Thursday, December 30, 2010

Climate Change and Global Health --Paul Epstein

A great new book, and so, why not plug Democracy Now and their interview of Paul Epstein.

But for those who want to also read his work, here are some key sources:

Here's his take on a global climate fund agreed upon at Cancun:

While many issues remain unresolved following the Cancun climate meeting, the delegates did agree upon a “Green Climate Fund.” Money is the critical, limiting factor for progress. But, left unresolved, is how to raise it.

Just as the Montreal Protocol required funds to come into force, a global fund for adaptation, mitigation and forest preservation is needed to bring all nations into today’s process. While most developing nations have contributed little to the climate “problem,” all nations can be part of the “solution,” given adequate funds for building resilience, maintaining forests, and purchasing and manufacturing climate-friendly technologies. The International Energy Agency estimates the $500 billion is needed per year for 20 years to achieve the clean energy transformation.

But, with so many Western nations reeling from deficits, the source of funding must be de-nationalized. In November, 2010 the UN High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing looked at carbon and airline taxes, and a tax on financial transactions. A tax on currency transactions – the Tobin Tax – may have the highest yield. Wagers on foreign exchange differentials have ballooned from $18 billion/day in 1970 to $4 trillion each trading day today. (In 1971 President Nixon abandoned two of the Bretton Woods rules – letting exchange rates float and removing constraints on capital movement across borders. Thus began the modern era of deregulation, bringing the West to a precarious moment.)

A fraction of a penny taken off of each transaction would generate hundreds of billions of dollars … and slow down the rapid, destabilizing, speculative transfers of capital across national borders (the original intent of Nobel-prize winning economist, James Tobin). This two-fer would also come from those most able to afford it – the swollen financial sector.

Won’t finance bloc such a move? There a precedent for enlightened self-interest on the part of finance. In the early ‘90s the UK managed a transfer of funds from its financial sector into industry (by cutting interest rates).

A transfer of funds today from finance into the clean and green development would constitute a sound investment into our common future.

– Paul Epstein, M.D.

The East Coast is struggling to recover from the massive blizzard that slammed into hundreds cities and towns from the Carolinas to Maine. The storm was a grimly fitting end to 2010, which was characterized by extreme weather from start to finish with heat waves, floods, volcanoes, blizzards, landslides and droughts. While TV networks closely follow extreme weather events around the world, they rarely make the connection between extreme weather and global warming. We speak with Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

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