- Date published:
6:25 am, August 5th, 2016 - 92 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, infrastructure, political alternatives, science, transport, vision - Tags: action needed, climate change, global warming
Remember that wee incident back in 2008 when the banking sector went bust? And remember how governments came up with a number and then started adding zeros on the tail end of it until the banks said – “yup, that’s enough”? If that can be done for banks, it can be done for society and future generations. Do not let anyone tell you that we can’t afford to take the actions we need to take on global warming.
Regardless of balancing accounts or whatever, the truth is that 3.5 degrees of warming has to be avoided at all costs….Well, if you think that the children around you today deserve any kind of future containing prospects, it has to be avoided at all costs. The laws of physics decree that there will be two degrees of warming or that somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a formerly worshipped haruspice will be abandoned to pore over the liver of his disembowled camel – unnoticed and unheeded.
But for all the incurable neo-classical economist types who cling to ideas about the infallibility and omnipotence of price signals, and who think that creating a balance in an artificial financial construct will somehow translate into a balance in the real world, and who place that financial construct before reality, here are some figures anyway.
The IMF calculated that in 2013, the NZ government subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $US2.5 Billion. Now, if the suggestion of the previous post is followed through on, then it would cost much less than that to give away petrol and diesel for free. Total petrol and diesel sales are about 2 billion litres annually and the wholesale cost of petrol is much less than $NZ 1 per litre.
Then throw the economic stimulus that would come from petrol money remaining in peoples’ pockets into the mix, and allow for the tax take on that extra economic activity. Factor in the necessity of developing our infrastructure too. Might that entail repurposing the army? Could it be necessary to look at some scheme of conscription or national service? It’s that huge.
In some ways free petrol might be viewed as being akin to how in some countries, the steel industry was heavily subsidised and run at a deliberate loss. The downstream economic activity that cheap steel generated more than outweighed any subsidy given to the industry by quite a margin.
You still want more money to be flowing?
Well, of the international shipping that arrives in NZ, something under half of it is carrying non-perishable consumer goods. Those consumer goods are likely what makes up most of the individual carbon footprint of the richest in society. Both Chancel and Picketty and Oxfam have independently calculated that 10% of society produces 50% of carbon emissions.
It doesn’t matter how rich you are, there is a limit on the amount of food you can eat. And sure, you can travel in more carbon intensive ways, but there’s still a limit on how many hours you can travel. So I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to assume that the richest are consuming far more goods with high carbon costs embedded within them than most of the rest of us. Identify those things and tax them hard.
Actually, while we’re at it, impose stringent standards on electrical goods so that only the most efficient ones can be legally imported. And, as Kevin Anderson repeatedly suggests, tighten the standards with every passing year. Then, with every drop in energy demand, we get a corresponding and opposite relief in terms of how hard and fast we need to expand and develop energy networks and infrastructures.
I’ve expanded beyond the bounds of my own topic a wee bit, but hey, it’s mine. If we want, we can be the type of example that the rest of the world will need to follow if 2 degrees of warming is going to be any kind of realisable target.
Now. China is among the Annex 2 or developing nations that need developed nations to get off carbon fast, so that they can have a bit of time to lay in the infrastructures that will increase the general well being of their people. That’s the equity that our government, through various international accords and agreements, has repeatedly signed up to. So what are the odds that China, with its huge industrial capacity, would be more than happy – even enthusiastic and eager – to help us get off carbon quicker or easier than we otherwise might without their help? I’m thinking somebody really ought to speak to the Chinese.
I did hope to end this short clutch of posts with an uplifting quote from David Lange. But it would appear that today we’re right back in that space he thought we’d left behind some years ago – somnolant and enraptured. So the best I can do is provide a reminder of where he thought we’d got to over 30 years ago in the hope it helps waken us up to reality again.
We in New Zealand, you know, used to be able to relax a bit, to be able to think that we would sit comfortably while the rest of the world seared, singed, withered. We were enraptured! And the fact is that we used to have the reputation of being some kind of an antipodean Noah’s Ark, which would from within its quite isolated, preserve, spawn a whole new world of realistic human kind. Now, the fact is that we know that that is not achievable.
Please try leave any comment on the more appropriate of the four posts. Thankyou.