Environmental Alarmists Have It Backwards

A good investigative reporter and a good guy as well.

[quote]Environmental Alarmists Have It Backwards
April 25, 2007, By John Stossel

Last Sunday was marked by an orgy of celebrations of Earth Day, the worldwide annual event intended to “to spark a revolution against environmental abuse.”

Even the Bush administration had an Earth Day website, which stated, “Earth Day and every day is a time to act to protect our planet”.

Watching the media coverage, you’d think that the earth was in imminent danger – that human life itself was on the verge of extinction. Technology is fingered as the perp.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

ohn Semmens of Arizona’s Laissez Faire Institute points out that Earth Day misses an important point. In the April issue of The Freeman magazine, Semmens says the environmental movement overlooks how hospitable the earth has become – thanks to technology. “The environmental alarmists have it backwards. If anything imperils the earth it is ignorant obstruction of science and progress. … That technology provides the best option for serving human wants and conserving the environment should be evident in the progress made in environmental improvement in the United States. Virtually every measure shows that pollution is headed downward and that nature is making a comeback.” (Carbon dioxide excepted, if it is really a pollutant.)

Semmens describes his visit to historic Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, an area “lush with trees and greenery.” It wasn’t always that way. In 1775, the land was cleared so it could be farmed. Today, technology makes farmers so efficient that only a fraction of the land is needed to produce much more food. As a result, “Massachusetts farmland has been allowed to revert back to forest.”

Human ingenuity and technology not only raised living standards, but also restored environmental amenities. How about a day to celebrate that?

Yet, Semmens writes, the environmental movement is skeptical about technology and is attracted to three dubious principles: sustainable development, the precautionary principle, and stakeholder participation.

The point of sustainable development, Semmens says, “is to minimize the use of nonrenewable natural resources so there will be more left for future generations.” Sounds sensible – who is for “unsustainable” development?

But as the great economist Julian Simon often pointed out, resources are manmade, not natural. Jed Clampett cheered when he found oil on his land because it made him rich enough to move to Beverly Hills. But his great-grandfather would have cursed the disgusting black gunk because Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner hadn’t yet discovered that kerosene could be distilled from it.

President Bush chides us for our “addiction to oil.” But under current conditions, using oil makes perfect sense. Someday, if we let the free market operate, someone will find an energy source that works better than oil. Then richer future generations won’t need oil. So why deprive ourselves and make ourselves poorer with needless regulation now?

Anyway, it’s not as if we’re running out of oil. That’s one of the myths I expose in my new book, “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity”. If the price of a barrel of oil stays high, entrepreneurs will find better ways to suck oil out of the ground. At $50 a barrel, it’s even profitable to recover oil that’s stuck in the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Those tar sands alone contain enough oil to meet our needs for a hundred years.

The precautionary principle, popular in Europe, is the idea that no new thing should be permitted until it has been proved harmless. Sounds good, except as Ron Bailey of Reason writes, it basically means, “Don’t ever do anything for the first time.”

Stakeholder participation means that busybodies would be permitted to intrude on private transactions. Semmens’s example is DDT, which for years would have saved children from deadly malaria, except that “‘stakeholders’ from the environmental quarter have prevailed on governments to ban the trade in this product.”

The first victims of these principles are the poor. We rich Westerners can withstand a lot of policy foolishness. But people in the developing world live on the edge, so anything that retards economic progress – including measures to arrest global warming – will bring incredible hardship to the most vulnerable on the planet.

If we care about human life, we should celebrate Economic Progress Day.

Real Clear Politics.com[/quote]

Real Clear Politics.com is a good resource site.

I thought all that farmland in New England has become real estate developments. This book “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity” proves without a doubt that I was wrong… not all of the vast expanses of historic farmland in New England became real estate developments, and it’s only a gripe that New Englanders use to lighten the mood at a party.

Tainan Cowboy, last I heard you were living in Taiwan. You’ve seen exactly what economic progress can do to the environment.

