Friday, October 07, 2005

Getting there from here

John Quiggin has an interesting post up at Crooked Timber on the price of dealing with climate change. Using the example of transport, he argues that rather than the economic disaster predicted by deniers, reducing greehouse emissions by the 50 - 60% required to stabilise the global climate can be achieved gradually without significant pain. All that is required are large number of small incremental changes: more efficient cars, changing transport patterns, a shift to more efficient fuels. And all of these will follow naturally simply from a gradual increase in the price of petrol. While he doesn't mention it, a similar argument applies to energy in general: price increases will produce efficiencies and moves to cleaner, less costly technologies.

We're already seeing this trend in action in New Zealand: people are ditching their SUVs for cheaper, more efficient alternatives, and where its available and practicable, switching to public transport. And in the energy sector, carbon taxes and supply-driven increases in the price of natural gas are driving electricity companies to turn to wind. Both are encouraging trends, and while the unique nature of our emissions profile means that they will not solve our overall greenhouse problem, they will help.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn't an argument that the government should sit back and do nothing, secure in the knowledge that the market will solve everything in the long run. Instead, it should try and drive that process, through mechanisms such as carbon taxes and vehicle efficiency standards. At the same time, it needs to ensure that other policies - such as transport policy - are pulling in the same direction rather than working at cross purposes. So far, the New Zealand government seems to be doing a reasonable job of this.

3 comments: decent volcanic erruption and all that CO2 reduction effort is for naught.

Then again, if the earth decides to head into one of its occasional mini ice-ages again, we may need to increase our emissions...

Posted by Anonymous : 10/08/2005 02:47:00 AM

"Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn't an argument that the government should sit back and do nothing,"

Damn - and you were doing so well!

Posted by Brian S : 10/08/2005 09:51:00 PM

> reducing greenhouse emissions by the 50 - 60% required to stabilize the global climate

I wonder where he got that from? I really don’t think that would stabilize anything. I suggest 101% reduction in emissions would stabilize it and that will probably require some considerable suffering amongst the poor, and possibly a war or two.

if your first option occurs then you can either have a big environmental problem if you have been cutting back or a even worse environmental problem if you haven't.
saying you should not worry because there might be an eruption is like saying you can kill your neighbor because there might be a war one day and war would be much worse.
The ice age thing would be nice but I think we would have a good 100 odd years of warning for that. plenty of time for us to start burning Carbon by the millions of tones

Posted by Genius : 10/09/2005 01:00:00 PM