Monday, September 13, 2021

Worldwide Health Journal Editors Call for Climate Dictatorship


Maybe I exaggerate, but only a little.


In a recent National Review piece, Wesley J. Smith highlighted an editorial that was recently co-written and published by editors of some eighteen medical journals, including such prestigious ones as The Lancet and PLOS Medicine.  In essence, they're saying, "Hey, you see how much government-caused disruption we've stood for to fight COVID-19?  Let's do even more to fight global warming, combat biodiversity loss, and, yes, incidentally, even improve public health." 


They take global warming very seriously, saying "The risks to health of increases above 1.5º C are now well established.  Indeed, no temperature rise is 'safe.'"  Because global warming was caused by countries that emitted more carbon dioxide, and those tend to be wealthier ones, the editors call for a form of retributive justice:  "Wealthier countries will have to cut emissions more quickly, making reductions by 2030 beyond those currently proposed, and reaching net-zero emissions before 2050."


So how should we go about doing these things?  Here it gets juicy:  "To achieve these targets, governments must make fundamental changes in how our societies and economies are organised and how we live . . . . Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more." 


Who will pay for all this?  Why, the wealthy countries, of course.  As a famous bank robber said when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is."  Rich countries need to increase their spending on poor countries with grants, not loans.  And after all, having these big differences in wealth is apparently bad for public health too:  " . . . the changes cannot be achieved through a return to damaging austerity policies or the continuation of the large inequalities of wealth and power within and between countries."  In other words, let's have global socialism so that everybody has more or less the same income.


If we took that advice literally and divided up all the world's wealth and income evenly, every person in the world would end up with about $34,000.  That sounds nice, but it ignores the literally Hellish world-government system it would take to do that.  If you think Venezuela is bad, where only tiny steps toward this goal have been taken, wait till you try to apply it to the whole world.


Perhaps when these editors stick to matters of medicine, they make sense, but in their attempt to address a complex problem that has huge diplomatic, political, and philosophical implications, I think they bit off more than they can chew.


First, what about the idea of making the most wealthy countries suffer the most?  If you look at total carbon dioxide emissions from 1750 to 2019, it turns out that the two largest contributors are Europe and the U. S., with about a fourth each, followed by China and the rest of Asia with about a sixth each, roughly speaking. 


That obscures the fact that currently, China emits about twice as much carbon dioxide as the U. S. does. So if you're talking about reducing current emissions, a radical action such as putting the entire U. S. economy in a deep freeze would not make as much difference as if China simply reduced their carbon emissions by two-thirds. 


What I'm trying to get at is the underlying philosophy of the editors' call to action.  They clearly are going beyond science, and admittedly, medicine is more than just science.  But in conformity with a notable liberal tendency to see solutions to problems as more straighforward than they are, they view the world in a scientistic way in which humans are reduced to pawns or nodes in a giant network that simply needs some adjusting to make it work right.


Too many resources over here and not enough over there?  Why, just move the ones that belong to the rich countries over to the poor countries.  If it was a matter of underpowered neighborhoods and a surplus of electric power elsewhere, you really could solve the problem by building a transmission line to move the power where it needs to go. 


But how did those wealthy countries get wealthy in the first place?  By their governments allocating everything according to some formulas devised by economists, or even editors of medical journals?  I don't think so.  Economist and author John C. Médaille has said, "Values are created only from human labor applied to the gifts of nature.  There is nothing else."  Historically, the most wealthy countries encouraged human labor to apply itself to the gifts of nature by treading lightly on rights of private property, which includes "transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more." 


If wealth is treated simply as a government-controlled asset that can be sent here and there like electricity on a transmission line, said governments will very soon discover that there is no wealth to send.  The fact that this has happened over and over again in socialist and communist countries seems to make no impression on certain types of people, apparently including the types that edit medical journals.


Should we just ignore global warming and go on our merry way?  Not necessarily.  It is an unfortunate byproduct of human ingenuity, and we would be foolish to look for anything other than more human ingenuity to get us out of the situation.  But human ingenuity cannot be trammeled and ordered around like so many million barrels of oil, or anything else.  Governments can guide and encourage, but the heavy-handed global dictatorship called for by the medical-journal editors would not get us there.  Instead, it would result in a worldwide economic crash and famine from which the world economy might never recover, and which would incidentally kill millions of people in the process.  So much for improved health care.


Some people might be happy to see the future as a vastly reduced number of people eking out a subsistence living in the empty skeleton-shells of cities, hunting deer in Central Park and living on thirty-year-old canned goods, as envisioned in the forgotten Stephen Vincent Benét short story "By the Waters of Babylon."  But that is not where I wish to reside for my time remaining, thank you.  After I'm gone, you can please yourself.


Sources:  The editorial in question, "Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health," appeared in the British Medical Journal (and many other similar journals) at  The data on historical and current carbon-dioxide levels is from,released%20410%20billion%20metric%20tons.  The world's wealth evenly divided was calculated at  The Médaille quote is from his Toward A Truly Free Market (ISI Books, 2010), p. 66.  And Benét's short story can be found in a number of older short-story anthologies, and is also online at

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