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Meanwhile, in the rest of the world

Posted by Helen Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Sometimes it is easy to forget that nothing goes on apart from the murky discussions about the European Constitution and the British rebate (oh, and the Michael Jackson trial). But, oddly enough, the world carries on and other issues arise.

Tony Blair, for instance, is spending most of his time not, as it would appear, fighting over the rebate or coming up with some ideas on what to do about the European mess (especially not the latter) but travelling round the world, trying to make a success of the forthcoming G8 meeting.

The two issues he took to Washington (several trips ago) were African aid and Kyoto. With the aid he was partially successful. Bush allowed a certain amount of money (£368 million) to go into the general fund and has agreed to the debt write-off (more of that in another posting).

However, he has also made it clear that the United States will continue to give aid through its own programmes and will continue to tie it to developments in democratic politics.

Yesterday he repeated his usual comments about the need for change in government and his certainty that political reform was the best way forward at a White House ceremony, during which he congratulated the presidents of Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Niger on their commitments to democracy.

So that is really that. Mr Blair may go on wittering about problems with corruption but maybe they do not really matter and have conversations with the ever more insane Sir Bob Geldof, but he did not get very far with Dubya.

His other great cause is Kyoto. America must sign up to it to make it work, even though most of the countries that have signed up are nowhere near achieving their emission targets, while the clock towards the end of the agreement is ticking away.

Kyoto has become one of those symbolic words, whose meaning is lost in the mists of time. Precisely what does it achieve and what is its purpose? It was useful to have an article by Björn Lomborg in yesterday’s DailyTelegraph that asked those very questions.

Unlike the rest of us, Mr Lomborg has the answers at his fingertips. 11 of the leading world scientific academies have informed us all pompously that global warming is to be taken seriously. (They seem to be out of date. The words used mostly are “climate change”. Can’t argue with that – climate change happens.

“Their argument is that global warming is due to mankind's use of fossil fuels,that the consequences 100 years from now will be serious, and that we therefore should do something dramatic. We should make substantial and long-term reductions of greenhouse gases along the lines of the Kyoto Protocol.”
Well, maybe, says Mr Lomborg, though bearing in mind that scientists who disagree with the current orthodoxy have been complaining about not getting published and remembering Mr Lomborg’s own difficulties when he first emerged as a climatological heretic, perhaps we should retain a certain amount of scepticism.

In any case, as Mr Lomborg adds,
“…. as scientists, they should point out that fossil fuels will warm the world. This is indeed the majority opinion and likely to be true. Moreover, they should also tell us the likely impact of global warming over the coming century,which is likely to have fairly serious consequences, mainly for developing nations.

But to inform us accurately they have to go further than that. They should tell us what will happen even if we implement the fairly draconian measures of Kyoto - which they curiously do not.

They do not tell us that even if all the industrial nations agreed to the cuts (about 30pc from what would otherwise have been by 2010), and stuck to them all through the century, the impact would simply be to postpone warming by about six years beyond 2100. The unfortunate peasant in Bangladesh will find that his house floods in 2106 instead.

Moreover, they should also tell what they expect the cost of the Kyoto Protocol to be. That may not come easy to natural scientists, but there is plenty of literature on the subject, and the best guess is that the cost of doing a very little good for the third world 100 years from now would be $150billion per year for the rest of this century.”
The national scientific academies are playing politics (and, possibly,though Mr Lomborg does not say so, angling for some money to research into that famous climate change). But that is not what the developing needs desperately,not in a hundred years but much sooner than that.
“The urgent problem of the poor majority of this world is not climate change. Their problems are truly very basic: not dying from easily preventable diseases; not being malnourished from lack of simple nutrients; not being prevented from exploiting opportunities in the global economy by lack of free trade.”
And, of course, free trade between the countries themselves, no matter what insane rubbish the Geldofs of this world utter. But, above all, and very soon: genuine good governance and political accountability.