In a recent podcast, psychologist/behavioral economist/advertising guru Rory Sutherland outlined what he sees as the most effective strategy of climate change mitigation.
In short, Sutherland argues that the only way to persuade people to save the planet is by making climate-friendly behavior “cool.”
Imagine stepping out of a restaurant onto the sidewalk after having dinner with friends. Since traffic on the road is heavy, the dynamic curbs automatically move back several feet to open up another lane. You approach a bus stop and get onto an electric, driverless bus. On the way home, streetlights illuminate the road as the bus approaches them, automatically switching off as it passes. During the ride, stationary cameras as well as drones monitor the road to detect any threats to safety. After the bus finishes its shift, it plugs into a charging station where its battery is used to store electricity generated from solar and wind. This is the vision of smart cities that some firms and municipalities anticipate in the coming decades. Continue reading
Ideally, people would care about the catastrophic potential of global warming.
Ideally, people would act on what they say they believe.
Polling data indicate that people care about climate change. According to a 2018 survey, 61% of Americans say that the US government should be doing “a lot more” to combat climate change. “A lot more”. So that means they’re willing to pay a lot more, right? Give up a lot more? In economic terms, these ideas are synonymous.
But if you dig through that survey a bit further, you’ll find the following sentence:
“That said, three-quarters of Americans express concern that efforts to address the issue will raise prices on things they buy and just two in 10 are very confident that those efforts in fact would reduce global warming.”
So we’re back to square one. Global warming: big problem. But people don’t want to change their behavior to solve it.
Some believe that climate activism can encourage others to go green. Here’s why that’s misguided. Continue reading
The most worthless climate policy is one that generates a lot of public debate, imposes serious costs on consumers and businesses, but ultimately, doesn’t put a dent in global emissions.
A great example is the Paris Agreement of 2015. World leaders got together and decided (again) that, yes, we should do something about climate change. Based on the science, we should not exceed 2 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. OK. So what did they do? All participating nations drew up non-binding, “nationally determined contributions”, which are basically emissions reductions goals by a certain year. And if certain nations don’t meet their goals? They should be “named and shamed” by the rest of the world. In summary, the media made a big deal about an expensive and publicly-funded government summit while oil and gas companies continued their assault on the atmosphere. There wasn’t even any agreed upon policy. Ultimately, the US (historically the most egregious polluter) dropped out of the deal less than two years later. See what I mean by worthless?
The only way climate policy can be effective is with border carbon adjustments, and this post explains why.