Saturday, May 10, 2014

Capitalist Industrialization, Not Handouts, is “Poor” Countries' Best Protection Against Natural Disasters

Last Fall's 19th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change featured a passionate call for financial "compensation" to "poor" (or “developing”) nations, represented by the so-called Group of 77 plus China. The money would be extracted from taxpayers in “rich” (or “developed”; i.e., Western) nations, in atonement for their carbon "polluting," climate-changing economies. As the NY Times reported:

From the time a scientific consensus emerged that human activity was changing the climate, it has been understood that the nations that contributed least to the problem would be hurt the most. Now, even as the possible consequences of climate change have surged — from the typhoons that have raked the Philippines and India this year to the droughts in Africa, to rising sea levels that threaten to submerge entire island nations — no consensus has emerged over how to rectify what many call “climate injustice.”

Poor nations here are pressing for a new effort that goes beyond reducing [carbon] emissions and adapting to a changing climate.

While they have no legal means to seek compensation, they have demanded concrete efforts to address the “loss and damage” that the most vulnerable nations will almost certainly face — the result of fragile environments and structures, and limited resources to respond.

Leaving aside the veracity of the alleged “scientific consensus,” including the unresolved and controversial issue of how much human activity contributes to climate change, the question is: If developed countries are the big "polluters," why are poor countries the big victims of natural disasters? Weather disasters, after all, do not single out poor countries. Why the discrepancy?

America and other advanced Western nations have achieved the most prosperous living standards in world history, driven primarily by energy produced from fossil fuels. Paralleling that prosperity has been an increased ability to absorb and recover rapidly from natural disasters. As the Center for Industrial Progress’s Alex Epstein documents:

Fossil Fuels have fueled the unprecedented industrial progress that doubled the human life expectancy. . . , produced the cleanest, healthiest human environment in history. . ., [even as] overall climate-related death rates have gone down 98% since we started using extremely large amounts of fossil fuels.

Clearly, developed nations are not immune to weather extremes. So, what distinguishes poor nations from developed nations in their ability to “weather” natural disasters? Precisely that poor countries are not big enough "carbon polluters"; i.e., not adequately industrialized.

Rather than beg for international welfare at developed nations’ expense, poor countries should emulate America and the West. Poor countries’ governments should pave the way for the same kind of advanced industrialization that will enable them to deal with natural disasters and simultaneously raise living standards. How? By embracing Western Ideals.

Human beings survive and thrive by productively applying reason to the task of altering the raw environment to human benefit. The only social requirement needed for that to happen is the liberty of individuals to think and act on their own independent judgements; which means, the legal recognition and protection of individuals’ rights—including rights to property and trade—to work for his own benefit, in voluntary, mutually beneficial trade with other willing producers at home and the world over. For poor countries, as developed nations have shown, capitalism and the consequent industrialization is the answer to dealing with nature's ever-ongoing brutal, hostile forces.

Forget the latest socialist mantra, "climate justice." Developed nations—i.e., America and the West—should reject any claims for “loss and damage” compensation, demands for involuntary forced cut-backs on CO2 emissions, or blame for developing nations’ climate vulnerability. The only moral responsibility the West owes poor countries is to continue to open up the world's markets so those nations' people can freely engage in trade with producers from America and elsewhere. There is no moral reason for the West to apologize for its "carbon pollution"—i.e., its citizens' earned industrial achievements and prosperity.



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