articals on Taipei Times

Even i can’t agree all aspects indicated in this artical with some fallacies, i must say this one is worthy to read. ( Wallace )
 
EDITORIAL: The right to demand better
Monday, May 18, 2009, Page 8
 
In a democracy, the public entrusts political power to the government and has the right and duty to monitor how that power is used. One year after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, the public is justified in its dissatisfaction with the performance of his administration.
 
Economic figures over the past year make a mockery of Ma’s campaign promise of 6 percent GDP growth, average annual income of US$30,000 and less than 3 percent unemployment. Taiwan’s economy has instead contracted for four consecutive quarters, shrinking by a record 8.36 percent in the fourth quarter last year. Many companies have cut salaries or forced workers to take unpaid leave, while unemployment has hit 5.81 percent. Despite the government’s attempts to boost the economy, including tax relief measures and a stimulus budget, the nation’s finances have deteriorated and its credit rating has worsened.
 
In terms of politics, the Ma administration is steering the nation down a road of democratic regression. Earlier this month, US-based Freedom House released its 2009 Freedom of the Press survey, in which Taiwan’s ranking slipped to 43rd place from last year’s 32nd. Taiwan was cited as an example of the worldwide decline in press freedom.
 
Ma promised many things when he took office: that his government would not tolerate political interference in the media, that it would protect human rights and deepen Taiwan’s democracy, and that the judiciary would remain impartial. Instead, the government has diluted the power of the legislature, proposed a stricter version of the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法), meddled in the media and put too much power in the hands of one man.
 
Most troubling is that the government is pursuing closer ties with China regardless of the potential damage to Taiwan’s sovereignty. Ma has pursued detente in the areas of defense and diplomacy while throwing the doors open to China economically. He supports the so-called 1992 Consensus and has called a “diplomatic truce” with Beijing.
 
Yet Ma dares not voice his interpretation of “one China” either abroad or at home, where his government has made concessions on the nation’s name, Ma’s title of president and displaying the national flag. Taiwan has been invited to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer, but the faxed invitation was addressed to Taipei City, with no country identified. But according to the WHO Web site, Taipei would be in “Taiwan, province of China.”
 
As to negotiations over an economic cooperation framework agreement with China, the Ma administration is not taking into account the concerns of the public and opposition parties and has ruled out holding a referendum on the issue.
 
Yesterday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets and launched a sit-in protest in front of the Presidential Office. The public expects more of its government. It expects the Ma administration to stem unemployment and propose policies to help underprivileged sections of society. Above all, it expects the government to protect Taiwan and safeguard its sovereignty. The government has a duty to heed the public’s voice.
 

 
Can vegetarians save the world?
A small town in Belgium has gone meat-free one day a week in what could be a sign of things to come
 
By Tristram Stuart
THE GUARDIAN, LONDON
Monday, May 18, 2009, Page 9
 
“A vegetarian day is a simple message that people can understand, though probably what we ultimately need to do is eat less animal products overall.”— Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, food ecologist
For decades, environmental arguments against eating meat have been largely the preserve of vegetarian Web sites and magazines. Just two years ago it seemed inconceivable that significant numbers of western Europeans would be ready to put down their steak knives and graze on vegetation for the sake of the planet. The rapidity with which this situation has changed is astonishing.
 
The breakthrough came in 2006 when the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published a study, Livestock’s Long Shadow, showing that the livestock industry is responsible for a staggering 18 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This is only the beginning of the story. Last year, Brazil announced that in the 12 months to July it had lost 12,000km² of the Amazon rainforest, mainly to cattle ranchers and soy producers supplying European markets with animal feed. There is water scarcity in large parts of the world, yet livestock-rearing can use up to 200 times more water a kilogram of meat produced than is used in growing wheat. Given volatile global food prices, it seems foolhardy to divert 1.2 billion tonnes of fodder — including cereals — to fuel global meat consumption, which has increased by more than two and half times since 1970.
 
 
Vegetarians have been around for a very long time — Pythagoreans forbade eating animals more than 2,500 years ago — but even as the environmental evidence mounted, they didn’t appear to be winning the argument. Today in Britain just 2 percent of the population is vegetarian.
 
Thankfully, a more pragmatic alternative to total abstinence now seems to be emerging. Last September, Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a vegetarian himself, called on people to take personal responsibility for the impacts of their consumption.
 
“Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,” he said. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity.”
 
This week the Belgian city of Ghent met his demands by declaring Thursday a meat-free day. Restaurants, canteens and schools will now opt to make vegetarianism the default for one day a week, and promote meat-free meals on other days as well.
 
