climate change

Congress Wants to Copy Some of the EU’s Worst Food Rules. That’s a Bad Idea

There is simply no argument in favor of copying EU food regulations.

Legislation looming in the US Congress could emulate European food standards by copying European agricultural regulation. PACTA (Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act), legislation sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders would outlaw any pesticide that is illegal in either European Union member states, the European Union itself, or Canada.

To many Americans, Europe represents the epitome of culinary civilization, and it’s true that Italian standards for pasta, French standard for bread, and Spanish standards for seafood often far outrank what the average restaurant will serve in the United States. But with that said, we shouldn’t confuse the presence of prime cooking schools in France with a better food market. Europe’s increasing hostility towards crop protection in the form of pesticides is not going to do itself any favors.

A cornerstone of the EU’s continuous ambitions to revamp its food regulation is the “Farm to Fork Strategy,” known as F2F. This strategy, which is part of the “European Green Deal,” is a roadmap for a set of package bills set to hit the EU’s legislature in the coming years. Two of its cornerstone proposals are a reduction of pesticides by 50 percent by 2030, and increasing organic food production to 25 percent by 2030 (it is currently at about 8 percent).

The European Commission has yet to release an impact assessment on what the Farm to Fork strategy would mean for farmers and consumers. Despite repeated calls from EU parliamentarians, it has been unable to provide hard numbers backing up the political argument that these environmental reforms would also be good economically. Thankfully, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) did its own study. In fact, when the USDA made an impact assessment, it found that, if implemented, F2F would result in a 12 percent reduction in agricultural production in Europe and increase the prices of consumer goods by 17 percent in the EU, by 5 percent in the US, and by 9 percent worldwide.

In addition, the USDA also found that in the adoption scenario, trade flows would be reduced, and that Europe’s GDP would decline significantly as result of the increase in food commodity prices (Europe’s GDP decline would represent 76 percent of the overall global GDP decline as a result of F2F).

Developing nations would also be hard hit. Because as a result of these stringent food rules, the EU would implement protectionist measures.

“By 2030, the number of food-insecure people in the case of EU-only adoption would increase by an additional 22 million more than projected without the EC’s proposed Strategies,” USDA concluded.

You could ask why it all matters, since Europeans do pay less for food that apparently is also cooked better. It is true that grocery shopping in Germany can be quite eye-opening to Americans—a pound of wild-caught smoked salmon costs anywhere between $10 and $20 in America (or more), while in Germany those prices vary between $2 and $10. Most of that is because the United States does not shower its farmers and fishers with the same lavish farm subsidies that Europe does. While the US also subsidies farmers, research shows that Europe “out-subsidises” the States by a long shot. So while supermarket prices are lower for consumers, it’s the tax returns of Europeans that tell the real story. In countries such as Belgium, effective income tax rates (with social security) are upwards of 50 percent. In fact, single Belgian workers are the highest taxed in the entire OECD, and they are closely followed by those in Germany and France, both nearing the 50 percent mark. And this doesn’t even go into detail of how the European Union uses its farm subsidies to undercut producers in developing markets and, as the New York Times put it, how oligarchs milk these millions of farm subsidies for their own benefit.

Reducing pesticides by political decree rather than through innovative technology is a non-scientific approach. If the argument of the European Union were that with modern farm equipment, such as smart-sprays, the amount of pesticides could be reduced because farmers are able to make their use more efficient, then that would be a forward-thinking approach. Instead, the 50 percent reduction target looks good on a poster, but has little to do with evidence-based policy making. After all: if the existing 100 percent are bad for human health, why only restrict 50 percent, and not the entirety of all these substances?

Incidentally that is what the EU did on a large scale with neonicotinoids, by banning certain ones for farming use. Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are insecticides that are essential for farmers not to lose a significant amount of their crops each season. In December last year, the French parliament voted for a three year suspension of the ban on neonics, because sugar beet farmers were risking going completely out of business over crop losses. The bans exist in Europe because neonics have been accused of harming pollinators.

The “Bee-pocalypse” in the early 2000s was blamed first on GMOs, then subsequently on neonics when the GMO argument was quickly found to be false. But neonics also aren’t at fault. Bee colony reductions and disappearances occur naturally and periodically throughout history. In fact, there were sporadic bee colony declines all throughout (recorded) history, namely the 19th and 20th century, before neonics were first introduced in 1985. In fact, not only are bees not affected by neonics, they aren’t even declining.

