Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Climate change: getting the numbers

One of my biggest concerns about the government's new climate change policy is that it will end up exactly like the previous ones: good ideas that were not implemented due to lack of political support. Obviously Labour is keen, but their "support" parties have been at best lukewarm, and NZ First has been stuck in outright denial mode for as long as I can remember. Despite having the support of the Greens and possibly the Maori Party there was a very real chance that the government may not have been able to get the numbers in Parliament to turn policy into action.

As my use of the past tense should tell you, that has changed. Both the government's support parties have responded positively to the announcement that the government intends to pursue an (eventual) economy-wide emissions trading scheme. United Future has publicly announced its support for emissions trading, while NZ First has called it "a step in the right direction". Which means the chances we will actually see policy implemented for once just got a lot better.


The argument against anthropogenic global warming is gaining momentum (despite legal action by those profiting from research grants), and pop culture is starting, slowly, to reflect that (witness mainstream comedians mocking global warming activists, for example).

If you're a politican whose only concern is vote counting, you'd want to hold off on drastic action in order to see which way the public will vote on the issue come the next election.

If you're a politician who thinks that anthropogenic global warming is a con, you'll want to hold off on drastic action because you think it's wrong, and hope that the public is in the process of working that out for themselves.

Essentially, only two types of politician will support immediate drastic action against anthropogenic global warming:

- Populists who are latching onto an issue, and are convinced that the tide will not turn in the short term

- Environmentalists who really do believe in anthropogenic global warming

Guess what - most politicans are shameless risk averse populists. (In this case that's a good thing, because they're not committing resources to a fight they shouldn't be fighting.)

Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2007 01:12:00 PM

I have a really important question:

Will the government be making the emissions cap on agriculture larger than for other industries?

To me this is the key as to whether or not there is any point. It would be extremely unfair to allow the agricultural sector to produce more emmissions than any other. It would also be a waste of time in that prices will be passed onto the consumer - if agriculture is not penalized enough, then there will be no disincentive for people to stop consuming the worst products - such as meat, wool and dairy.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/09/2007 04:50:00 PM

The argument against anthropogenic global warming is gaining momentum

Where? Your basement?

In the real world, scientific opinion is united, despite the squeeks of the deniers. And if you think they're all "profiting from research grants", what about the 83% of NZ business leaders or 77% of New Zealanders (NBR April 13 2007) who believe it is a problem to be dealt with now or urgently?

Demand amongst the public for real action is high enough that even the National Party (hell, even NZ First) believe they have to respond to it. That's the reality of the political situation. You may not like it, and of course you're free to try and change it, but denying it as you do above doesn't exactly add to your credibility on this issue.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/09/2007 04:55:00 PM

Clueless: I fucking hope not. But Agriculture is probably last in the queue to be included anyway, so we won't be finding out for a while.

Policywise, if you are concerned about competitiveness (as the government is), then the correct solution in an emissions trading framework is not to have a higher cap, but rather to compensate the industry in question with a partial allocation of credits. I went to a very interesting talk in Wellington a couple of months back on this topic, and the level of grandparenting required is usually not that high, while it does not detract from the effectiveness of the policy.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/09/2007 04:58:00 PM