I am not sure if you are being ironic… I came here first 25 years ago and this place was a polluted Third World shithole. It has really cleaned up its act and Taipei is far cleaner now than at any time since the Japanese left. No aspersions against the Chinese intended, though read some of that in if you will or must. The rivers are now far cleaner. The air is much cleaner. People rarely spit or litter. Economic progress can and does deliver environmental progress. Taiwan is probably far more forested now than at any time since either the Japanese or Chinese came here (read into that what you will as well.)


Sure, the earth is in great shape! Let’s ignore the warnings and abandon ourselves to the comforts that technology affords us. After all, the air pollution, the deforestation in Indonesia, South America and Africa, the fouling of most waterways in China, India and many other industrialised nations, overfishing and all those other things that the “bunny-huggers” bitch about are overstated, right? In any case, we’ll most probably all have died in comfort at ripe old ages before the real environmental problems affect the world dramatically. Wel, they’ll effect the world’s poor, but that’s okay. After all, we’re not them!(Whew) So, let’s just let our kids sort it out. After all, the nay-sayer scientists, like the quotable John Semmens, know it all! They can see the future . . . obviously. But I wonder; are they looking out for the good of humankind, or is it that they don’t want to trade in their gas-guzzling 4x4s for a Toyota hybrids, or worse . . . bicycles?

Even though we have no evidence either way, as this has never happened before in recorded human history, and both camps obviouly have to rely on conjecture and “best-guess” science, I would say erring on the side of caution would make more sense. Sure, the melting polar ice, increasing large storm frequency and intensity, rising temperatures and shrinking ozone levels might just be part of the natural cycle. But perhaps not. Perhaps we’ve thrown a rather large spanner in the works by polluting the environment. Perhaps this is Nature’s way of attempting to “correct” our failings.

In any case, even if our pollution wasn’t the catalyst for the climate change, wouldn’t it improve our quality of life to clean up a little, and not just waste and pollute to our hearts’ content. That’s what mature, rational people would do. Obviouly the fantastic Mr Stossel and his authoratative source would beg to differ: make money and f#@% the planet! Yee-haaaaah! We’ll see who is correct in the long run.

All developed nations are far cleaner today than at any time in recent history. For Europe, the rivers and sanitary conditions are better than since the 1400s. Yes, India and China and other places are getting worse. While the Amazon and Indonesia are being deforested, the developed world is reforesting. Sorry, you are so upset about all of this but the best way to see Indonesia and Brazil get better is to make them more richer and more developed. This is exactly what happened to Taiwan, Korea et al. It will happen to other nations. Eastern Europe today is far cleaner than for 300 years. That is something.

Thanks, fred, for your retort. I must take issue with what you have said though.

America, the most developed country and the greatest CO2 polluter, is hardly cleaner than it was 600 years ago. It did not sign the Kyoto Protocol for a reason. Cleaning up means losing money. I am certain that if you could compare air and water pollution levels in 1400 AD in Europe, you would find that pollution levels are up across the board. The sanitary conditions might be better nowadays, but people crapping in the rivers isn’t the problem. Factories dumping their toxic waste and the like are. They might have cleaned up a little now, but I am sure it’s worse than 600 years ago. Would you like to take a dip in the Rhine? I wouldn’t.

I don’t see the dirt-poor farmers in the Amazon and Indonesia starting up cottage industries that will make them rich enough to move away from subsistence farming in the near future, do you? And people in Europe and the U.S. planting trees is a noble effort, but I don’t think that it will make that much difference. How many trees are there in both the U.S. and Europe compared to the number in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia? A few less, I think.

Have you looked at Taiwan lately. I wouldn’t call it a fine example of economic empowerment translating into environmental responsibility. It’s one of the dirtiest, most polluted places I have seen (one among many). When people in developing nations make money, they don’t try to go green. They build department stores and shopping malls.

Are you sure about this? I doubt it somehow.

Fire away…

No, but then only the aboriginals with their superior civilization were present. Shall we return to those grand days of old? Ain’t going to happen so put down your Wiccan knitbook and forget about that thought.

Because we realized that it was a failed policy. Better than the Europeans and Canadians who signed and then promptly set about failing every target. What’s the difference or is it that “intent” that counts?

