Washington Times: Obesity is America’s next pandemic

America: Learn from Britain’s mistakes. Obesity is the next pandemic, but new punitive regulations are not the way to confront it.

This article was first published in the Washington Times.

Obesity is out of control. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 42 percent of Americans have reported undesired weight gain. Among children, the situation is even more dire, with 15.4 percent of those aged 2 to 17 reportedly obese by the end of 2020, up from 13.7 percent the year before.

These aren’t just abstract statistics. The U.S. has a huge shortfall in life expectancy compared to other developed countries, translating into around 400,000 excess deaths per year. When it comes to the difference between the U.S. and other similarly wealthy countries, 55 percent of America’s public health problems can be traced back to obesity.

Obesity is the next pandemic.

And if the U.S. is very unlucky, politicians will combat the new pandemic the same way they did the old, with sweeping authoritarian bans. Newsflash: A strong government response to obesity hasn’t worked so far, and it won’t work today.

The United Kingdom offers a troubling glimpse into the kinds of policies overactive American politicians might soon try to push through. Britain is led by a nominally Conservative prime minister in Boris Johnson, who calls himself libertarian and won his office by pledging to roll back the “continuing creep of the nanny state” — but you wouldn’t know it from his actions.

In reality, in recent years, the British government has unleashed an avalanche of new taxes and regulations aimed at making Britain slimmer. All have comprehensively failed — the U.K.’s obesity rates are higher than ever, with excess body fat responsible for more deaths than smoking every year since 2014 and over a million hospital admission for obesity-related treatment in England in the year leading up to the pandemic.

The state’s rampant interventionism in this area hasn’t made a dent, and there is no reason to think the result would be any different on the other side of the pond. In the U.K., a regressive sugar tax on soft drinks remains in place (despite Boris Johnson previously promising to scrap it) achieving nothing besides making the weekly shopping trip more expensive for those who can least afford it. There’s also a bizarre £100 million ($142 million) taxpayer-funded scheme which will supposedly solve Britain’s obesity crisis by bribing people to exercise.

The headline act, though, is an appalling move to ban advertising for ‘junk food’ before 9 p.m. on television and at all times online. The premise, proposed with great insistence by bankrupt celebrity chefs and now seemingly adopted by the government, is that helpless children are being bombarded with ads for unhealthy food online and therefore that the malevolent, profit-hungry advertising industry is single-handedly responsible for the national obesity crisis.

Even if that were the case, an advertising ban would be a wildly inappropriate policy response. Government analysis of the policy — not a hit job from a skeptical think tank, but research from the very same people who are insisting that this ad ban is vital — found that it will remove an average of 1.7 calories from children’s diets per day.

For context, that is roughly the equivalent of 0.3 grams of candy, or a little under six peas. The British government is unwavering in its willingness to hamstring an entire industry, even as the world inches towards a period of post-pandemic economic recovery, in order to effect an impossibly miniscule change in children’s diets, not to mention the policy’s disastrous implications for free enterprise and individual liberty.

America: Learn from Britain’s mistakes. Obesity is the next pandemic, but public health authorities who claim to be acting in our best interests have been asleep at the wheel for far too long. All over the world, bureaucrats have been peddling tired 20th-century ideas to deal with 21st-century problems and the U.S. is next in line. Public health is too important to leave up to an outdated and out-of-touch medical-industrial complex which is more interested in its virtue-signaling echo chambers than helping the vulnerable or achieving any real results.

Washington Times: China is trying to greenwash its environmental crimes

China is trying to greenwash its crimes – and we’re letting them get away with it. When it comes to the environment, there are no second chances.

This article was first published in the Washington Times.

This article was co-written by Christopher Barnard, national policy director at the American Conservation Coalition.

Two issues will define the coming era of international relations and determine the direction of our politics for years. The first is the environment. Around the world, populations and their elected politicians are beginning to wake up to the reality and urgency of climate change. Young people across the political spectrum are pressuring politicians to act. For the first time ever, a constructive policy debate is forming as socialist plans like the Green New Deal go up against pro-market solutions like nuclear power, clean investment, and green innovation.

The second all-important issue is China. The Chinese Communist Party has never been a benevolent organization. But in the last year or so, its crimes have become so heinous that they have warranted an international response. China has a long track record of foisting itself on other countries, like Taiwan and Tibet. Recently, it has seized power and imposed draconian totalitarian measures in Hong Kong. It is carrying out a systematic genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Its refusal to cooperate with Western governments, combined with the undue influence it wields in international governing bodies like the World Health Organization, has cost tens of thousands of lives to date in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing knows exactly what it is doing. When it is not gaslighting Western governments by flat-out denying all wrongdoing — even when it has been caught red-handed on camera — the Chinese government is fortifying its position by churning out positive-sounding rhetoric on climate change. Just a few weeks ago, President Xi Jinping took the world by surprise when he announced his intention to make China a carbon-neutral country by 2060.

The Chinese Communist Party is trying to greenwash its crimes. Despite running by far the most environmentally destructive country in the world, it is shamelessly weaponizing very real concerns over climate change and using them to conceal its equally real malevolence.

“We call on all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green, and open development for all,” Mr. Xi told this year’s session of the U.N. General Assembly with a straight face, even though 40% of China’s energy investments through the Belt and Road Initiative are in coal, and 72% of all new coal plants around the world rely on Chinese funding. China produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other nation — over a quarter of total global emissions — and more than double what the U.S. generates.

China’s counterfactual climate posturing is only possible because of the failure of Western nations, especially the U.S. President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the importance of fighting climate change or offer any notable policy proposal to it has left a vacuum which China is now moving to fill. Beijing should not be in a position to land blows against the U.S. by criticizing its ‘negative stance’ and ‘poor track record’ on climate change. Yet here we are.

Mr. Trump once said that climate change is a ‘Chinese hoax.’ Fortunately for him, his party, and all Americans, he at least appeared to acknowledge — for the first time — in the presidential debate several weeks ago that climate change is, at least in part, man-made. But he still fails to fully grasp the issue. To date, he has refrained as far as possible, for inexplicable reasons, from confronting climate change head-on.

Combined with his urge to blindly do the opposite of whatever Beijing is concocting, the result is the leader of the free world being played like a fiddle. When the Chinese government engages in hollow virtue-signalling over the environment, Mr. Trump’s response should not be to slip further into denialism. Instead, he should seize the opportunity to place the U.S. at the forefront of environmental innovation. That way, he would beat China, save the planet and reap the immense electoral benefits of embracing innovation-based environmentalism. Polls suggest that 69% of voters would view him more favorably if he did that. When it comes to the environment, there are no second chances. De-Sinofication — disentangling Western polities and economies from China — is shaping up to be the most important foreign policy project of the century. When it comes to climate change, the way to do that is not to stoop to Beijing’s level and undo years of progress. Instead, the West must call out China’s failures and set an example for the rest of the world by implementing a positive, pro-growth environmental vision. For that, we need strong leadership from the United States.