This is not the first institutional backing for such a move. In Britain, the country’s health service now aims to reduce its impact on the environment partly by “increasing the use of sustainably sourced fish and reducing our reliance on eggs, meat and dairy.”
 
Last year, Camden council in London announced that it would be issuing a report calling for schools, care homes and canteens on council premises to cut meat from menus and encourage staff to become vegetarian.
 
In the end the initiative was shot down by Conservative councillors who insisted that people should not be deprived of choice.
 
In Germany the federal environment agency in January called on Germans to follow a more Mediterranean diet by reserving meat only for special occasions.
 
These initiatives may sound novel, but in fact they reinstate what was for centuries an obligatory practice across Europe. The fasting laws of the Catholic church stipulated that on Fridays, fast days, and Lent, no one could eat meat or drink wine; on some days, dairy products and fish were also banned. Even after the Reformation Elizabeth I of England upheld the Lenten fast, insisting that while there was no religious basis for fasting, there were sound utilitarian motives: to protect the country’s livestock from over-exploitation and to promote the fishing industry (which had the ancillary benefit of increasing the number of ships available for the navy).
 
Towards the end of the 18th century, two consecutive bad harvests in Europe created shortages. There was a huge public clamor for the wealthy to cut down on their meat consumption in order to leave more grain for the poor. The idea that meat was a cruel profligacy became current, and led Percy Bysshe Shelley to declare that the carnivorous rich literally monopolized land and food by taking more of it than they needed.
 
“The use of animal flesh,” he said, “directly militates with this equality of the rights of man.”
 
In the wake of last year’s food crisis and with mounting concern over global warming, we appear to have reached a similar crisis moment.
 
The vegetarian argument is complicated, however, by the fact that in terms of environmental impact, no two pieces of meat are the same. A hunk of beef raised on Scottish moorland has a very different ecological footprint from one created in an intensive feedlot using concentrated cereal feed, and a wild venison or rabbit casserole is arguably greener than a vegetable curry.
 
Likewise, countries have very different animal husbandry methods. For example, in the US, for each calorie of meat or dairy food produced, farm animals consume on average more than 5 calories of feed. In India the rate is a less than 1.5 calories. In Kenya, where there isn’t the luxury of feeding grains to animals, livestock yield more calories than they consume because they are fattened on grass and agricultural by-products inedible to humans.
 
In a paper published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, food ecologist Annika Carlsson-Kanyama showed that kilo for kilo, beef and pork could produce 30 times more carbon dioxide emissions than other protein rich foods such as beans. On the other hand, the paper also indicated that poultry and eggs had much lower emissions than cheese, which was among the highest polluters. So do meat-free days, and arguments for vegetarianism in general, take adequate consideration of these subtleties, or should we all be chucking out the cheese and going vegan?
 
“A vegetarian day is a simple message that people can understand,” says Carlsson-Kanyama, “though probably what we ultimately need to do is eat less animal products overall.”
 
Alex Evans, fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, points out that more and more people — including Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of a 2006 review on the economics of global warming — accept that the only equitable way of achieving an international agreement on climate change is for rich and poor nations to converge on an equal per capita “fair share” of carbon emissions.
 
“The same ought to apply to food,” Evans says, “but currently there is no agreed method for calculating what is my ‘fair share’ of the world’s food supply — in particular how much meat.”
 
Based on the global food production figures published by the FAO, I did a few preliminary calculations. Global average consumption of meat and dairy products including milk was 152kg a person in 2003. Average EU and US consumption, by contrast, was over 400kg, while Uganda’s was 45kg. In order to reach the equitable fair share of global production, rich western countries would have to cut their consumption by 2.7 times — and this doesn’t include the fact that the butter will have to be spread even more thinly if the global population really does increase by another 2.3 billion by 2050.
 
However, still further reductions would be necessary because global meat production is already at unsustainable levels. The IPCC among other bodies, has called for an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Since high levels of meat and dairy consumption are luxuries, it seems reasonable to expect livestock production to take its share of the hit. For rich western countries this would mean decreasing meat and dairy consumption to significantly less than one tenth of current levels, the sooner the better.
 
It is all very well for 2 percent of the population to live in a monastic state of meatlessness while everyone else gorges their way towards environmental meltdown or the nearest heart clinic. Vegetarianism is good for the willing minority, but not much use as a campaign tool. Beginning as Ghent has done, with one meat-free day a week, is a historically-proven idea palatably re-fashioned for the age of eco-consciousness. It also appears to be gaining popular approval, even if McDonald’s need not fear for the survival of its Big Mac, yet.
 

