February 20, 2007
Call Al Gore

There's a nasty situation in the Antartic, which begs the question where is global warming when you really need it?

Also try Al Gore is a greenhouse gasbag.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:40
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November 27, 2006
Warming the heart

So far I can only see positive things coming out of global warming...such as Hong Kong's warmest November in 120 years. Perhaps if I worked in winter fashion I wouldn't be so sanguine.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:10
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November 20, 2006
Keep watching the sky

The Economist this week has a letter from a David Crawley of Hong Kong:

I agree with your view, in relation to the Stern report on climate change, that governments should act on the risk of something really catastrophic (Stern warning, November 4th). I propose investing in a space defence system to protect against alien invasion. Like the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, only a minority of scientists perceive this as a threat and the costs of such a defence are enormous, but if aliens were to invade it would also be a disaster.
I'd love to buy Mr Crawley a beer, preferably before we're invaded.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:44
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December 29, 2005
In China, Evian is not "Naive" spelled backwards

There used to be an old joke floating around that people who paid money for bottled water from Evian were silly and that it was nothing more than a way for the manufacturers to call people "Naive" (Evian spelled backwards). Well, that could be, but not in China. There, it could be the difference between life or death.

Apparently the deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration has admitted the underground water in 90 percent of China's cities are polluted:

The underground water in 90 percent of Chinese cities is polluted, China's environmental bureau said Wednesday, sparking concerns over the safety of drinking water for most of the 1.3-billion-strong population.

The deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration Zhang Lijun described the situation as "serious," China News Service said.

China is slowly starting to count the environmental cost of two decades of stellar economic growth, with industrial and human pollutants finding their way into the ecosystem.

"A survey showed that underground water in 90 percent of Chinese cities has been polluted by organic and inorganic pollutants, and there are signs that (the pollution) is spreading," it reported.

The pollution is generally caused by industrial waste from factories or untreated human waste discharged into rivers and then seeping into the ground.

Underground water is the source of drinking water for nearly 70 percent of China's population and is the source of some 40 percent of the country's agricultural irrigation, the report said.

It said the water pollution, which was worst in northern cities, was causing direct economic looses of tens of billion of yuan, or billions of dollars, not to mention "countless" indirect losses.

"In the next 25 years, China's water situation will face enormous pressure under a new round of economic growth," the report quoted Zhang as saying.

"It will be a key period as to whether (we) can limit the deterioration of water quality," he said.

This is far worse than the benzene spill a few weeks ago because it affects much more of the country's population and it's not like you can just filter the ground water as easily as you can that coming out of the river.

As the article states, there are also huge economic repercussions as a result of the pollution and it's only going to get worse as China continues to move forward with its modernization process while neglecting its responsibility to the environment.

The environment will suffer, the economy will suffer and in the end the people will suffer the most.

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[boomerang] Posted by Gordon at 14:11
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October 31, 2005
Liao's Hydrogen Bomb

Over the weekend, I mused on how unfortunate it was that legalized gambling brokers like Ladbrokes or Paddy Power did not exist in Hong Kong. Because if you follow sports leagues in any European country, one of their favorite bets is which manager in the league will be the next to get sacked. The Hong Kong Jockey Club would never countenance this, of course, but I would love to be able to bet on which 'minister' of Donald Tsang's cabinet under the 'accountability' system will be the next to get fired.

Speaking of fired, let's turn now to the wonderful subject of coal-fired electricity plants in our midst thanks to China Light and Power. My money on the next sacking would be on Sarah Liao (can be re-arranged to spell: ALO ASH AIR), who appears, during her tenure as the environment chief, to have overseen the worst increase in pollution experienced by any developed city, anywhere, ever. Shout it after me: HONG KONG'S AIR IS A DISGRACE AND AN ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER. And despite her attempts to say otherwise, a great deal of it is generated locally.

What is her solution to Hong Kong's smog problem? Hydrogen cell cars, according to this article in the Standard. Unfortunately, hydrogen fuel cell cars are about two decades away from viability. This, by the way, is the same woman that claimed that the pollution would get better this year thanks to new scrubbers installed in Guangdong factories.

It appears that perhaps in her haste to find the culprit in the room, Ms. Liao is ignoring the huge bloody dinosaur in the corner. Given that we, the Hong Kong tax- and bill-payers are spotting the local power companies a guaranteed 15% profit margin, it seems the least they could be compelled to do by the government is to move their electricity generating plants to less polluting fuels. Hong Kong's population is paying their bills, and the power generators are killing them in return.

Methinks in response to that, Ms. Liao might propose some cold fusion plants - still, sadly not expected to make it off the drawing board for the next century.

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 08:05
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October 15, 2005
Another Poorly-Placed Hack?

The Republic of T. warns about another potential leadership fiasco, this time involving another influenza pandemic, ready to break.

Tommy Thompson’s lawyer sidekick — who’s followed him from one job to another — is in charge of dealing an avian flu outbreak, should one occur on these shores. Nevermind that he doesn’t have, as far as anyone knows, a day’s worth of experience in dealing with public health emergencies.

This, on top of two pieces of disconcerting news from Silviu Dochia, is enough to send me to the hospital (and, I hate hospitals). First, avian flu has reached eastern Europe. Second, when Tamiflu is regarded as the best prophylactic measure against a pandemic and stockpiling it is the one measure most countries doing anything are doing, could be ineffective already.

: Michael Osterholm on NPR explains how a pandemic diffrs from the usual infections seen in most cold/flu seasons and why Tamiflu is no panacea.

