Famine: impacts and adaption

Never blog when pissed [*] they said…

So, Kloor and Romm are having a dust up over stuff, and if you care you can read the details or even take sides (I’m with Kloor, you won’t be surprised to learn). But we can take a step back and consider a more generalised problem, in the context of Doctors Warn Climate Change is “Greatest Threat to Public Health”: suppose we care about famine in the third world (in the sense of wanting to do something about it, rather than in the sense of finding it interesting material to blog about it): what might we do?

* stop climate change (reduce impacts)
* improve their governance (adaption)

Obviously the two are not exclusive, but more importantly it is likely that one factor is more significant than the other. Which might it be? I’ve been pretty skeptical about the chances of future famine in the past (pardon?) and I’m still skeptical, so my vote goes to choice 2: their big problem is governance. Climate might well be an aggravating factor, but in comparison to being shot up, attacked and generally having your entire civil society destroyed by armed gangs, climate comes a pretty poor second.

So temporarily ignoring the problem that “improve their governance” doesn’t have a glorious recent past (Afghanistan and Iraq being our most recent disaster areas; but we could look to Sierra Leone, or possibly Libya as better examples) I’d say option 2 is distinctly a better bet. Plus the associated externalities are positive too (not only do they not starve to death, they don’t get shot either).

[*] In the English sense, which is to say, when drunk.

[Update: AG reminds me that I really ought to have mentioned Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate. And you can read his blog on it, too.]

Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

rubaiyat2 Omar Khayaam, sorry I can’t do the bold around “distant” in a title. I gave Hugo the popcorn on friday, but it didn’t really apply until today. It looks like the Frogs win the first strike award whilst Gaddafi gets the lying scumbag award. The end result of the Gaddafi-vs-the-West military fight is in no doubt; quite where that leaves the ground war is less clear. Probably in an Afghanistan-type situation, where we (well, the US in that case) bombed the Taliban so the Northern Alliance could take over. Only lets hope this time we don’t collude with the drug-dealers; as far as I can tell the rebels are much nicer than the NA.

Soundtrack: Flight of the pelican.

CIP makes various good points; that if we’d done nothing the rebels obvious next choice was Al-Quaeda (but we’ve averted that; good); that by waiting so long we’ve lost the chance to topple Gaddafi easily (sadly so; that leaves Libya badly shot-up and a lot of people pointlessly dead); and that by waiting so long, we’ve probably pushed all the doubters into a show of loyalty to the Dark Side (but hopefully they will be having another think now). But, assuming the worst isn’t true (the worst would be that the West actually wants a stalemate in Libya, because it fears the “example”, and is being leaned on by Saudi and Israel; entirely plausible, but probably not true) then I think the good guys are likely to win out.

Incidentally, I think this is starting to look good for Obama, possibly just by chance. By hanging back and leaving it until late we had the Arab League practically begging the West to intervene, Gaddafi was doing his best to act and sound like a mad dog, and that coupled with France and the UK leading the security council resolution meant that China and Russia found it awkward to veto. Shame about the Squareheads, though.

We’re so predictable

_51601556_rebeltank_ap As in, we start off bombing their air defences. Heavens knows how we’d get on against a clueful opponent. Fortunately the enemy in this case is both clueless and effectively powerless.

This is a picture of a tank. As it happens, a rebel tank. In case you’re wondering what it can do, the BBC has some insightful analysis: It offers high protection from small arms fire and carries a big gun (I’m being snarky of course, that is why you’re here, but the rest of the article is of value). Also interesting to see that Toyota seems to have cornered the market in “technicals” – the stuff-a-machine-gun-on-a-pickup-truck type stuff. They got a bad reputation for wanton violence a while back, but maybe these will feature in the Toyota PR literature.

Too much news

This, of course, pushes the Japanese quake and reactor off the top spot in the news league, which I’d say is a good thing. We can stop vacuously panicking about trivial levels of radionucleides and settle down to some decent war porn, and the Japanese can get started on rebuilding in peace; my best wishes to them.
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