American Elephants

Plastic bags, nannies, and the “Long March.” by The Elephant's Child

Plastic Grocery Bags, Love ’em or hate ’em?

Is your state or city government trying to ban plastic grocery bags?  And did you wonder why?  These things are always more complicated than they seem on the surface. My grocery store wants me to buy green (why am I not surprised) cloth bags for $3.00 each,( the prices vary)  to carry to the store with me each time I shop.  I try to shop less than once a week, and usually shop in fairly large quantity, using somewhere around 20 plastic bags. $60.00? Not if I can help it!

The whole thing began with a misreading of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that between 1981 and 1984 more than 100,000 marine mammals were killed every year by discarded fishing nets.  The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags. In 2002, a report prepared for the Australian Government by Nolan-ITU said that the Newfoundland study attributed the deaths to “plastic bags.” But according to the Australian Government’s Environment Department website, the report was amended in 2006.

Scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreporting.  That hasn’t stopped governments everywhere from trying to phase out the plastic bags.  The actual report, later amended, has been widely quoted by environmentalists.  It actually attributed the deaths to all plastic debris, including fishing nets and equipment, and undoubtedly the plastic holders for six-packs.

Even a science expert who advises Greenpeace says that plastic bags pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds. Well, yes. They are used to carry groceries home from the store, and are handy because you can carry a whole bunch at once. Then they get recycled. This is not what people usually take to the beach.

There is, however, more to the story.

Have you noticed more “Nanny-environmentalism” from your city or state government in the last few years?

The Center for Climate Strategies was founded in 2004 by environmental activist groups as a state-based-strategy to avoid open political debate.  It depends instead on having the full range of left-wing pressure groups—feminists, abortion rights groups, animal rights activists, labor organizers and other leftist factions to make “climate change” part of their message and mission.

Well funded by left-wing foundations, they approach state governments by claiming to offer governors objective expertise. Though they claim policy neutrality, their mission is to get states to adopt global warming policies reducing greenhouse gas emissions (CO2).  In reality, this enables state governors to outsource formulation of state policies to the liberal foundations and interest groups that stand behind CCS.  Here is further information about the Center for Climate Strategies.

CCS has a dandy dog-and-pony show in which they offer experts, studies, strong new climate action plans, conferences, recognition, and all at a splendid discount price.  The foundations pick up the rest of the cost.  This usually means that CCS deals are sealed with no open bidding, and no competition from other policy analysts who might be more objective.  Who could turn down such a bargain?  In effect the state cedes control to CCS “experts” and CCS assumes full responsibility for the system.  It controls the format of meetings, provides the technical analysis, and supplies the wish list of policy options:  carbon taxes, cap-and-trade policy, reduced speed limits, Smart Growth -based land use regulations and “climate-friendly” transportation pricing.  Environmental heart’s desire without ever having to bother with hearings, debate, voting—all that annoying stuff.

The tale of the cities.

For cities the helpful environmental experts are ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.  They offer U.N. plans and local actions. The group is the product of a U.N. conference, united by a belief that cities do not need to wait for national governments before taking action on global climate issues.  Ambitious local politicians around the world are using ICLEI as a platform to build their careers and to network with one another on environmental issues.  Recycling waste, compulsory carbon emissions standards, emissions reduction schedule, regional air quality, solid waste, preparing for rising sea levels, storm surges and 100-year flood cycles.  Good deal for politicians—it shows them how to promote climate change initiatives and does the work for them.  Especially “sustainability” and “environmentally sound practices.”

Conferences, attention in the media for your noble sustainable policies, experts to provide the policies and all a mayor has to do is bask in all the career building attention. Seattle’s very own Mayor Greg Nickels is the best example of a city official who has bought into the program.  “Seattle Climate Action NOW!” proposes “clean renewable” energy, reduced car usage, improved public transportation, energy efficient homes and offices.  Green Fleets for city vehicles, ICLEI emissions calculators, networking services, and a recognition program for companies that adopt a carbon-cutting program.  Mayor Nickles  proposed a 20 cent “green tax” on paper and plastic shopping bags. This tax would generate nearly $10 million for the city and took effect on January 1, along with a ban on foam containers. The Parks Department is planning to ban beachfires.  A campaign encourages utility ratepayers to pay a “green premium” on their electric bill to allow the city to fund solar power pilot projects. Read about ICLEI here.

I like clean air and clean water as much as anyone. In spite of the shrieks that the climate is warming faster than ever from the activists, there has been no significant warming since 1998.  The planet has been cooling for the last 5 years. There is and has been no warming that is outside of the normal range of warming and cooling that has gone on for centuries. There is no evidence that human activity has any measurable effect on the climate.

There is no evidence that reducing carbon emissions has the slightest effect on the climate.  There is no evidence that either solar energy or wind power can produce enough energy to have a significant effect on our energy needs.  These programs are an insidious attempt to co-opt the climate change debate while you are looking the other way.  It is not about climate, it is not about energy.  It is about using climate fears to accomplish leftist power politics and leftist control over the economy and the country.   The Long March in action.

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