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Protect the Poor, Prevent Prostitution: Don't Fight Global Warming!

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D. | Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation | Friday, May 17, 2013

Protect the Poor, Prevent Prostitution: Don't Fight Global Warming!

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of (wouldn’t you know it?) California, six other congresswomen (D-CA/CA/USVI/NY/MN/IL), and five congressmen (D-MN/GA/AZ/CA/NY) have introduced House Congressional Resolution 36, calling America to fight “climate change,” aka global warming (of which there’s been none for over 16 years now), to prevent women from becoming prostitutes.

No, your eyes didn’t fool you. The resolution claims that poor women are “vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health.” “Sex work” and “transactional sex” are euphemisms for prostitution.

Ignore in passing that it’s not “sex work” and “transactional sex” per se but the associated risks they bring that bother the resolution’s sponsors. I guess the prostitution would be okay with them if it just weren’t for those nasty side effects.

The irony of the resolution comes from a fact hidden in plain sight: According to the “the world’s most authoritative scientific effort to understand and address changes in the Earth’s climate,” the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), poverty will shrink more with global warming than without it, not just for the wealthy West but also for the developing Rest.

Why? Because IPCC’s warming scenarios are based on its economic forecasts. More economic growth, according to its models, causes more warming; less growth, less warming.

And we’re not talking about tiny changes at the margin — lifting people from abject poverty to slightly more tolerable poverty. We’re talking about lifting people from grinding, life-shortening poverty into a standard of living that meets or surpasses that of today’s industrialized countries.

Surprised? Not if you’ve been following IPCC Working Group III, which studies warming’s impacts, or the Stern Report, a British government effort to forecast economic impact of warming through this century. (Neither IPCC nor Stern, by the way, is known for understating the risks from global warming.)

Let’s put some hard numbers to the discussion.

IPCC offers various scenarios for warming, each based on a scenario for economic development. Under its coolest — “B1,” according to which the world keeps global warming down to 3.8°F by 2100 — after subtracting losses caused by the warming, developing nations’ gross domestic product (GDP) per capita rises from $900 in 1990 to $39,400 in 2100. Under its warmest scenario, “A1F1,” with high economic growth depending on lots of fossil fuel use and consequently lots of carbon dioxide emissions, the world warms by 7.2°F by 2100 — and developing nations’ GDP per capita rises, after subtracting for losses from warming, to $61,500, which is about one-fourth higher than America’s today.

Economist Indur Goklany, who has been studying the economic effects of both global warming and climate policy for over two decades, lays out all the likely scenarios in “Is Climate Change the Number One Threat to Humanity?” in the peer-reviewed journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. One figure, reproduced here, sums up the story.

“Net GDP per capita, 1990-2200, after accounting for the upper bound estimates of losses due to global warming for four major IPCC emission and climate scenarios. For 2100 and 2200, the scenarios are arranged from the warmest (A1FI) on the left to the coolest (B1) on the right. The average global temperature increase from 1990 to 2085 for the scenarios are as follows: 4°C for AIFI, 3.3°C for A2, 2.4°C for B2, and 2.1°C for B1. For context, in 2006, GDP per capita for industrialized countries was $19,300; the United States, $30,100; and developing countries, $1,500.” Source: Goklany, “Is Climate Change the Number One Threat to Humanity?” pre-publication draft.

So, if poverty drives women into prostitution, and if Congresswoman Lee and her colleagues don’t want that result, they should submit an entirely different resolution: “Protect the Poor, Prevent Prostitution: Don’t Fight Global Warming!”

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Publication date: May 17, 2013