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 16:56
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October 11, 2005
Beneath Notice

I share Macam-Macam"s indignation concerning the Muzaffarabad earthquake. The death toll is conservatively estimated to be around 20,000, but there is overheated rhetoric about a "dead city" and a "lost generation" already. As if hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and tsunamis were not enough, now one of the world's most troubled regions is buried under rubble.

This harrowing disaster is made even more bitter, considering that most of the victims are reported to be children crushed under debris while studying in urban schools. The CSM has advocated the least costly solution, earthquake-proof schools. Any hope of a Greek-Turkish reconciliation between Pakistan and India, which both claim the disputed Kashmir region where the earthquake took place, have also been flattened. Both sides of the disputed border suffered casualties, but Pakistan received the largest shock by far.

For those needing a silver lining, though, there is the hope that the jihadis and their infrastructure suffered disproportionately to the rest of the general population affected.

As aid begins to flow into the stricken region, and more requests go out, though, I have to ask again, as I did in the aftermath of the December, 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, if this disaster in Kashmir is not a man-made disaster? Donor fatigue is certain to rise, as the number of disasters increases, with hurricane/typhoon season still dragging on. Can we not at least evaluate the local governments involved in all these disaster operations, from Louisiana to FEMA, from Colombo to Jakarta, and New Dehli to Islamabad, to both prevent a disaster and to react to them? After all, none of these regions affected are strangers to their respective menaces. I have to ask, too, if these governments are not culpable. Is there not a better policy than to wait for disaster to strike, and then beg the international community for assistance that is always promised, yet seldom materializes? Why would anyone want to live in a disaster zone? Why would a government let these people do so?

Commenting on ideas circulating to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, The Economist, offered this depiction of merely one of Washington's failings (subscription-required) operable in Kashmir as well:

Hurricane damage is covered by private property insurance, but since 1968 flood insurance has been provided by the government, through the National Flood Insurance Programme.

Although this insurance is both subsidised and obligatory for anyone with a federally-insured mortgage, remarkably few people in the Gulf Coast seemed to have it. In Mississippi's coastal countries, less than one in five households have flood insurance; even in New Orleans it is under half. In Mississippi, Richard Scruggs, a lawyer famous for taking on the tobacco industry, has already asked the state's attorney-general to challenge private insurance firms' ability to exclude flood insurance on the grounds that this exclusion is “unconscionable”.

So far, Congress has focused on giving the flood-insurance programme more money. The likely pay-outs to those who have flood insurance are around $10 billion but the federal plan has only about $1 billion of reserves. On September 12th, Congress raised the amount the flood plan could borrow to $3.5 billion. That figure will surely go higher still; and there is also the potential cost of helping both the uninsured and the underinsured—through subsidised loans and the like—to rebuild their homes and businesses.

In theory, Mr Bush could use this opportunity to reform the system and reduce the extent to which Uncle Sam subsidises people living in disaster-prone areas. But raising premiums and making insurance mandatory are both unpopular.

One of the aspects I like about Robert Kaplan's, Benjamin Barber's, and Michael Klare's work is the role they allot for ecological factors in their respective International relations theories. The confluence of poverty, globalization, ethnicity, and religion overlaps with hostile ecosystems. Ideally, there are few desirable places where humans can live, and human hubris and technological ingenuity seem daily to limit even that narrow space even more. In return for settling marginal areas, governments should make certain those areas are safe and at least return to the nation's coffers what others have to donate in taxes and charity to make them habitable. Insurance, sane zoning, controlling population growth, and tax policies are good starts. Humans continue to settle in areas unfavorable for the species' survival, and governments keep ignoring them. It's better to encourage individuals to better themselves, than to support marginalized people having producing dead statistics while the fortunate have babies.

We are mourning for people who died dead, the unfortunate statistics of human pride and misgovernance, surplus labor and prejudice. It's not enough to ask how money could have been better allocated. We have to ask why we all are content just to throw away money not to consider that.

Jodi has a link to the Mercy Corps.

Donate to the Red Cross

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[boomerang] Posted by Infidel at 12:17
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September 07, 2005
A Poverty of Reason

Tom Plate is a well known and respected commentator on China and Asian matters. I wish he would stick to what he knows. His piece "From Kyoto to New Orleans" repeats the growing meme that Hurricane Katrina is a warning about global warming:

It is also a fact that many eminent scientific seers directly connect the worldwide warming phenomenon with certain kinds of bad weather news -- to wit, the apparently growing severity of "natural" catastrophes.
It is also a fact many seers disagree with this contention, and even with the idea of global warming itself. Set that aside. It is easy to refute Tom's thesis. The trend of hurricanes striking the US is declining, as the data from the US National Weather Service shows. In Hong Kong we've not had any typhoons this year at all. Maybe the one impact of global warming is the frying of Californian brains?

Don't worry, Tom, you're in good company. There are plenty of people saying nutty things about Katrina.

On a related topic, if you are at all interested in the ideas of sustainable development, you must read A Poverty of Reason by Wilfred Beckerman. In less than 100 pages Beckerman clearly and logically explains why the Earth will not run out of natural resources for the foreseeable future, why the idea of sustainable development makes poverty worse, and is destructive in terms of intergenerational equity. Perhaps his most important points are his plea for most cost-benefit analysis (especially when dealing with the "precautionary principle") in dealing with the environment and that so-called sustainable development remedies are often worse than the problems they purport to fix.

His conclusion bears repeating:

The greatest contribution that we can make to the welfare of future generations is to bequeath a free and democratic society.
Despite protestations to the contrary many "green" policies make poverty worse, preventing the poor from getting a chance at better living while greenies lecture them from the comfort of their Western lifestyles. It is the new imperialism. That's irony for you.


Excellent additional reading on the Kyoto/Katrina meme at Daily Demarche...plus ca change.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:43
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