We all believe things we can’t prove.
I believe that China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, and other repressive governments deliberately understate their number of COVID deaths. I suspect that many African and Asian countries don’t really know their COVID death count.
2020 probably is the deadliest year of your life or mine. More than a million people will perish because of the pandemic. America’s 200,000 is a higher percentage of the population than most other developed countries.
Whether COVID kills 1 million or 10 million, the world’s population is growing more slowly than any time since we started keeping records. Last year, United Nations demographers predicted that the world population would grow ever more slowly until the end of this century, when it would begin to decline.
Then, earlier this year, the New York Times reported on a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that indicated the population growth would slow even faster. They estimated that the population would begin to decline in the mid-2060s. Who knows what the next revision will suggest?
Plus, we are witnessing more extreme weather events. Forest fires are more intense. Hurricanes are more damaging. Polar ice caps are melting at an increasing rate. What is happening?
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan acknowledged that people are entitled to their own views but disputed the notion that they were entitled to their own facts. Our challenge is to find the facts.
The Economist magazine recently did a 12-page Special Report on the environment. They report several experts expect the global climate to get worse for more than a generation, no matter what we do in the next decade. Although I hope they are wrong, that claim gives me pause. They are among many responsible authorities, with no obvious benefit for falsehood, who are making similar dire predictions.
Strangely, this is an area where COVID seems to be helping. COVID and its recession cut our family’s driving by two thirds and virtually eliminated air travel since February. The planet has also reduced carbon fuel consumption significantly. Industrial pollution has shrunk immensely because so many factories are closed.
To keep the global temperature from rising 2°C we would need to reduce pollution by 3 to 4 times this year’s reduction. Imagine what that would be like!
We can’t solve the earth’s problems by ourselves or all at once. Supposedly the two most impactful things Americans can do to reduce global warming are: drive less and eat less red meat.
I knew about driving less and I knew about the negative health consequences of certain foods. But I didn’t think much about the environmental impact of eating habits. It can be significant. Scientists from Oxford and the University of Minnesota summarized a 2019 study this way.
“Foods associated with the largest negative environmental impacts—unprocessed and processed red meat—are consistently associated with the largest increases in disease risk.”
A few months ago, two of our friends switched to plant-based protein. The husband, my friend, said it took a month to get used to the new cuisine. I grew up in cattle raising state. The advertising slogan “Beef is real food!” was one I endorsed for most of my life. The bride of my youth who grew up in a different cattle-raising area recently shifted our diet substantially away from red meat to plant-based protein.
John Maynard Keynes, the 21st century’s most influential economist, was once accused of inconsistency. His response was, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”
Climate change mattered less to millions of people 50 or even 15 years ago. Now my notion is that it is our planet’s biggest temporal challenge. Following Gandhi’s admonition, I trying to live the change that I endorse.
What’s your response to climate change?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”