That old zero-sum mentality again… Cleaning up means learning how to waste less. It SAVES money.

Nope. Exact opposite. Think of the sanitary conditions of the time and the fact that everything was a smoke fire for everything from cooking to heat. THINK about that.

The Rhine and Thames and other European rivers are FAR cleaner than for 500 years. FISH are returning to these rivers now. So while not perfect, MUCH IMPROVED cannot be doubted.

Understatement of the year.

No but advanced economies will draw many to large cities where they will find jobs in manufacturing and services.

The US is now 40 percent forested. Japan and Taiwan are 80 percent forested. Those are very high rates that have not been seen for centuries.

So you are thinking now! Good start. Actually, the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia must use more land to deal with their growing populations. Some of that will come from the forests but as the US and other nations developed, they were better able to afford leaving large tracts of forested land in parks and reserves. Why would this be different for these nations?

But you have not had the benefit of seeing it clean up over the past 25 years.

Your knowledge of the world is therefore limited. I get that.

Both happen. One of those who likes to blame mindless consumers for all social, cultural, community and environmental woes I see. Well, then, why don’t you stop using soap, detergent, air conditioning, toilet paper, microwaves and return to a life on the land? Or is that only for the brown peoples of the world who should remain quaint and picturesque so you have a cheap place to visit when you have time off teaching at your buxiban?

Since the industrial revolution, Eastern Europe has depended greatly on lignite coal. I think we all know what that means. Ending communism also saw greater safeguards for chemical, nuclear and industrial waste. I know what I am talking about. I doubt (deliberate) that you do.

Stossel’s article is pretty feeble - caricaturing environmentalists as being anti-technology and then arguing against the caricature. Of course there may be a technophobic fringe, but in general environmentalists are in favour of appropriate and sustainable technology. Hadn’t you noticed environmentalists’ enthusiasm for solar panels and wind generators? Hardly a hankering for the stone age.

My brother is active with the UK Green Party. He is doing research on Arcology - a concept of sustainable architecture and urban planning. Check it out. Do Arcologies look low-tech to you?

My brother is working on applying Arcology constructions on a realistic scale and in modular form to bring new life to existing cities.

Fred Smith expressed interest in the post I made about the transformation of the Broadwater Farm council estate (rough equivalent of “projects” in the USA) in north London. Could there be some unexpected meeting of ideas here?


Relevant reading:
Practical Action (intermediate technology)
Thirty-eight dishonest tricks which are commonly used in argument, with the methods of overcoming them (note trick no. 4 as employed by John Stossel)

Unusual, though, to see one caricaturing the other side. Usually, it is Republicans and corporations who are caricatured in highly unacceptable and ridiculously slanderous ways.

Of course, equally corporations are the ones who are introducing that technology in the best, most cheapest fashion to a large extent. Also, I hate to tell you and any other environmentalists this but solar and wind energy are not going to replace coal and oil any time soon. THAT is the problem and it must be faced realistically.

I note with humor that for four years I have argued that global warming was not going to be the unmitigated disaster that it was presented as. Then, finally, Newsweek comes out and says the same and now we have the enviroleft now saying that we must tranfer large sums of money to the Third World because they will be the ones most “unfairly” affected by it. Again, the same old same old destroy productive forces or leech off of them to support the “weak, lazy, corrupt, stupid, incompetent” because it is the “right” thing to do. There is of course another course of action which is to make those areas just as productive but that does not seem to dawn on these individuals… Does it?

[quote=“fred smith”]
I note with humor that for four years I have argued that global warming was not going to be the unmitigated disaster that it was presented as. Then, finally, Newsweek comes out and says the same [/quote]

Are you sure ? Because newsweek didn’t read like that to me.

Anyway unless you have a crystal ball what the effects will be are largely debatable, but few are saying “oh look at the good side, we can now mine oil in the polar caps since they melted, see, it’s not all bad”. I expect Exxon is though.

The quotes are all from the edition of Newsweek you refer to.

