Monthly Archives: June 2008

The ‘fat bomb’

Aus­tralians are not even near the top ranks of the world’s fat­ties, despite the alarmist claims in the press. Here is the lat­est data from the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion. There’s much more on Sandy Szwarc’s Junk­food Sci­ence blog

Obese Males (BMI >30): Lat­est Year %
1 Nau­ru 79.3
2 French Poly­ne­sia 36.4
3 Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca 31.1
4 Kuwait 27.5
5 Sau­di Ara­bia 26.4
6 Iraq 26.2
7 Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates 25.6
8 Mal­ta 25
9 Bahrain 23.3
10 Unit­ed King­dom 22.6
11 New Zealand 21.9
12 Croa­t­ia 21.6
13 Israel 19.8
14 Hun­gary 19.6
15 Chile 19
16 Mex­i­co 18.6
17 Cana­da 17.9
18 Aus­tralia 17.8
19 Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina 16.5
20 Slove­nia 16.5
Source: WHO (

Global emission targets: here we go

We are like­ly to dis­cov­er where this will lead only after a long process.

Major car­bon diox­ide emit­ters failed to agree on a numer­i­cal tar­get for reduc­ing the world’s green­house gas emis­sions by 50 per­cent by 2050 even though the final ses­sion ofa two-day meet­ing here was extend­ed into Mon­day morn­ing, con­fer­ence sources said…The [Major Emit­ters Group] com­pris­es 16 nations, includ­ing Chi­na, India and South Korea, and the Euro­pean Union plus the eight coun­tries that form the G-8. Its first meet­ing was held at the ini­tia­tive of the Unit­ed States in Sep­tem­ber. The par­tic­i­pat­ing nations account for about 80 per­cent of the world’s green­house gas emis­sions.”  extract from: Dai­ly Yomi­uri

The his­to­ry of tar­gets in mul­ti­lat­er­al agree­ments (the Mon­tre­al Pro­to­col notwith­stand­ing) is far from encour­ag­ing. It would be fool­ish to antic­i­pate the out­come by pre­cip­i­tate action on a futile, autonomous ‘cap and trade’ tar­get. If a pre­cau­tion­ary approach is what Aus­tralians want—because dread con­vinces them to accept Pascal’s wager—then we should begin cau­tious­ly, with small, low-cost steps. With luck, we may find out they’re not need­ed before we go very far.

McCain and Obama on ethanol subsidies and tariffs

Where is this going? I’m with McCain on this, so far. But it’s always wor­ry­ing to see polit­i­cal can­di­dates engag­ing on fuel sub­si­dies. The moral dan­ger alert swings to the far­thest end of the spec­trum.

 ‘We made a series of mis­takes by not adopt­ing a sus­tain­able ener­gy pol­i­cy, one of which is the sub­si­dies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to destroy the mar­ket” and con­tribute to infla­tion, Mr. McCain said this month in an inter­view with a Brazil­ian news­pa­per, O Esta­do de São Paulo. “Besides, it is wrong,” he added, to tax Brazil­ian-made sug­ar cane ethanol, “which is much more effi­cient than corn ethanol.”

Mr. Oba­ma, in con­trast, favors the sub­si­dies, some of which end up in the hands of the same oil com­pa­nies he says should be sub­ject­ed to a wind­fall prof­its tax. In the name of help­ing the Unit­ed States build “ener­gy inde­pen­dence,” he also sup­ports the tar­iff, which some econ­o­mists say may well be ille­gal under the World Trade Organization’s rules but which his advis­ers say is not.” extract from NY Times

Here’s a brief, bal­anced primer from the NYT on U.S. tax­es and sub­si­dies on ethanol.

Six out of ten in UK doubt climate change is ‘settled science’

First it was the Irish reject­ing an overblown and incom­pre­hen­si­ble Lis­bon treaty on the con­sol­i­da­tion of the EU’s polit­i­cal machin­ery. Now it’s the British pub­lic who are fail­ing to live up to their lead­ers’ expec­ta­tions.

Ipsos MORI polled 1,039 adults and found that six out of 10 agreed that ‘many sci­en­tif­ic experts still ques­tion if humans are con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change’, and that four out of 10 ‘some­times think cli­mate change might not be as bad as peo­ple say’. In both cas­es, anoth­er 20 per cent were not con­vinced either way. Despite this, three quar­ters still pro­fessed to be con­cerned about cli­mate change.“extract from The Guardian

Of course, they’re right that there are many seri­ous sci­en­tists who ques­tion var­i­ous aspects of the sci­ence in the IPCC reports and who reject many of its con­clu­sions. But it’s sur­pris­ing to see the strength of the British public’s skepticism—which seems to have strength­ened since the same ques­tion was asked last year. It’s almost enough to make one believe in democ­ra­cy.

More signs of Doha Round’s demise

Relent­less deter­mi­na­tion (or mad opti­mism) from the Direc­tor-Gen­er­al notwith­stand­ing, the vital signs of the WTO’s Doha round con­tin­ue to dete­ri­o­rate while even erst­while friends are start­ing to mut­ter—sensibly—about pulling the tubes before the patient becomes an embar­rass­ing stink. Dis­af­fect­ed con­nec­tions, of course, have no hes­i­ta­tion in pro­nounc­ing the final sen­tence:

BRUSSELS (Thom­son Finan­cial) — French Pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy ruled out a free-trade deal at the World Trade Organ­i­sa­tion (WTO) after Ireland’s rejec­tion of the Euro­pean Union (EU)‘s Lis­bon treaty in a ref­er­en­dum. ‘It would be high­ly unre­al­is­tic to keep want­i­ng to nego­ti­ate a deal where we haven’t received any­thing on ser­vices, noth­ing on indus­try… and which would cut farm out­put by 20 per­cent while 800 mil­lion peo­ple are dying of hunger,’ he told jour­nal­ists here in the ear­ly hours of Fri­day morn­ing. ‘Frankly, there’s only one per­son who thinks like that and it’s (EU Trade Com­mis­sion­er) Peter Man­del­son and it’s not France’s posi­tion,’ Sarkozy added. ‘I say it in the clear­est way, for us, on this basis, it’s No.’ extract from: Forbes [empha­sis added]

Obama re-designs his message on trade

If your the­o­ry is that Obama’s aggres­sive stance on trade agree­ments includ­ing NAFTA and MFN for Chi­na was a tac­tic designed to un-hinge the Clin­ton-Labor axis in the com­pe­ti­tion for the Demo­c­rat nom­i­na­tion, this par­tial recan­ta­tion on NAFTA will prob­a­bly leave you feel­ing you read him right. But it leaves many ques­tions about his poli­cies hang­ing in the air.

Poles of the trading system

click for larger image

Simon Evenett has observed that, on the num­bers, at least two of the Gang of Four that has dom­i­nat­ed the Doha round nego­ti­a­tions since 2006 are not real­ly ‘poles’ of glob­al trade although they may become more polar in future. What is also notable about the three devel­op­ing coun­tries in the ‘poten­tial poles’ group (Brazil, Chi­na, India), says Evenett, is that they have rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle expe­ri­ence of rec­i­p­ro­cal trade lib­er­al­iza­tion in GATT/WTO or in region­al agree­ments.