As the Washington Post reported in two separate articles in 2015—”Call Off the Bee-pocalypse: U.S. Honeybee Colonies Hit a 20-Year High” and “Believe It of Not, the Bees Are Doing Just Fine,” the hysteria of global bee declines are simply inaccurate. You can even do this for yourself: visit the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) website, select “beehives” in the visualised data section, and click on any country or region you like. Most countries and regions have a steady upwards trend in the prevalence of bees. In the United States, the bee population is actually set to double in the coming years compared to the 1960s level.

So why lie about it? Why is it such a prevalent narrative that GMOs (or any given pesticide of the day) kill the bees? The argument is politically convenient, but not scientifically sound. In Europe, the enemies of modern agriculture have a view of the world that does not match the society of comfort and availability. The EU’s Green Deal Commissioner Frans Timmermans bemoaned in May last year (mind you this is at the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown) that “we’ve gotten used to food being too cheap.”

He didn’t mean that agriculture subsidies were out of proportion, but rather that being able to buy meat or fish on any given day and for low prices were problematic in nature. For a man paid $30,000 a month for his Commission job, while Romanian consumers paid upwards of 20 percent of their income on food, that’s the definition of tone-deaf.

In the United States, availability and competition are key. Also, while Europe’s dreams of a world where nature politely sends no insects to eat our crops, no mold to befall food stocks, and where no other natural conditions could endanger food security, the United States has always enabled scientific innovation. Case in point, the US is far ahead on developing genetic engineering, while Europe lags behind.

There is simply no argument in favor of copying EU food regulations.

Originally published here

Climate alarmism undermines fight against climate change and alienates young people

That’s the headline accompanying the latest report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), an arm of the UN, assuring us that climate change catastrophe is just around the corner, and that if we don’t all abandon our beef burgers and put on our peace sandals straight away, the Earth will be engulfed in a ball of fire by the end of next week. 

On the face of it, this is a very worrying thing for a UN body to say and we should all pay a great deal of attention to it.

In reality, no one does. It will dominate the news cycle for a day or two and then we will all move onto something else.

Read the full article here

Stop using children for your big government political goals

If you want to make an argument on policy grounds, make it with the help of facts and coherent policy arguments.

France and Belgium are seeing thousands in the streets for both the Yellow Vest and environmentalist causes. The reality is that these two groups don’t go together, because while the Yellow Vests express the concerns of real-life working people, the climate protesters are fuelled by the questionable orchestration of youth activists.

The generational divide of both protests

The Yellow Vest movement, now in its third month of protest activity, has riled up low-income and lower middle class workers against the fiscal policies of French president Emmanuel Macron. The same is true in Belgium, which has very large fiscal burdens, including on people with limited incomes. The “Gilets jaunes” movement was sparked by increases in fuel taxes by the government, which is trying to respect promises made at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. After a number of overwhelmingly large and aggressive protests, president Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe dropped the plans for tax increases.

Meanwhile, France and Belgium are seeing the phenomenon of young people demonstrating at the “March pour le climat” (“March for Climate”). They are demanding the fight against climate change become a key component of government policy in both countries. As someone who has lived in Brussels, I wonder what more the activists would have the government do in addition to the current strict regulations on recycling, highly subsidised public transport, carbon taxes, expensive fuel, expensive heating prices, and subsidies for the construction of passive houses. Any new suggested measures would inevitably increase spending or the level of taxes that individuals will have to pay. After all, carbon taxes are nothing but indirect taxes on consumers.

This will reignite the opposition of the Yellow Vests, who rightfully see fiscal oppression of consumers through climate change action. What is the cause of  such a disconnect? A striking difference is the age discrepancy between both groups of protesters. The Yellow Vests express the concerns of purchasing power of working adults, while the climate change protests are composed of young people being riled up by the media or their parents against what they perceive to be the polluting elite.

Media imagery

During a youth climate protest in Brussels in 2019, 35,000 youngsters showed up, demanding more “climate action.” At the latest Climate March in Brussels, there were a large number of  children carrying signs asking for myriad regulations to reduce carbon emissions.

