Thursday, January 25, 2007


Al Gore makes an impressive, but flawed presentation.

For one thing, he does not make the point that reaching Kyoto targets would be impossible without a reduction in the population. You cannot feed such an unsustainably high population without chemical fertilizers and large-scale energy-hungry agriculture.

Secondly, he completely neglects the fact that in all likelihood peak oil has already occurred globally and natural gas supplies will be exhausted sooner than gasoline becomes practically available. I think he should give more thought to the implications of this on climate change considering what types of energy are most likely to be exploited next (nuclear, burning wood for electricity, corn/sugar cane for ethanol, coal) and what is the capacity of these energies to meet present usage levels. Imagine the deforestation and acid rain caused by using wood and coal for electricity after oil and natural gas are extremely scarce. Or all the nuclear waste from trying to power electric cars. Obviously there are no technological fixes that can allow economic growth to occur much longer. I think Gore needed to make the point that the population is growing faster than conservation technology could ever grow and since all people must consume in order to survive—I haven’t met an economist who would dispute that—no technology will allow for perpetual human population growth on earth.

Thirdly, what about habitat loss? Is climate change all we care about? Most biodiversity is near the equator, not the poles. How many species’ extinctions have so far been due to climate change compared to how many have been due to wild habitat loss caused by the growing human population? Biodiversity performs about 33 trillion dollars in free and vital services to the human race annually, from cleaning our air and water, replenishing our aquifers, creating our topsoil, cycling nutrients, pollinating flora, isolating atmospheric carbon, preventing erosion, and providing genetic diversity. Without these services our “economy” would die. The blatantly evident manifestations of global warming are surely startling, dramatic and frightening, but habitat loss caused by human impact will be, as biologist Neil Dawe of the Qualicum Institute puts it, “the final nail in our coffin.”

Lastly, Gore loses credibility in his contention that we can reduce our impact to zero if we individually opt for greener alternatives. His exact words: “We have the ability to do this. Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, with the electricity we use, the cars we drive. We can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands. We just have to have the determination to make them happen.” This is absurd, since it implies that a human doesn’t need to consume in order to survive. No matter how “green” a human is, he will still convert potable water to waste water, consume biomass (harvest plants and/or animals), produce waste, etc. You can be a vegetarian with “a diet for a small planet” but if you checked out the January 07 issue of National Geographic you would realize that vegetarian consumers are causing vast areas of precious Amazonian rainforests to be mowed down for soybean farming. Enjoy your tofu. Or you can buy into Jack Layton’s plan and drive a “green” car, retro-fit your house, recycle your garbage or erect solar panels(made of plastic) and windmills (lots of material involved there too). But you are still going to be a consumer. And while you are doing your part as a “green” citizen and cutting back your consumption in accord with their prescriptions, Jack and his Green Party rival Elizabeth May want to add 300-400,000 new consumers—immigrants-annually to build up Canada’s population to 40 million. Reduce our ecological footprint as individuals, but increase our numbers so that aggregate consumption remains high. Make sense?

The real “inconvenient truth” is that our religion of Economic Growth, which is predicated on population growth, will negate any efforts to stop climate change or solve any other environmental problem. Economic growth and Kyoto don’t mix. Economic growth and biodiversity don’t mix. And to graft a “Green” agenda onto a political party that is committed to Economic Growth is an exercise in self-delusion, contradiction and futility. Neither Gore, nor Layton, nor May, nor anyone leading any major environmental organization will speak about this truth.


Anonymous said...

Great article. I also have a blog here:

So far, it contains one entry: the letter I wrote to the London Free Press.

I would encourage others who care about biodiversity and quality of life to write a "letter to the editor" to magazines and newspapers.

This is the most effective way to speak out against "the foolish pursuit of economic growth".

How can we stop humans from expanding across the planet while depleting precious resources, collapsing entire ecosystems and leaving behind an impoverished planet? I think public education is the answer.

Tell your friends and family that never-ending economic growth is impossible in a world of finite resources. It is, in fact, the root cause of all environmental problems. A balance must be restored between humans and the rest of earth's flora and fauna.

As the Deep Ecology Platform says: "The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease."

Economic growth relies on population growth and per capita consumption growth. Economic growth must be scrapped. The size of our local and global economies first need to be reduced. Secondly, we need to move to a steady-state-economy that does not depend on a growing population and growing per capita consumption. Economic growth must be stopped by us to avoid depleting the earth's natural capital. Otherwise, nature will stop it for us, and in very harsh ways. Let us take action to manage the human population before that happens.

There are no human rights without environmental rights. We have managed the populations of virtually every other living species. If we don't make efforts to reduce our own population, we will create a wasteland of human development and suffer with war, famine and disease as too many people compete for too few resources. Reducing the human population can be done humanely by restricting immigration and enforcing borders. This will prevent humans from efficiently spreading to areas of low concentration, which maximizes the potential for an unsustainably high global population.
Secondly, a local action oriented attitude needs to be taken by Canadians.

Canadians should pay its citizens for not having children instead of the opposite. Canadians should end the exportation of timber and petroleum products to other countries.

The human race cannot continue to just "do what comes naturally". We need new ways of thinking. We need people who aren't afraid of being non-politically-correct to speak up. (especially scientists)

As physicist Albert Bartlett put it, we must no longer contribute to "the silent lie" -- ignoring the population growth problem while only focussing on technology with respect to environmental problems.

All humans have to consume in order to survive. No technology can support an infinite number of people on a finite planet.

Population growth only benefits a small number of people and only for the short term (eg: CEOs of companies like Royal Bank, Bell, Rogers, etc) It's up to us to tell these CEOs that we don't want any more economic growth!

Congrats on your excellent work Tim!

Richard said...

Gore isn't quite as green as he's led the world to believe

Updated 12/7/2006 5:45 PM ET E-

Former Vice President Al Gore shakes hands with a woman after signing a copy of his book An Inconvenient Truth for her, in Philadelphia last month.

By Peter Schweizer
Correction: In this column that appeared Aug. 10 on the Forum Page, writer Peter Schweizer inaccurately stated that former vice president Al Gore receives royalties from a zinc mine on his property in Tennessee despite his environmental advocacy. He no longer does, as the mine was closed in 2003.
Al Gore has spoken: The world must embrace a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." To do otherwise, he says, will result in a cataclysmic catastrophe. "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb," warns the website for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. "We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin."

Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." But if Al Gore is the world's role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.

For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film's distributor, pays this.)

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, "Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence." The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has "tried to move people to act." Yet, astoundingly, Gore's persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee.

Maybe our very existence isn't threatened.

Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn't Gore dump his family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family's trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.

Living carbon-neutral apparently doesn't mean living oil-stock free. Nor does it necessarily mean giving up a mining royalty either.

Humanity might be "sitting on a ticking time bomb," but Gore's home in Carthage is sitting on a zinc mine. Gore receives $20,000 a year in royalties from Pasminco Zinc, which operates a zinc concession on his property. Tennessee has cited the company for adding large quantities of barium, iron and zinc to the nearby Caney Fork River.

The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives.

Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.

Posted 8/9/2006 9:57 PM ET