I’ve already used Clowns to the left of me…. And then I run across an opinion article in today’s Guardian: “Let’s Get Real on the Environment.” by David Appell nicely counterbalanced by Yes. We Can.. Oh dear oh dear.
To begin with the obligatory snarking, anyone with young children in the UK will instantly recognise “Yes we can” as the irritatingly cheerful cleft-free Bob the Builder and his army of health-and-safety violating machines (Nah then nah then sir. Did you let that digger drive around by itself? Please come down to the station with me sir…). In Tamino-world, it means the equally unrealistic Suppose we institute a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, force U.S. carmakers to double fuel efficiency within a decade as a condition on any financial bailout, invest billions (not paltry millions) in new solar and wind power generation, invest billions (not paltry millions) in energy storage technology research. Suppose we institute a carbon tax, and not a wimpy “token” tax, but a heavy, extremely painful one. Suppose…
Until something really serious happens, climate-wise (or until something that most people take to be serious, climate-wise, like a few more big hurricanes happening to hit major US cities and causing massive damage) the US is *not* going to impose extremely painful climate taxes. For the obvious reasons. Some of his other stuff I consider unrealistic for other reasons: we could easily invest billions in wind turbines and not solve our problems; it needs more than that. And I don’t find We keep approaching closer and closer to dangerous “tipping points” in climate change, like the release of tremendous amounts of CO2 and methane due to melting permafrost, significant albedo change due to ice loss, even CO2 increase due to warming of the oceans. convincing. Its all too impatient: give us a disaster now that we can believe in! Huge tax hikes now! It won’t happen.
Which brings us on to… the other side. David Appell says:
But most of all, let’s open our eyes and begin to be honest. You will fly to Jamaica this winter instead of cutting your greenhouse gases. Fine. Can we please accept this and begin to move on? But I won’t. I’m going to stay at my mothers house, and with my parents in law (and will enjoy it, before I get any snarky comments). Very few people I know will fly away for christmas – but perhaps David Appell swims with a different set to me. There is no crisis that will change our minds – not heat waves in France, not Katrina, not the disappearance of Arctic ice up north. We want what we want, and our species is lousy at planning for the future. Again, I disagree. Some crises might change our minds, though its not easy to see what might do so in good time. Even the world’s climate organisers do not hesitate to fly thousands of miles to Poland and live high on the hog. This is true, but irrelevant: the implicit assumption – that the Poznam people care particularly about climate change – is quite unwarranted. Most of them are career talkers / negotiators / diplomats. Going to such events, and more humble versions thereof, is what they have honed themselves for, built their careers around. Why should anyone expect them to do otherwise?
Tamino is too impatient, Appell to far in despair, and neither is a very useful attitude.