Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Why are we not one-tenth as concerned about real children dying needlessly right now as we are about hypothetical future climate change?
Anthony Kelly departed this world last Tuesday. Three days later, a short report he wrote for the Global Warming Policy Foundation was published. Titled Climate Change Policy and the Poor, it raises questions relevant to us all.
What issues are we spending huge amounts of money on? What other problems are losing the battle for our attention? As Kelly points out:
with global warming we are discussing the possibility that there will be a problem in the future… [italics in the original]
Despite the hypothetical nature of this concern, in Britain and elsewhere weighty laws have been passed, expensive regulations have been enacted, and enormous amounts of money are being spent. On a speculative problem that may – or may not – become serious decades hence.
This might make sense if those of us who already call this planet home all enjoyed access to a safe and sufficient food supply, clean drinking water, and basic health care. But that’s not even close to being the case. As Kelly writes, “People are dying in great poverty, now and all the time.”
It’s unfortunate that this report cites some less-than-readily-verifiable statistics. After telling us that “2.7 billion souls go to bed hungry each night,” and that “8.7 million people die each year from malnutrition,” Kelly’s footnote refers to a “private communication” with someone who’s allegedly quoting the World Health Organization (WHO) and Save the Children.
Hunger data is complicated, and definitions can be imprecise. In the past, I’ve personally cited the WHO announcement that more than 6 million kids under the age of five died in 2012. More than half of these deaths were considered easily preventable; many were linked to malnutrition.
In recent years, we’ve made great strides in this regard. As the WHO acknowledges:
Since 1990 the global under-five mortality rate has dropped from 90 deaths per 1 000 live births in 1990 to 48 in 2012.
But we still have a long way to go. Millions of our youngest and most vulnerable continue to perish. Each and every year.
What does it say about our moral compass that these living, breathing youngsters receive so little attention while climate change (a possible future problem) receives so much? Why is the media not one-tenth as preoccupied with real children starving to death right now as it is about hypothetical future climate change?
But the situation is actually worse than that. Many of the policies and measures being put in place to fight future climate change harm today’s poor – those in the developing world who are struggling to feed themselves, and low-income families everywhere who face higher heating, electricity, and transportation costs.
Kelly explains that solar and wind power, even if they worked brilliantly and weren’t brutally expensive, would still take decades to roll out to the more than 1 billion people who currently lack access to electricity:
natural gas as a major component of world energy supply took more than half a century…Nuclear sources produce 17% of the world’s electricity…some 60 years after its first introduction.
At the moment, the cheapest and fastest way to connect people to the modern world of clean drinking water, safe (refrigerated) food, and non-indoor-polluting cooking facilities is via fossil fuels. Because there’s nothing novel about these technologies, they could be deployed relatively quickly.
But the health benefits and job opportunities that accompany a stable power supply are arriving more slowly than they might in some parts of the world because well-fed, over-privileged, first-world activists and journalists have convinced an entire generation of politicians that fossil fuels are evil.
Kelly’s calm examination demonstrates the flawed nature of this idea. Indeed, the truth appears to lie in another direction entirely.
Condemning people to grinding poverty is evil. Withholding life-saving technologies from living, breathing souls is evil.
Caring more about human beings who’ll be born 100 years from now than about kids who won’t make it to their next birthday is evil.
Kelly’s report may be downloaded here.
UPDATE: The word “easily” was inserted into the sentence:
More than half of these deaths were considered easily preventable; many were linked to malnutrition.
a few hours after this post went live.