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.