Global Warming and the Poor
August 4, 2009 by BRET STEPHENS
A funny thing happened on the way to saving the world’s poor from the ravages of global warming. The poor told the warming alarmists to get lost.
This spring, the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum, led by former U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, issued a report warning that “mass starvation, mass migration, and mass sickness” would ensue if the world did not agree to “the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated” on global warming at a forthcoming conference in Copenhagen.
According to Mr. Annan’s report, climate change-induced disasters now account for 315,000 deaths each year and $125 billion in damages, numbers set to rise to 500,000 deaths and $340 billion in damages by 2030. The numbers are hotly contested by University of Colorado disaster-trends expert Roger Pielke Jr., who calls them a “poster child for how to lie with statistics.”
But what about all the pollution in India and particularly China? In Mr. Leslie’s telling, CO2 emissions are part-and-parcel with common pollutants such as particulate matter, toxic waste, and everything else typically associated with a degraded environment. They’re not. The U.S. and China produce equivalent quantities of carbon dioxide. But try naming a U.S. city whose air quality is even remotely as bad as Beijing’s, or an American river as polluted as the Han: You can’t. America, the richer and more industrialized country, is also by far the cleaner one.
People who live in Third-World countries—like Mexico, where I grew up—tend to understand this, even if First-World environmentalists do not. People who live in oppressive Third World countries, like China, also understand that it isn’t just greater wealth that leads to a better environment, but greater freedom, too.
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