Yes, FoE Europe really is insane

Despite the critical environmental situation, only around
a quarter of the world’s population have high enough purchasing
power to benefit from the system of global resource
extraction and resource trade. 80% of the world population
still live on less than US $10 a day and legitimately demand
for further growth and increased material consumption in
the future.3 The generalisation of the resource-intensive

economic model in Europe and other developed countries
to all the seven billion people alive today, or to the ten
billion people predicted for the middle of this century is
neither environmentally possible nor can it be economically
and socially sustained.

Hmm, really? Here\’s what the IPCC says, you know, those thousands of people who have been labouring mightily to tell us about climate change.

In the A1 scenario family, demographic and economic trends are closely linked, as affluence is correlated with long life and small families (low mortality and low fertility). Global population grows to some nine billion by 2050 and declines to about seven billion by 2100. Average age increases, with the needs of retired people met mainly through their accumulated savings in private pension systems.

The global economy expands at an average annual rate of about 3% to 2100, reaching around US$550 trillion (all dollar amounts herein are expressed in 1990 dollars, unless stated otherwise). This is approximately the same as average global growth since 1850, although the conditions that lead to this global growth in productivity and per capita incomes in the scenario are unparalleled in history. Global average income per capita reaches about US$21,000 by 2050. While the high average level of income per capita contributes to a great improvement in the overall health and social conditions of the majority of people, this world is not necessarily devoid of problems. In particular, many communities could face some of the problems of social exclusion encountered in the wealthiest countries during the 20 th century, and in many places income growth could produce increased pressure on the global commons.

Energy and mineral resources are abundant in this scenario family because of rapid technical progress, which both reduces the resources needed to produce a given level of output and increases the economically recoverable reserves. Final energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) decreases at an average annual rate of 1.3%. Environmental amenities are valued and rapid technological progress \”frees\” natural resources currently devoted to provision of human needs for other purposes. The concept of environmental quality changes in this storyline from the current emphasis on \”conservation\” of nature to active \”management\” of natural and environmental services, which increases ecologic resilience.

Now remember children, that\’s the  scientific consensus. So I think we can say bollocks to FoE Europe on that one then.

Further, FoE Europe appears to be against the very idea of trade:

Trade reinforces inequalities in resource consumption.
Global trade of natural resources allows countries and
world regions with high purchasing power to increase resource
consumption beyond their own national resource
capacities. In recent years, more and more countries have
become net-importers of natural resources and products
and thus consume more than would be possible based on
domestic resources only. These countries run an “ecological
trade deficit”.
It may not be regarded as problematic that countries with
poor natural endowments have net resource imports. However,
the inequalities in resource use facilitated by the
current patterns of world trade raise concern as they may
jeopardise sustainable and equitable development in all
world regions.
In order to ensure material welfare for all people, trade
could help redistribute resources from countries with a high
extraction to countries with lower extraction. Currently,
however, the opposite is in general the case. Like other OECD
countries, Europe’s per capita extraction is higher than the
rest of the world. Europe also has the highest net imports
of natural resources, at almost 3 tonnes per capita per year.
Developing and emerging economies are net exporters of
natural resources (see Figure 7). Currently, international
trade does not balance, but instead reinforces inequalities
in per capita resource use.

We should all only be using the resources that come from our area. Or something. So America should be without computers (all made in China) and Africa without light bulbs. They\’re insane, aren\’t they?

Oh, and my favourite, that we extract 60 billion tonnes a year (they cleverly include renewable resources, perhpas even water, in this number). Given that the earth weighs 6,000,000,000,000,000 billion tonnes it would appear that we\’ve got some time to go before we reach limits.

Finally, their real point is that resources are underpriced. We should all be paying more for them in order to constrain use. Well, if that\’s what you really want to do then the answer is very simple: impose a Pigou Tax on such resource use. Make it revenue neutral by reducing other taxes and Bob\’s your parental sibling of choice.

In fact, that\’s what we already do with the Landfill Tax: we reduce employer\’s national insurance payments pro rata with revenues from the Landfill Tax. Great, problem solved, let\’s get on with the next thing.

However, the problem with FoE Europe is that they insist instead upon a radical change in the model of our society, the unachievable, instead of the solution which we already know works and have to hand.

They\’re not just insane, they\’re screaming numpties.

4 comments on “Yes, FoE Europe really is insane

  1. With reference to the IPPC do not confuse scenarios with predictions. The scenario you quote is merely one of I think 5 difefernt ones used to evaluate overall strategy. If you had chosen a different scenario, your argument might have fallen flat on its face.

    Tim adds: Err, no, for all four (four, not five) point to the global economy growing by at least five times in this century.

  2. And this particular one shows that the outcomes are generally more benign.

    FoE are trying to insist that we reject this and use a scenario where the outcomes are significantly worse for everyone. Hurrah!

  3. I’d like to have them work on the problem of whether those in poverty are poor because they have no money or whether it might not be that they have no money because they’re poor. Ought to keep them busy for awhile.

  4. 1)You might use more up to date IPCC reports than 2000, which was noted just yesterday as being extremely optimistic in light of current (experiential) knowledge. You’d notice that things are becoming significantly worse significantly quicker than predicted then.
    2) like most economic predictions, the one presented above relies on many untested assumptions re: ‘although the conditions that lead to this global growth in productivity and per capita incomes in the scenario are unparalleled in history’. It more likely that unrestrained resource extraction will lead to a collapse in the carrying capacity of the earth before we get there.
    3) ‘We should all only be using the resources that come from our area. Or something. So America should be without computers (all made in China) and Africa without light bulbs. They’re insane, aren’t they?’ This is not what it says, merely that those that extract most should not be then buying more from other nations that need it. This is common sense if we are to live within environmental limits. If those living beyond their means are encouraged to consume more and more, it will mean collapse for everyone. FoEE and other charities are quite clear that trade could be a key solution to poverty, but not in its current dynamic.

    Tim- this is lazy, cynical and poorly written ‘journalism’. I would encourage you to do something more worthwhile than writing fatuous nonsense for bigots. Maybe you could volunteer for a charity?

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