 
It’s time to change direction and do better on climate change
By Bjorn Lomborg
Monday, May 18, 2009, Page 9
 
Tackling global warming, we are often told, is the defining task of our age. An army of pundits tells us that we need to cut emissions, and cut them immediately and drastically. But this argument is clearly losing the battle for hearts and minds.
 
Global warming has now become the lowest-priority policy problem among Americans, a new Pew survey revealed. Another Pew survey showed that China, the world’s biggest emitter, cares even less than the US about global warming. Just 24 percent of Chinese regard global warming as a very serious problem, making China the world’s least concerned country. In the UK, an Opinium survey shows that most voters think green taxes are mainly for raising cash rather than the environment, and 7 out of 10 are not willing to pay more in taxes to combat climate change.
 
At the same time, the proposed solutions for the problem of global warming have been awful. In Rio de Janeiro in 1992, politicians from wealthy countries promised to cut emissions by 2000, but did no such thing. Leaders met again in Kyoto in 1997 and promised even stricter carbon cuts by next year, yet emissions keep increasing, and Kyoto has done virtually nothing to change that.
 
What is most tragic is that when leaders meet in Copenhagen this December, they will embrace more of the same solution: promises of even more drastic emission reductions that, once again, are unlikely to be fulfilled. Measures that consistently over-promise and under-achieve at vast cost do not win hearts and minds in the best of times. And this is manifestly not the best of times.
 
Fortunately, we have a much better option, with a much better chance of success: we should make low-carbon energy sources like solar power become a real, competitive alternative to old energy sources, instead of the preserve of rich people who want to feel “greener.”
 
We should therefore invest on an effective scale in inventing new technology. Contrary to what one would imagine, the Kyoto Protocol has not prompted this research. Indeed, research investment has plummeted since the 1980s and has actually not increased since, even among Kyoto-participating countries.
 
Investing heavily in research and development of low-carbon energy, solar power, or other new technologies would become cheaper than fossil fuels much more quickly. Economic estimates show that for every US$1 spent, we would do US$16 worth of good.
 
Every country should agree to spend 0.05% of its GDP on low-carbon energy R&D. The total global cost would be 15 times higher than current spending on alternative energy research, yet six times lower than the cost of Kyoto. An agreement of this nature could be the new Kyoto treaty for the world — the principal difference being that this protocol would actually make a difference and stand a good chance of global acceptance.
 
Why not do both: invest in R&D, but still promise to cut carbon emissions now?
 
Kyoto-style policies can only ever be an expensive distraction from the real business of weaning us off fossil fuels. There are two fundamental reasons why a focus on reducing carbon emissions is the wrong response to global warming.
 
First, using fossil fuels remains the only way out of poverty for developing countries. Coal provides half of the world’s energy. In China and India, it accounts for about 80 percent of power generation, and is helping Chinese and Indian laborers enjoy a quality of life that their parents could barely imagine. Capping emissions means, effectively, ending this success story for hundreds of millions of people. There is no “green” energy source that is affordable enough to replace coal in the near future.
 
Instead, our upsized research will make green energy cheaper than fossil fuels by mid-century.
 
Second, immediate carbon cuts are expensive — and the cost significantly outweighs the benefits. If the Kyoto agreement had been fully implemented throughout this century, it would have cut temperatures only by an insignificant 0.2°C, at a cost of US$180 billion every year. In economic terms, Kyoto only does about US$0.30 worth of good for each dollar spent.
 
And deeper emissions cuts like those proposed by the EU — 20 percent below 1990 levels within 12 years — would reduce global temperatures by only one-sixtieth of one degree Celsius by 2100, at a cost of US$10 trillion. For every dollar spent, we would do just US$0.04 worth of good.
 
The saddest thing about the global warming debate is that nearly all of the key protagonists — politicians, campaigners, and pundits — already know that the old-style agreement that is on the table for Copenhagen this December will have a negligible effect on temperatures.
 
Unless we change direction and make our actions realistic and achievable, it is already clear that the declarations of “success” in Copenhagen in December will be meaningless. We will make promises. We will not keep them. And we will waste another decade. Instead, we must challenge the orthodoxy of Kyoto. We can do better.
 
Bjorn Lomborg, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School.
 
COPYRIGHT: PROJECT SYNDICATE

About alwayscola18

*Always be misunderstood. *Majored in business administration, but contributing to satisfaction of primary living needs. *Prefer to speak out, and enjoy silence. *A Mandarin speaker, but not a grand-China nationalist; a Hokkien dialect speaker, but not an aggressive grass-root activist; an English reader, but not negative to my homeland; a baby Christian, but not a confrontationist to the God of earth. *With personalities of patience, cleverness, discernment, toleration, self-confidence, and friendliness.
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