As I write this now, it’s 104 degrees in parts of Brooklyn. The record-setting heat wave is broiling the Eastern U.S. If it’s smoking hot where you live, stay inside and cool off to this stellar deconstruction of an enduring climate myth.
Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s billionaire mayor for the last decade, can be a force for good when he’s not strong-arming local pols to alter NYC election laws (so he can run for a third term) or installing cronies to important positions they are eminently unqualified for.
For example, I can now have a drink in a bar without my lungs filling up with a roomful of second-hand smoke. That’s huge. Bloomberg has put forward a bold vision for the city’s future, which is also huge.
So one day he can be a brass knuckles power player and the next day a civic-minded crusader. Yesterday, with news of his $50 million-dollar donation to the Sierra Club, we saw an example of the latter, playing out on a national stage. Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian also notes a telling detail about Bloomberg’s anti-coal messaging:
He got New Yorkers to stop smoking and give up trans fats. Now maybe he can convince Americans to see coal as a danger to public health ““ at least Michael Bloomberg says that is the idea behind his $50m (£31m) gift to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
What it’s not about is making an argument based on climate change.
“If you don’t survive today, you are not going to be around for tomorrow,” he told me on Thursday, soon after announcing the gift from his philanthropic foundation.
“I don’t think there is any question that we are doing damage to the global environment but that gets you into an argument that is not necessary, and that the public has trouble thinking about,” he said.
UPDATE: In his official statement, Bloomberg also said this:
Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption.
So perhaps it’s not accurate for me to say that he’s ignoring climate change altogether, but rather that he’s chosen not to emphasize it.
A scientist lays it out in the Guardian:
The term “genetic modification” provokes widespread fears about the corporate control of agriculture, and of the unknown. However, results from 25 years of EU-funded research show that there is “no scientific evidence associating GM plants with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms”. This of course does not prove GM methods are 100% safe, but makes clear there is no evidence to the contrary.
As Ronald Baily has observed, some environmentalists who regularly invoke the scientific consensus on climate change have a different standard when it comes to GMO’s.
I’m an environmentalist and am convinced that to increase [global food] production, we can’t afford to ignore genetics, as long as it is applied in a responsible way. There has been a lot of debate over genetic modification, but there is in fact huge potential in using genetics through traditional plant breeding to select traits “” techniques which humans have been using for more than 6,000 years.
Now we have twenty-first century technology that allows even faster selection. In Africa, staple food crops such as yams, plantains and cassava have been relatively neglected by plant breeders. The genomes of these crops should be mapped as a first step towards solutions to doubling or even tripling productivity, and improving drought tolerance, disease resistance and overall nutrient content. Genetic mapping would allow researchers to identify specific traits and markers within a species, and eventually breed plants displaying them. There are plant breeders in Africa prepared to do this.
Environmental groups that let ideology trump science on genetically enhanced crops forfeit the high ground on issues like climate change. I wish that some of these groups would listen to people like Pamela Ronald, a plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis, who charts an inclusive path:
Both organic farming and biotechnology have a seat at this table. Organic farming began as a response to the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, and relies on integrated management to control pests and disease. And while organic production practices can be an important component of sustainable agriculture, they cannot address every constraint faced by farmers, including some diseases and pests, challenges posed by climate change, and the need for adequate nutrition.