Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Earth Day Al Gore

Investor's Business Daily really hits the nail on the head with its Earth Day editorial today.

Shortage: Al Gore sees no climate improvement since he made "An Inconvenient Truth." Actually, things have gotten worse. As the environmentalists celebrate Earth Day, the rush to replace fossil fuels threatens global famine.

A week after Tax Day, April 15, we are forced to endure another indignity, Earth Day, April 22. This Earth Day finds the world threatened not by rising sea levels, but by rising food prices. Many on the planet are more likely to starve than drown, and we have only Gore's disciples to blame.

In an interview with the British paper The Sun, the jolly green giant whined: "I have to say the situation has not improved since I made the movie in 2006." The polar bears, he says, are still going to drown, and boats will soon be moored to the top of the Washington Monument.

To be sure, we're setting weather records, but they're not what Gore has in mind. Record cold temperatures have occurred over the globe this winter, and the only concern about flooding is from record snowfalls across the planet.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently warned of a more imminent threat, one ironically created by the rush to save the planet. Speaking in Accra, Ghana, the U.N. chief said the world must drastically increase food production to ease skyrocketing prices that have caused food riots in countries like Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Haiti.

The production of food grains has increased. But it is being diverted to empty gas tanks, not empty stomachs. Gore and others have warned that climate change is an imminent threat to the world. We would argue that climate-friendly policies are more of a threat.

The Gore-induced rush to biofuels has diverted crops such as corn, soybeans and palm oil from food to fuel. Vast swaths of rain forest in places like Malaysia and Indonesia have been cleared to provide farmland not to feed the hungry but to fuel our cars. Our own grain belt has been increasingly diverted to ethanol over corn flakes.

This has pressured food prices while damaging the environment. In the U.S., more cultivation has increased runoff from pesticides and fertilizer, creating dead zones for aquatic life from Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

As Indur M. Goklany of the Cato Institute reports, agricultural expansion leads to higher releases of carbon from biomass and soil above and below ground. Fertilizers that increase yields also increase nitrogen discharge into waters and emissions of nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas that heats the atmosphere 300 times more effectively than carbon dioxide.

According to World Bank data, as of March, world grain prices had tripled and fertilizer prices had quadrupled since 2000. Food prices have risen an astounding 65% just since the beginning of this year.

"Climate-change remedies can lead to greater poverty, starvation and disease, as well as widespread ecological destruction — some of the very misfortunes that they're supposed to prevent," Goklany wrote in the New York Post. "In our haste to address global warming, we have yet to think seriously about our policies' unintended effects."

In his 1968 book "The Population Bomb," Paul Ehrlich warned of famine and mass starvation from overpopulation. Ironically, that might yet occur, not from overpopulation, but from overzealousness in trying to save Earth from a nonexistent threat.

Happy Earth Day, Al.

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