[quote]In the Australian outback, the worst drought on record is driving wild camels crazy with thirst. The global thermostat is malfunctioning. Everywhere nature is unsettled and, most likely, mankind deserves much of the blame. Those are the generally agreed facts. Global warming is now a reality that even die-hard skeptics struggle to dispute. The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts temperatures will rise 4 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century. Clearly, prompt action to limit CO2 emissions is needed.

[quote]Global warming is changing the earth and forcing businesses to evolve like never before.[/quote]http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=109&STORY=/www/story/04-08-2007/0004561321&EDATE=


You’re just seeing retrenching from the skeptics on perhaps the new battle ground. Can we adapt? What benefits are there in global warming? What is the right approach, funding of alternative fuels or reducing C02 emissions or what.

Gosh. I don’t know Mick. I guess when I read the title which reads thus…

Living with Global Warming: Yes, the climate is changing but that is not all bad news. Smart cities, countries are already adapting and cashing in. Plus 10 Winners and Losers in a Warmer World…

Gosh. I assumed that the words “would not be an unmitigated disaster” were about how the magazine editors were trying to put it. But hey, I am open to new “interpretations” of words and their definitions. It is what makes discussions with leftist idiots so amusing. Tell me, therefore, how I should be interpreting the above sentence… I am all ears…

[quote=“fred smith”]Gosh. I don’t know Mick. I guess when I read the title which reads thus…

Living with Global Warming: Yes, the climate is changing but that is not all bad news. Smart cities, countries are already adapting and cashing in. Plus 10 Winners and Losers in a Warmer World…

Gosh. I assumed that the words “would not be an unmitigated disaster” were about how the magazine editors were trying to put it. But hey, I am open to new “interpretations” of words and their definitions. It is what makes discussions with leftist idiots so amusing. Tell me, therefore, how I should be interpreting the above sentence… I am all ears…[/quote]

You know its funny, because while reading the article I was thinking how you might be filtering the information you dislike and just grabbing one or two sentences that fit your ideals (ignore the rest of course).

There is good reason to debate the best way to tackle global warming. Because you may get a benefit of growing wine in the north of England (if you can call that a plus) only an idiot would latch onto one or two bits of “good” that may occur as “evidence” its not as bad as it looks.

The arguments are put forward by the skeptics camp as they have lost the argument of “if” its happening or “if” man is the cause. So now its obfuscation party time for the skeptics. The point is if the temperatures keep going up, even those that might benefit from a small rise will pale in comparison to the “bad”. But ok, I know you need something to hold onto, after 4 years of arguing points that have all been proved wrong, why not pick up another loosing battle.

Heres a suggestion (since you asked) on how to interpret articles. Take off you rose tinted glasses, view the entire story in context (not just the title) while at the same time balancing it with other opposing views that exist.

No doubt applying the same logic you have for global warming you would advise those who enjoy the sport of caving to do it without a safety rope or helmet as they get the additional benefit of being able to move more freely.

Whew! Lots to think about . . . lot’s to write!

Being a cave-dweller would let me hug trees every day. I would be so happy. And then I could hop and skip my way through the verdant forest and sing to the the wide-eyed deer . . . Nothing wrong with Wiccan anyhow.

How could “you” realise that it was a failed policy even before the agreement was signed? Oh, sorry, “you” have that magic crystal ball that allows you to see the future. I forgot. At least Britain and Canada had the guts to try to step up to the plate. Sure they failed at first because they couldn’t force industry in their countries to change overnight. It takes coaxing over time to change the mindset of the population. Better than not even bothering. So, if the US has been doing such a stirling job on its own, where are the results?

“… the US repudiated the (Kyoto) treaty, arguing that its economic interests would be threatened. Instead of cutting emissions from 7% as required by the treaty, the Bush administration had initiated policy changes that could increase its emissions by up to 30%, the European Commission said.”

(damned commie-lovin’ BBC, but I likes it)

No mention of America not thinking that it would work. The US motivation was the almighty dollar. Plain and simple greed.

Uh, no, cleaning up means cleaning up. I have no idea how paying people and using resources to clean up saves money. Educating people so that they realise that there is a problem helps people change their mindset so that they can waste less. Whew, your logic needs a bit of dusting off.

