Not in the small island nation of Vanuatu even though its government lists addressing global warming as a top priority. Take one of Vanuatu’s residents, Torethy Frank, who asked a researcher for the Copenhagen Consensus Center, “What is global warming?”
Her bigger concerns?
Torethy and her family of six live in a small house made of concrete and brick with no running water. As a toilet, they use a hole dug in the ground. They have no shower and there is no fixed electricity supply. Torethy’s family was given a battery-powered DVD player but cannot afford to use it.
Three of Torethy’s four teenage children have never spent a day in school. The eldest attended classes on another island, which cost Torethy and her husband 12,000 vatu ($110) a year, but she now makes him stay home because “too many of the kids at the school were smoking marijuana.”
Three years ago, an outbreak of malaria ravaged Torethy’s village, Utanlang. The mosquito-borne illness is a big problem in Vanuatu, although aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is helping. This deadly disease causes fever, headaches and vomiting, and can disrupt the blood supply to vital organs.
One small clinic in Utanlang provides basic medicines like painkillers and bandages. For real medical care, Torethy must travel to the capital, Port Vila. In perfect conditions, that involves a 30-minute boat trip and then a two-hour car ride. Because the villagers are too poor to own any boats other than outrigger canoes, it can take up to five hours.”
In the United States global warming is becoming less of a priority and there’s even a rapid decline in those who believe there is solid evidence the earth is warming. According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of respondents believe there’s solid evidence, down rapidly from 71 percent in April of 2008. Only 36 percent believe it is from human activity, down 11 percent from last year’s poll and only 35 percent believe it is a serious problem, which is down from 44 percent. This comes after a January 2009 Pew poll which asked what is our nation’s top priority, and global warming was ranked 20th out of 20 possible answer, even ranking behind moral decline, lobbyists and trade policy.
Caring for the environment in the United States is a luxury good. Because we have running water, electricity and shelter, we can devote resources to protecting and improving the environment. And because we have well-established private property rights, owners of land and resources have the proper incentive to care for these goods for the future. The only thing capping carbon dioxide is will direct and reduce resources away from processes that can have a direct and immediate impact on places like Vanuatu if climate change adversely affects its residents. The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of cap and trade would make the United States alone $9.4 trillion poorer from the years 2012-2035. Signing an international treaty at Copenhagen would make matters worse since it would restrict the economic growth and resources available from all developed countries.
Sure, there would be a huge transfer of wealth from the developed nations to developing nations, but that’s not what Torethy Frank wants. She says, “There is too much corruption in the government and it goes in people’s pockets. Give the money directly to the people for businesses so we can support ourselves without having to rely on the government.”
As David Kreutzer mentions in his Politico chat wrap, there much faster and much less expensive ways to adapt to climate change than trying to change the temperature by capping greenhouse gas emissions. Mosquito nets and attacking breeding grounds of mosquitoes and building levees to protect against potentially rising sea levels are all much cheaper but dramatically more effective than signing on to something that would prohibit these countries to develop.
Proponents of a climate treaty or cap and trade believe it’s our moral obligation to help these countries and it can be done by paying billions of dollars in carbon dioxide reparations for growing our economy. But the truth is that it is morally wrong and it is those countries we want to help the most that will suffer the most.