Thursday, June 07, 2018

Climate Change: Ambition is cheap

One of the annoying things about the government backing away from its net-zero emissions target is that its so obvious about it. They're not just cheating us and breaking their promises, but they're also taking us for complete morons who won't notice them doing it. Quite apart from their shady linguistic games about trying to introduce ambiguity into "net zero emissions" where there was none before, they're also being blatantly transparent about it in their discussion document. The oldest trick in the bureaucratic book, seen in countless Cabinet papers and Regulatory Impact Statements, is that you present three options: do nothing, the option you want to select, and the salmonella option, one pitched as extreme or otherwise obviously bad. Because doing nothing is not an option, it devolves into a decision between the option you want chosen, and salmonella. To make it even easier, you sandwich the option you want chosen between the other two, presenting it automatically as the sensible "middle ground". What were the options the government was offering us again? Oh yeah:

Pretty obvious what they want chosen then.

Except when you look at the detailed economic modelling, a real net-zero emissions target isn't exactly salmonella. The economic difference between full ambition and their half-arsed broken promise (modelled as "75%" in the table below) is sweet fuck-all:

Yes, that's right: real ambition has next to no impact on economic growth, and "costs" us only a billion dollars a year, insofar as you consider being less rich than you otherwise might have been to be a real cost. Which is less than the effect of currency fluctuations, and certainly less than the effect of the enormous floods or droughts refusing to act is setting us up for. In government terms, it is basicly nothing. Distributionally, its a different story - the impact of that policy shift will fall on the sources of methane, which means farmers (and predominantly dairy farmers), so we can expect a hell of a lot of whining and special pleading from them. But bluntly, they've had a free ride for a decade now. They need to stop expecting to be carried by the rest of us, and start paying their own fucking way, like everybody else. And if they don't like it, they're welcome to take their stinking, polluting cows, and try and find a jurisdiction without a climate change policy to shit in.

Basicly, being ambitious here is cheap. The economic case for less ambition is shit. So why be less ambitious?