In response, the Flemish separatist politician Theo Francken posted  the following on Facebook (translated):

“Dad where is my phone?

– Gone.

When do we go skiing?

– Never.

Where will we go on holidays this year?

– We’ll stay home.

Does the heating work?

– Yes, it goes to 18°C.

Can you drive me to football practice?

– You can cycle.

Dad, why are you doing this?

– You convinced me that something needs to be done about the climate.”

Herein lies the truth behind climate change activism: nobody wants to foot the bill. Even more disturbing, and clearly falling into the category of creepy politicisation of the young, is how the media coverage of the protest has evolved. News outlets are happy to exploit youth engagement for the purpose of underlining the importance of climate action.

Slate France writes, “The children of the world are attacking their governments. And it works!“, DH Belgium quotes 4 year-old children saying “we are hotter [for this protest] than the climate”, Le Vif calls the activism “magnificent”. The New York Times calls the protest “a shame for the city where the European Union fixes European Climate Policy”, while the BBC uncritically reports that children were being brought by their own parents in an effort not to miss school.

After recent protests, Belgian news site Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN) gives us “the highlights” seen at climate rallies. In the photo below, visibly underage girls hold signs that would be unimaginable for rallies other than those supporting approved narratives.

The same goes for the activism of 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, who is currently at the center of youth climate protests. Even the World Economic Forum posts a video with her to their Twitter account, without any pushback on the policy proposals she makes:https://twitter.com/wef/status/1087956623358914560

Children are the easy targets of big government advocates

The crux of the issue is this: 16-year-old Greta is a great symbol  for those at the World Economic Forum whoargue for even more taxes on companies, as well as new and higher carbon taxes. The European Union is also more than content to tolerate children’s protests in the heart of Brussels because it drums up support for the introduction of new carbon taxes on an EU-wide level. And when these children grow old and start to work themselves, they will discover that the digital taxes reduced companies’ margins, causing an increase in prices, and that all the different carbon taxes were designed to make a large number of goods unavailable. Reality will hit hard, and, as with the example of the Yellow Vests, it might hit those in power even harder.

If you want to make an argument on policy grounds, make it with the help of facts and coherent policy arguments, not with the guilt-inducing face of a 4-year-old who doesn’t truly understand for what he or she is arguing, nor by primary and secondary school students who enjoyed their day off yelling in the streets before their mother picked them up in an SUV.

Originally published here.

L’audace piano climatico di BIDEN non dovrebbe vietare la plastica

Riteniamo interessante riportare l’analisi che David Clement, del Consumer Choice Center per il Nord America, fa dei primi passi di Biden sul fronte della politica climatica e delle probabili decisioni sulla plastica.

Il presidente Biden ha subito riaffermato l’adesione degli Stati Uniti all’accordo di Parigi sul clima confermando le aspettative che vedono nella nuova amministrazione un deciso difensore dell’ambiente. Gli ambientalisti hanno applaudito le prime azioni del presidente, e stanno spingendo per fare di più. Greenpeace vuole che Biden dichiari guerra alla plastica e il comitato editoriale del Los Angeles Times ha sollecitato restrizioni sulla plastica monouso in tutte le future politiche.

È assai probabile che l’amministrazione Biden metterà la plastica nel mirino, ma ci si dovrebbe chiedere se i divieti sulla plastica sono, nel complesso, positivi per l’ambiente e il clima. Molte delle ricerche e delle esperienze di altri paesi ci indicano la direzione opposta. Quando la Danimarca ha preso in considerazione la messa al bando delle borse di plastica monouso per la spesa, le ricerche condotte hanno dimostrato che queste erano migliori rispetto alle alternative. I danesi sono arrivati a questa conclusione basandosi su 15 parametri ambientali, tra cui il cambiamento climatico, la tossicità, l’esaurimento dell’ozono, l’esaurimento delle risorse e l’impatto sugli ecosistemi. Hanno calcolato che i sacchetti di carta dovrebbero essere riutilizzati molte volte per avere lo stesso impatto totale di un sacchetto di plastica. Lo stesso vale per i sacchetti di cotone. Se l’ambiente è la nostra preoccupazione, vietare i sacchetti di plastica è un fatto negativo. 

