • Joe Blizzard

    CO2 is to environmentalism as race is to leftism.

  • Sam P

    I generally agree with your overall thesis, but some nitpicks:

    The photo was probably specially selected to show Paris' air to be poor. According to Numbeo, which claims its numbers are from the WHO, Paris' air quality is maybe 50% worse than Los Angeles, with both labelled "Low to Moderate" PM_10 pollution level. Beijing, on the other hand, has about 5 times the air particulates as Paris and has "Very High" PM_10 pollution level.

  • Emil

    Also note that the air pollution part is a red herring. I'm not saying that air pollution is not a bad thing but it's definitely not the main driver for anything.

    the full report is available here: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/254677/1/9789241511773-eng.pdf?ua=1

    page 14 makes absolutely clear that "deaths in children under five attributable to the environment is a big issue in the developing world issue but not in the developed one.

    page 17 cites four reasons for respiratory infections:
    1) household air pollution
    2) ambient air pollution
    3) second hand tobacco smoke
    4) housing

    of these, only 1) is a bigger issue in (some) developed countries than in developing ones. (Diesel is a main factor in this, population density another).

    the section on "a breath of fresh air" (page 44 onwards) then tries to insinuate that ambient air pollution is a big problem but they don't seem to (unless I didn't find them) provide any data to back this up. Statistically it however appears pretty obvious that ambient air pollution is a developing world problem and not a developed one (page 53).

  • marque2

    If you give leftists what they ask for, they don't go away, they demand much more. The neutral carbon tax wouldn't be the end of it.

  • ErikTheRed

    And when they give you an inch, ratchet up the screaming about how you "needed" a mile.

  • CapitalistRoader
  • Increased pollen. Increased pollen...

    Why, it is as though that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to an increase in the growth of plants.

  • embutler

    have you missed the greenie aims??
    cull the population..
    betcha that will affect your death stats..

  • CC

    The desire to destroy capitalism is based on the fact that it isn't perfect, therefore it must be destroyed. Capitalism produces pollution, inequality, blah blah. The problem of course is that all the other systems anyone can think of are markedly worse. Check out East Germany after the wall fell. Lots of photos. Dirty, inefficient, polluted, poor. What an ideal to aspire to. Many of the problems that environmentalists focus on can only be completely solved by eliminating people. uh, no thanks.

  • MJ

    That sounds like the first rule of Keynesianism.

  • johnmoore

    Paris pollution seemed pretty bad when I lived there in 1991. I'm not sure of the cause - I don't know if they had a lot of diesels then. Also, most of the pollution was on the very busy, very wide highways in the city.

    And drop the "revenue neutral" carbon tax. In the real world of politics, it would last about ten minutes before somebody started amending it and turning it into a 100,000 page set of rules.

  • Patrick

    Good points over all. But re: "How can Paris be such a mess? I thought all we Americans were environmental Neanderthals compared to Europeans, but none of our cities look like this any more."
    I think you're over-generalizing the improvements in Phoenix, LA, and maybe a few other cities you visit frequently (and there have been real improvements, with Phoenix or LA very rarely seeing air pollution this bad any more). Salt Lake has certainly had much worse air pollution days in the past couple winters than that shown in the Paris picture. And just a hunch, but seems likely that Engadget didn't pick an "average" day in Paris for that picture--and assuming that it's a picture of one of the worst pollution days of the year, it actually looks roughly comparable to the most polluted days in Phoenix, LA, Las Vegas, Portland, etc.