Saturday, 26 October 2013

‘Time’ is right

Today, Time is coming to a conclusion that I have done for a long time, although I do so in a very different manner from conventional wisdom. The magazine cites data from the science journal Nature that does a though experiment in which people were asked to invest money into a “climate account” whereby of they gave half their money to climate change advertisements, they were considered successful and were given more money.

What Time found, not to their own surprise, was that
“the more delayed the payout was, the less likely the experimental groups would put enough money away to meet the goal to stop climate change”
This certainly suggests people, even in those nations with the best environmental record (which corresponds practically perfectly to nations with least need therefor) are not willing to accept the short-term costs necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In countries like Australia and Southern Africa, such is obvious: dealing with climate change has serious costs for ordinary families:
  1. higher housing costs are an inevitable result of a rigid target for a carbon-neutral Australia
  2. privacy loss from having to make every journey on a crowded or semi-crowded bus instead of the privacy of a 4x4
  3. not having the choice to use the cheapest, but most polluting forms of energy or even of building materials for housing
  4. having to pay higher taxes to completely reverse eighty-five years of car-based transport policies
  5. having to revegetate farmland to return carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would mean higher food prices owing to the exceptional comparative advantage Australia has in agriculture (despite its extreme un-sustainability)
One might think the sacrifices required in energy- and land-poor nations of Eurasia, North and South America, New Zealand and most small islands would be much less. This, however, is misleading.

In the scheme of combatting climate change, the role of these nations (where in a free market energy consumption is restricted by the necessity for high-density and low-energy development) is not to develop renewable energy, but to enforce its development on Australia and Southern Africa. These latter nations have much higher per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, yet exceptionally fragile ecosystems due to their exceedingly ancient soils and low rainfall. It is extremely plausible that transition to a carbon-neutral economy in Eurasia and the Americas will be offset completely by increased Australian and South African emissions, and the environmental cost will be unquestionably greater than the same emissions from the Enriched World.

The job of the Enriched and Tropical Worlds is to stop the Unenriched World from exporting carbon emissions and pollution. Doing this will mean recognising how the Unenriched World, with its mineral wealth and comparative advantage in agriculture, has in the long term an unrivalled ability to pay for these costs – not to mention responsibility. Doing this will take away a large proportion of already-stressed government budgets from the Enriched and Tropical Worlds, which would mean:
  1. much less if any public welfare
  2. lower wages without wage regulations (which cost money)
  3. few or no goods from the Unenriched World (as it has to clean up its act on greenhouse emissions)
  4. more expensive finished goods as the Unenriched World’s raw materials are less available
  5. harder work for many people without welfare
However, a concerted plan to attack the source of the global climate crisis – the “Deep South” of Australia, Southern Africa and perhaps the Middle Eastern oil states – is the only way out. The absence of natural internal regulations in the Unenriched World means external regulation by demanding that external costs be paid 100 percent is the only way long-term global improvement can be made.

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