I am thinking. It would seem that you are not. Do you know how many cooking fires would equal the pollution pumped out by a single factory or coal burning power station. Many power stations pump out in the order of 60 000 to 100 000 tons of pollution a year. Look it up. It would take a whole heap of fires burning around the clock to pump out that much pollution.

Where did you dream this up? Cities were far smaller. There were no factories. There were no chemical agents used in fertilizers and pesticides to wash off the farmlands and into the rivers, there were no ships and motor boats to spill fuel into the water. But it was dirtier back then. Sure! If you say so.

Okay, let’s say you are correct. So all the farmers and peasants of the world move into the cities and are making money. They are happy. Where do they “manufacture” things? Surely not in factories, where much of the world’s pollution comes from? Perhaps somewhere else. And the people in the service industries will drive around in non-polluting buses and cars and fly in non-polluting airplanes, I guess. And everything they throw away would be recycled right? And where do they live? In apartment buildings with TVs and computers and electric lights and air-conditioners that use power generated by the clean, non-polluting coal or nuclear power plants. Sounds like a great place to live . . . if only it were not a utopian dream. And in this fantasy world, who will be growing the food to feed all of these billions of new, non-polluting city-dwellers? I guess the cows will rear themselves.

Wow! The trees in the 40% of the US that is forested plus all of trees in Japan and Taiwan are almost the same number as those in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesia combined (as well as the other parts of the world being deforested). I see your point.

Thank you so much. I might think again a little later on.

Yeah, Brazil and Bolivia and Paraguay might eventually become just like the US. Wouldn’t they be lucky. Then they could pollute freely as well and plant a few trees and say “Look! Look how we are saving the environment”. As for the DRC, unless something radical happens there, it will not even become a developing country in our lifetimes. Indonesia might improve, but again there is very little chance that they will become another America. More likely they will continue being an America-wannabe, like so much of Asia.

I am not disputing this. All I can say is that if this is clean, it must have been a real sight back then. You must be proud of sticking it out here so long.

Another narrow-minded assumption. Your arguments are full of them. .

There’s that all-or-nothing mentality popping it’s head up again. I just say that perhaps it would be prudent thinking more about the environment, and at least one person (you, in this case) will always tell me to stop using every form of modern convenience and return to the land. Even if I did, will that help? I don’t think so, because people like you are too concerned about making money and living comfortably and not disturbing the status quo. The future be damned! Mmmm . . . TV and luxury SUV good. . . change bad . . . duh. I think that there is a middle gound where there can be conservation and responsible consumption alongside development? I guess you don’t.

Yes, you know so much. As I understood it, your original post said that Eastern Europe is cleaner than 300 years ago. Communism wasn’t around back then. What are you talking about? Perhaps it is cleaner than 10 years ago, but 300 . . . please!


Ooops again!

You know, um, given that, um, I was quoting the TITLE chosen by the EDITORS of the magazine which appeared on the COVER, I, um, guess, that, er, I would have, to, that is if it is okay, er, disagree with that view.

Yeah… I am the one who has been losing the argument on global warming. Right… That is why this issue out of the blue is talking about their being winners and losers and surprise surprise the losers are the same ones that are losing out today with COOLER temperatures. Apparently, WARMER temperatures are going to make matters even worse and surprise surprise rich countries should give money to poor countries to help them deal with it. Sounds oh so unheard of. Different day, different excuse. Results, the same. As to the rest of the characterization of my debate, I have always said that regardless of what is causing the global warming, Kyoto and similar efforts were failed and thus I was against KYOTO. I note that the authors have come to the same conclusion and that the US view that getting Brazil, India and China on board is the better solution. So yes case closed. I have never said I was against monitoring, new technology, efforts to reduce emissions and in some cases even taxes on carbon. I have always been against Kyoto and the shrill hypocrisy of the supporters of that failed treaty who seemed more keen to beat up on the US rather than actually deal with the problem as they outlined it themselves.

