Focus on right solutions

Stephen Franks explains why he supports climate change investment:

An article in Forbes magazine reports on George Shultz recounting how Ronald Reagan gained a consensus to support the Montreal Protocol to combat the fluorocarbons that were thought to be creating the hole in the ozone layer. He refers to the problem of persuading people who felt there was too much uncertainty in the science.

“And then he [Reagan] did something that nobody ever does anymore,” Shultz said. “He went to the scientists who didn’t agree and put his arm around them and said, ‘We respect you, but you do agree that if it happens it’s a catastrophe, so let’s take out an insurance policy.’”

For 20 years I’ve used the same analogy in trying to counsel people who trap themselves into claiming more confidence in the “denialist” case than they can possibly justify, just because they can’t stomach the religious fervour and anti-human callousness of many climate campaigners.

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. . .

Proposed measures do the opposite.

And so we have in NZ a closing of ranks against climate “denialism”. Our elite hunts for heretics. We should instead respect those who are suspicious of compulsory ‘scientific consensus’ but ask them to join in working out what is likely to be most efficient (given we are going to spend on ‘insurance’ anyway).

It is wicked to take steps just for expansive show. The Zero Carbon Bill approach will actually increase world CO2 emissions, just not here.  So we are posturing to an indifferent global class, impoverishing ourselves (reducing resilience) and achieving as much against climate change as the Summer Palace did for the Qing dynasty and China.

It is frustrating that climate evangelists insist we accept the science on climate change but don’t follow the science on mitigation and solutions.

In doing so they are ignoring the high economic and social costs for at best little environmental gain and too often losses.

Bjorn Lomborg also writes about the need to focus on the right solutions:

As it is becoming obvious that political responses to global warming such as the Paris treaty are not working, environmentalists are urging us to consider the climate impact of our personal actions. Don’t eat meat, don’t drive a gasoline-powered car and don’t fly, they say. But these individual actions won’t make a substantial difference to our planet, and such demands divert attention away from the solutions that are needed.

Even if all 4.5 billion flights this year were stopped from taking off, and the same happened every year until 2100, temperatures would be reduced by just 0.054 degrees, using mainstream climate models — equivalent to delaying climate change by less than one year by 2100.

Nor will we solve global warming by giving up meat. Going vegetarian is difficult — one US survey shows 84 percent fail, most in less than a year. Those who succeed will only reduce their personal emissions by about 2 percent.

And electric cars are not the answer. Globally, there are just 5 million fully electric cars on the road. Even if this climbs massively to 130 million in 11 years, the International Energy Agency finds CO₂ equivalent emissions would be reduced by a mere 0.4 percent globally.

Put simply: The solution to climate change cannot be found in personal changes in the homes of the middle classes of rich countries. . .

If these changes won’t work, what will?

We must look at how we solved past major challenges — through innovation. The starvation catastrophes in developing nations in the 1960s to ’80s weren’t fixed by asking people to consume less food but through the Green Revolution in which innovation developed higher-yielding varieties that produced more plentiful food.

Similarly, the climate challenge will not be solved by asking people to use less (and more expensive) green energy. Instead, we should dramatically ramp up spending on research and development into green energy.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked 27 of the world’s top climate economists to examine policy options for responding to climate change. This analysis showed that the best investment is in green-energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This would bring forward the day when green-energy alternatives are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels not just for the elite but for the entire world.

Right now, despite all the rhetoric about the importance of global warming, we are not ramping up this spending. On the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate summit, more than 20 world leaders made a promise to double green-energy research and development by 2020. But spending has only inched up from $16 billion in 2015 to $17 billion in 2018. This is a broken promise that matters.

After 30 years of pursuing the wrong solution to climate change, we need to change the script.

The predominant script is a red one not a green one. It’s driven by an anti-capitalist political agenda.

We need to write a new one directing efforts towards research and innovation that will save the earth without imposing huge costs on the world.

 

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