Thursday, March 05, 2009

Climate change: "flexibility"

Tuesday saw an interesting exchange in Parliament between Charles Chauvel and John Key over the latter's continuing efforts to play both sides of the fence on climate change. While publicly announcing his commitment to action, Key panders to denialists in the pages of Investigate, saying that we need to

have flexibility built into the system so that if the science either firms up considerably more or deteriorates, and the climate change sceptics are right, we have the ability to alter the impact on our economy
It's yet another example of Key's two-faced tactics of saying different things to different audiences, and it calls Key's - and the government's - honesty and commitment to action into serious question. But it also calls into question their competence, because even if we accept Key's characterisation of the uncertainties, National's proposed response - doing nothing - does not achieve his stated goal of maximising flexibility, but instead commits us to a high-emissions pathway no matter what. The correct way to maximise flexibility under these conditions of uncertainty is to go harder and adopt strong targets early on on the basis that we can always slack off later if we need to.

(I'll freely admit that there are some hidden assumptions about relative costs of action vs inaction here, but I'll go with Stern and Garnaut over Wishart any day).