Why don’t you spend some time reading this whole thread first. Much has already been posted about how US increases in emissions are half those of Europe at a per capita level and that European nations are no where near to meeting their Kyoto targets. Also, the links to various pollution levels throughout history have also been posted before. I think that your views are quite simplistic and I really do not fancy going back to repeat what has already been posted in the three global warming threads already all over again just because you are too lazy to read it. Yes, many a fervent environmentalist full of sanctimoninous outrage has beaten his or her chest in this forum before and many such a person has disappeared when faced with the facts. Would you like to be the lastest of these or would you like to read these three threads first and save yourself the embarrassment?

Here’s a bit more about why I support the economic development approach rather than the failed control measures of Kyoto. Notice how economic development actually leads to greater protection for the environment and better qualities of life.

[quote]More has been done to reduce poverty in the past 50 years than the previous 500 years, yet many protest ‘not enough’ and have created a myth about globalization. Globalization is not new, historians argue we had about the same level of trade 100 years ago as today. Certainly more people were on the move then than now. We should not reject criticism and scrutiny, nor should we be smug.

It’s this never ending debate that drives us to improve.

In a century, Illiteracy has fallen from 75 per cent to below 20 per cent in developing countries. In 1960 most people in developing countries spent only a third as long in school as people in industrialized countries, now it’s half as long.

In 1900 people lived for 30 years on average, now they live on average 67 years. In 1950 life expectancy in the developing world reached 41, in 1998 it was 65. From being expected to die by age 24 in 1930, China has increased life expectancy to 70, a three-fold increase in two generations. In 1950, 18 per cent or almost every fifth child died in the developing world, in 1995, 6 per cent. In 1950 almost 6 per cent of all new-borns did not survive, now 1 per cent. Developing countries have the same infant mortality rate as the industrialized countries in 1950.

The share of people in developing countries with access to clean water has increased 30 per cent in 1970 to 80 per cent in 2000. Over 30 years the share of people with access to sanitation has more than doubled.

Despite the doubling of the US GNP over the past 30 years, they are using less steel. US population is up by a third but vehicle emissions have dropped by a third. Over the next ten years despite traffic increases, emissions will decrease by 20 per cent in the US and 30 per cent in the UK. The last 15-20 years has seen lead concentration levels fall by over 90 per cent. EU emissions have been cut by 60 per cent since 1984.

In 1992, more than 21 per cent of European beaches were polluted, by 1999 only 5 per cent were polluted. When measured naturally through fish in the US or through herring gull eggs in the great lakes, pollutant concentrations have declined by 80-90 per cent.

London is cleaner than it has been for a 100 years and pollution is New Delhi and Beijing is about where London was 50 years ago.

Remember the headlines about acid rain and the number of species that face extinction? Acid rain in the end affected 0.5 per cent of European forests,

Thirty years ago workers in Chinese Taipei earned USD 7.50 a month, now its USD 7.50 per hour.[/quote]


The last material benefit I mentioned was a cleaner environment. Freedom – and free markets – eventually translate into a cleaner environment. We now know that some of the worst environmental abuses occurred in the countries of the former Soviet Union, under central planning and absence of political freedoms. In market economies, in contrast, once average incomes have crossed a threshold of about $3000 to $4000, rising incomes and cleaner environments go hand in hand.

Why is this the case? First, it is prosperity that allows people not just to be concerned about the environment but to have the resources to devote to its clean-up. Second, environmental pressure groups can flourish better in open economies. Third, companies are concerned about their reputations and therefore have an incentive to be responsive to campaigns against them by environmental groups.

Does this mean that every developing country will have to wait until it is a middle-income country before it cleans up its environment? Not necessarily. Because the technology of environmental clean-up is getting better and cheaper, countries will undoubtedly leapfrog and start the clean-up process at lower thresholds of incomes than did today’s advanced nations. Indeed, this is already happening in many countries. And environmental lobby groups are already active in many of these countries, and they are quite effective, having learnt from the experience of developed country groups what works and what doesn’t.[/quote]


[quote]According to reports, 52 million cubic metres of untreated sewage and rainwater pollute the Thames and Lee every year. But perhaps to the surprise of Londoners, 129 species of fish and 250 invertebrates still survive in the Thames, and the river is cleaner and healthier than it has been for two centuries.