Ricercatori svizzeri, esaminando i contenitori per alimenti destinati ai bambini, hanno concluso che l’uso della plastica rispetto al vetro ha ridotto le emissioni grazie al peso inferiore e ai costi di trasporto più bassi. Questa stessa metrica si applica anche a molto altro, dagli imballaggi alimentari ai beni di consumo quotidiani. Limitare la plastica spingerebbe senza dubbio i consumatori verso alternative ad alto impatto, andando così contro gli obiettivi di sostenibilità e riduzione dei rifiuti.

Questo non significa negare il serio problema dei rifiuti di plastica mal gestiti. Se Biden vuole agire per rimuovere i rifiuti di plastica dal nostro ambiente, dovrebbe considerare pratiche di riciclaggio innovative che si stanno dimostrando efficaci, come la depolimerizzazione chimica. Ci sono progetti innovativi in corso in tutto il Nord America guidati da scienziati e imprenditori, che partendo da semplici plastiche, alterano i loro legami chimici e le ripropongono in pellet di resina, piastrelle per la tua casa e persino asfalto stradale. Questo approccio permette all’innovazione di risolvere i rifiuti di plastica, crea posti di lavoro e lo fa con un impatto ambientale minimo.

Ma per coloro che riconoscono il potenziale di questa innovazione, rimane ancora il problema delle microplastiche, che spesso finiscono nelle nostre fonti d’acqua. Fortunatamente, gli scienziati hanno una risposta anche qui. Utilizzando l’ossidazione elettrolitica, i ricercatori sono riusciti ad “attaccare” le microplastiche, scomponendole in molecole di C02 e acqua, il tutto senza altre sostanze chimiche. L’amministrazione Biden potrebbe abbracciare la scienza che rende queste tecnologie scalabili e sostenibili.

Se il presidente Biden vuole ascoltare la chiamata alla difesa del clima, ha tutti gli strumenti a sua disposizione per farlo. Ma invece di approvare costosi e inefficaci divieti sulla plastica, dovremmo guardare agli innovatori e agli scienziati che stanno offrendo una terza via sui rifiuti di plastica. Questa sarebbe il vero endorsment della scienza per il 21° secolo.

Originally published here.

Cigarette-style climate change graphic warnings on fuel pumps? How about NO

Are consumers prepared to be hounded at the pump for fueling up their cars?

An article published last week in BMJ, the journal of the British Medical Association, makes an argument for including “cigarette-style” warning labels on fuel pumps, airline tickets, and energy bills. The warnings would highlight the “major health impacts” of fossil fuels for both the environment and human health.

The researchers behind the article claim this strategy, borrowed from tobacco control efforts, would highlight the “harmful” effects of fossil fuels and their contribution to climate change.

Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now, drawing attention to the true cost of fossil fuels (the externalities), pictorially or quantitatively. They sensitise people to the consequences of their actions, representing nudges, designed to encourage users to choose alternatives to fossil fuels, thus increasing demand for zero-carbon renewable energy.

While there is every reason to be concerned about climate change, there is no evidence that “warning labels” on gas pumps will do anything to dissuade individuals from using their vehicles to commute to work, visit family, or run errands.

Multiple studies have shown that warning labels are not effective in changing consumer behavior. Faced with increasing warning labels on many products, including those mandated by California’s Prop 65 law that labels almost everything carcinogenic, most consumers just tune out and learn to ignore them.

Because ordinary people need fuel for their cars, it doesn’t take much imagination to see such labels easily laughed off.

Rather than informing people and attempting to shift their behavior, this measure infantilizes consumers and assumes they aren’t intelligent enough to make the connection between daily driving and climate change. And it is not as if these warnings propose any alternatives.

When it comes to tobacco, one of the largest catalysts in getting to quit has actually been innovation: vaping devices and harm reducing nicotine alternatives, not warning labels.

Innovation allows for new products to get consumers to switch to less harmful products.

Rather than trying to use warning labels that won’t work, what about educating citizens on energy alternatives that produce fewer greenhouse gases, such as nuclear energy, natural gas, or biodiesel?

If we allow creative forces and innovation to derive a solution, wouldn’t that prove to be more effective?

This may be one attempt at “nudging” people into using fewer fossil fuels, but it won’t be anywhere as effective at mitigating climate change as actual innovation. Maybe that’s what we should write on the fuel pumps.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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