Car sales, Professor Tol and the latest IPCC report

‘Car sales at a 10 year high’. That’s the bad news. But Professor Richard Tol, in refusing to endorse the latest IPCC warnings, accepts that climate change must be addressed.
In case my links don’t work (I still don’t understand these things) the Financial Times today reported:
“UK car sales hit a 10-year high in March, as breakneck demand in the fastest-growing major market in Europe showed no signs of slowing down.”
Earlier in the week a controversy blew up because Professor Tol, professor at the University of Sussex and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and a member of the IPCC since 1994, asked his name to be removed from the latest IPCC findings on the grounds that they were ‘too alarmist’.
The FT followed up the report on Professor Tol’s request with two letters from scientists with qualifications comparable to his:
pointing out for example:
“The core problem is that we are deeply unsure of the relationship between high greenhouse gas concentrations and eventual high temperature changes like 4C or 6C (or possibly higher). And we are even more unsure about the relationship between high temperature changes and future climate-change damages, or how to discount these future damages into today’s values.”
“Climate change, in the end, is a risk management problem. A lot of it has to do with buying insurance against worst-case outcomes. Far from declaring the notion of existential risk “laughable,” as Dr Tol does, we should focus seriously on these high-impact events to help drive our decisions.”
(Apologies to the FT for my difficulty with links).
But even before I had the benefit of informed comment, I was appalled by Professor Tol seeing climate change and urban pollution as separate issues, giving the latter as a reason for not paying immediate attention to the former. Both are the consequence of expanding economic activity heedless of ecological consequences.
Which brings me back to the item with which I started. It is just one prime example of how the world works at present. The dominant, unquestoned paradigm is still economic growth. Dr Gernot Wagner, Senior Economist, Environmental Defence Fund, and Professor Martin Weitzman, of Harvard University, whose letter I have quoted, believe that carbon emissions need to be curbed as a matter of urgency. The problem is not just the ‘Capitalists’, as some assert. How many of the populace at large would agree with my take on the car sales news? But at a pragmatic level, I agree with the anti-Capitalists that the ‘wealth producers’ are also the main producers of carbon emissions. I have suggested in previous blog posts that the Citizens’ Basic Income, first as a thought experiment, but as soon as possible a reality, will enable the general population to see the wisdom in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If Dr Wagner and Professor Weitzman are right, just not increasing emissions may not be enough. But I can see it from the point of view of those who must be pleased, even relieved at Professor Tol’s intervention. This party-pooping has got to stop.
But Professor Tol closes his remarks with the observation:
“None of this is to say that climate change is not a problem that needs to be solved. We cannot let the planet grow warmer and warmer. It will take decades at least before carbon-neutral technologies saturate the market. We had better start now.”
I have envisaged in previous blog posts that the future political fault line will shift from issues of sharing, which the Citizens’ Basic Income can de-fuse, to one where one side fears that the benefits of economc growth may not merely be outweighed by the problems it causes, it may actually be dangerous, and the other side remains confident that technology will always come up with a solution. The crucial difference will be that the optimists – even car manufacturers and purchasers – accept that the technology must come first. The Citizens’ Basic Income does not just de-fuse inequality, it allows the absence of growth to be feasible whenever it is necessary.
That an apologist for complacency includes such a caveat brings this paradigm shift a little closer.

2 responses to “Car sales, Professor Tol and the latest IPCC report

  1. This is to assure you that your links work insofar as they take you to the correct article at the FT. However, you are required to register with all your employment information, a password, your email, your postcode etc. in order to read 8 articles a month for free before you can actually read the article. If you do not have a UK postcode it is impossible to register. Very frustrating…. Since I believe information should be free, if this were my blog, I would copy and past the entire (expletive deleted) article on the site.

    • Thanks for the advice. however, I pay an annual fee to receive FT Alerts. The problem is once I have copied an alert into my hard disc, it only allows me to read ‘8 articles a month’. I can still access it by using my password etc, but I assume that anyone trying to access that link cannot do so.

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