In fact, the Thames is acknowledged to be one of the world’s cleanest urban rivers. But like many of China’s rivers today, at one time urban and industrial growth threatened its ecosystem – almost to the point of collapse.[/quote]

chinadialogue.net/article/sh … 927?page=1

Finally for today…

A new study says global forest levels, as a whole, are experiencing transitions from shrinking to growing. Could the world be looking at an increase in forestland? A recent study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, offers an encouraging perspective on the future of international forest levels.

The study, “Returning Forests Analyzed with the Forest Identity,” analyzed in detail the 50 countries reporting the greatest quantity of timber in 2005, as well as analyzing the 144 countries that reported timber volume to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, using a new formula developed to measure forest cover called “Forest Identity.”

“Globally, we should celebrate the reversal from shrinking to spreading forest,” says Jesse Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York, NY. “The forest transition is spreading. Looking at today’s entire world of 214 countries, we believe 69 have now experienced the transition. Thus, we foresee a great restoration of forests during this century, with ample area for habitat, good possibilities for carbon orchards and abundant growing stock for the wood products industry.”

Ausubel developed the formula along with researchers from the University of Helsinki and scientists from China, Scotland and the United States. Ausubel, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia, spent the first decade of his career in Washington D.C. working for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering. On behalf of the Academies, he was one of the main organizers of the first U.N. World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1979, an event that substantially elevated the global warming issue on scientific and political agendas. He also coordinated and authored much of the 1983 NAS report “Changing Climate,” the first comprehensive review of the greenhouse effect.

Jesse Ausubel: No specific grant supported the study, but organizations, ranging from the Academy of Finland to the National Natural Science Foundation of China, supported the authors. The roots of my involvement go back 15 years, when I first asked Paul Waggoner, the former chief of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, “How much land can 10 billion people spare for nature?”
I expected that growing population and affluence would expand farming and logging and thus shrink forests to almost nothing. Instead, we began to find that many nations were experiencing transitions where increasingly productive agriculture and forestry and changing patterns of consumption were allowing land to return to nature. Anyone looking out the window of an airplane on a clear day flying over Maine, or Connecticut, or Minnesota sees a transition to more forest.
In 2005, Finnish co-author Pekka Kauppi recognized that the six authors of the new paper were converging on a similar understanding and proposed we work together to define and quantify the forest transition, historically and globally.

W&WP: Could you explain the new formula to measure forest cover, known as “Forest Identity?” How does it work?

Ausubel: The Forest Identity simultaneously and consistently considers the area the forest covers (hectares or square kilometers), the volume of timber (growing stock in cubic meters), the total weight of the above-ground biomass (in kilograms) and the fraction of the biomass in carbon (again in kilograms). It reconciles the concerns of diverse forest stakeholders, some of whom value the area for habitat, some the timber volume that might be sold, some the biomass that could be fuel and some of the sequestered carbon that might reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

We call the equation an identity because the left side of the equation, namely tons of carbon, equals the area (hectares) times density (cubic meters per hectare) times biomass (tons per cubic meter) times carbon (ton of carbon per ton of biomass). This simple equation inescapably and powerfully reconciles diverse perspectives on the forest and allows easy translation of concerns from one variable to another. Crucially, the variables are measurable and are actually measured or can easily be estimated for most forests.

W&WP: Though the outlook on global forest levels as a whole is optimistic, countries such as Brazil and Indonesia have experienced losses. What are the reasons for these losses? Does the rest of the world actually make up for these losses?

Ausubel: The global forest area did shrink from 1990 to 2005, but had forests in just two nations, Brazil and Indonesia, not shrunk, global area would have expanded. Excluding Brazil and Indonesia, Earth’s forests increased about 2 percent from 1990 to 2005.

Surprisingly, expanding cropland or harvesting timber products fail to easily explain the losses. Brazilian forests shrank four times and Indonesian forests six times as fast as cropland, including soybeans and palm, expanded. Because the USA gained forest area while producing two times as much roundwood as Brazil and four times as much as Indonesia, lumber, pulp and fuel production also fail as easy explanations. Because richer nations don’t suffer deforestation, affluence also fails to explain the losses.

