Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t James Delingpole – Alice Bows-Larkin has given a TED talk, which outlines her plan for “saving” the environment from a 4c temperature rise. The gist of her idea seems to be that developed countries need to dramatically reduce their output, while developing countries raise theirs, so everyone gets a “fair” share of a smaller pie.
How deep a cut are we talking about?
So that poses very significant challenges for wealthy nations. Because according to our research, if you’re in a country where per capita emissions are really high — so North America, Europe, Australia — emissions reductions of the order of 10 percent per year, and starting immediately, will be required for a good chance of avoiding the two-degree target. Let me just put that into context. The economist Nicholas Stern said that emission reductions of more than one percent per year had only ever been associated with economic recession or upheaval. So this poses huge challenges for the issue of economic growth, because if we have our high carbon infrastructure in place, it means that if our economies grow, then so do our emissions. So I’d just like to take a quote from a paper by myself and Kevin Anderson back in 2011 where we said that to avoid the two-degree framing of dangerous climate change, economic growth needs to be exchanged at least temporarily for a period of planned austerity in wealthy nations.
Why do I think this plan for aggressive CO2 emission cuts amounts to economic ruin? Lets think about what 10% per year actually means.
Imagine this reduction as slices taken away from a 5 day working week. I’m going to assume for the purpose of this calculation, that emissions are a proxy for economic activity.
In the first year, not so bad – its like leaving work every week on Friday at lunchtime. It might be uncomfortable, but a lot of people in developed countries probably have the spare financial capacity, to absorb a 10% cut in income.
By year 3, things get unpleasant. By now you are only working;
(1 – 0.10)3 years * 5 days = 3.5 days per week.
More than an quarter of your income has gone. Bills are getting tough to pay, you spend long hours in the Supermarket aisles agonising over your grocery basket.
By year 10, things are desperate. By then you are only working;
(1 – 0.10)10 years * 5 days = 1.7 days per week. 66% of your income is gone. Your mortgage if you owe money on your house is in arrears. Debt collectors are calling every other day, demanding money you don’t have. All you have to look forward to is more hopelessness and despair.
OK, so you’ve lost most of your income – but working 1.7 days per week, you would get plenty of time off, right? Wrong. The reality is you would probably still have to work your normal 5 day week. What is being degraded is not the number of hours you have to work, but the economic return those hours generate for you and your employer. Your 5 days of effort now only returns 1.7 days worth of the spending power, in terms of what you earned before the cuts started. Your employer’s profits have also been slashed – they simply can’t pay you any more, even if they wanted to.
Even at 34% of your original income, you probably still have more spending power than many people in the third world. The cuts would have to continue.
Of course, most people would probably be worse off than my simple calculation predicts. I doubt very much whether the green elite would give up their frequent flights to climate conferences, and other perks. So if the national pie in your country is shrinking, and the greens keep the full portion of their slice, your slice gets smaller even faster.
If alarmists are right about the rate of climate change, which by any reasonable evaluation of the skill of climate models is very doubtful, is all this hardship really a price worth paying, to prevent a few extra days of pleasant sunny weather every year?