W&WP: What are the types of national policies that affect forests in the selected countries?

Ausubel: Several factors contribute to forest transitions, from decline to rise. They include higher crop and forest yields per acre, replacement of wood by other fuel, getting more lumber out of each tree cut and economic development accompanied by a rural exodus, as well as timber imports. The role of plantations versus natural forests increased. Government interventions of legislation, transportation, forest services, nature conservation, education, expertise and tree planting affected each factor. Consumers have changed, too. Twenty years ago, Americans bought about 65 million newspapers each day, while in 2006 they bought about 45 million. I sometimes say, only half in jest, that the Internet has conserved more forest than activist groups.

W&WP: Do you think the results of this study will bring any changes to forestation policies in the selected countries?

Ausubel: From 1990 to 2005, 44 percent of the 144 reported less timber volume, it is true. But 15 percent suffered no change and fully 41 percent gained timber. The good news of nations, both rich and developing, passing through transitions from shrinking to growing forests, dispels the fear of inevitable deforestation leaving Earth a skinhead. We hope the study will encourage those countries still losing forest to commit to a schedule for the forest transition.

W&WP: How will this study affect the woodworking industry? Do you see an increase in wood exports from countries with higher forestation increases?

Ausubel: By highlighting the compatibility of harvesting timber products with growing forests, the study should discourage misdirected restrictions on the forest industry. The study’s calculation of a smaller impact on the world’s natural forests when timber is produced from fast-growing plantations and from regions of fast tree growth should increase plantations and trade.

W&WP: The study shows a positive correlation between economic development and forest conservation. Can you explain this?

Ausubel: Poor nations suffered both losses and gains of forest. Impressively, both booming China and India increased their forests between 1990 and 2005. Among the nations reporting timber volume to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, none with more than $4,600 gross domestic product per person lost timber volume from 1990 to 2005. Thus,
[color=red]instead of affluence depleting forest resources, good governance, national policies and changing tastes combined to improve both forests and income. Our study affirms strongly that richer is greener[/color]

So I think that I will stand by my views that ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT is the key to BETTER ENVIRONMENTS. You little hypocrites like to pretend that we do not care about the environment but are after almighty dollars but the truth is it is the almight dollar and the profits that companies earn that actually leads to saving forests. It is those nations that are least touched by corporate “exploitation” that suffer most. Strange eh? And please note that India and China, which used to be LOSING forests are now GAINING forests and it is precisely because of economic development. Back to you… But please do read through these threads first. This really has been discussed to death before and no one who has argued as you have has remained… Take it as a sign.

W&WP: Could you explain the use of plantations where wood is “farmed” for use in wood products? Do you see an increase or decrease in these types of forestation?

Ausubel: Foresters shorten the cycle from logging to harvest by planting fast-growing trees, by creating lumber orchards. If I were to concentrate on sequestering carbon that would otherwise be added to the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, I would call my forest a carbon orchard. Sawing up 50 acres of plantations growing twice as fast spares logging 100 acres of natural forest. Foresters project that plantations will lower the present 67 percent of harvest from natural forests to only 25 percent by the year 2050. High yields in concentrated areas of forestry and farming are the best friend of nature, the way to spare large amounts of land for nature. However, I prefer the term precision forestry to plantation forestry. The key to high yields is smart, synchronized employment of water, information and other inputs.[/quote]


[quote]Remember the headlines about acid rain and the number of species that face extinction?
[color=red]Acid rain in the end affected 0.5 per cent of European forests[/color]
, [/quote]

I thought I would pull that out of the above quoted passage. Remember, yes, do we remember all the fuss about acid rain? What happened to that? I predict that global warming is going to be in a nearly similar category. Remember banning DDT, the same chemical that is now back in use? Remember the ozone layer? Remember global cooling? So many scares… The fact remains that long before man came into the picture, the climate changed and the Sahara became a desert. How did that happen and why?