Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO of the Global Institute For Tomorrow, has an article in today’s Huffington Post titled “4 Myths About How To Deal With Climate Change Effectively.”
As I have come to expect from Huffpo, the article has more than 4 myths of its own. In fact, readers are liable to come away from this article knowing less about fighting climate change than before they clicked on the link.
The article starts well, with the first myth it seeks to debunk being “We Can Firmly Connect Global Action On Emissions To A Temperature Target.” Mr. Nair rightly says that we cannot. I wonder if he mentioned that at Paris, however.
He’s right about Myth No. 2, “Resolving Climate Change Is Ultimately A Question Of Money.” It isn’t. However, here he starts to introduce his own flavor of mythology, writing that fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5.3 trillion, a wild-eyed guess of some eco-lobbyists that tacks on almost $5 trillion to the real figure as damages caused by fossil fuels to the environment that should in the activists’ eyes be labeled a subsidy.
This is nonsense, of course. There are negative externalities connected to the use of fossil fuels and not just from CO2 emissions. But for the lobbyist’s exercise to have any meaning at all, these harms would have to be balanced against the benefits of fossil fuels. The resulting figure would probably net out as a benefit for us all (or why would we still be using them?). In truth, most of what are counted as subsidies for fossil fuel consist of artificially low prices for petrol at the gas stations of poor countries like Iran and Venezuela. This should be a non-issue.
Worse yet, Mr. Nair comes perilously close to supporting the activists’ active campaign against adaptation, remarking that “Helping poor countries adapt to climate change is worthwhile, but this is justified by humanitarian and justice concerns and not by reduced emissions.”
What we are seeking to do is to improve the condition of humanity. To the extent that fighting climate change does this we should all climb on board the train. But the poor people of the world are facing death, disease and further immiseration from today’s climate, not to mention tomorrow’s. It is a justifiably correct use of our money and time to help them deal with the storms, floods and droughts of today–and to build in a margin to deal with the climate of the future.
Future generations cannot help today’s poor. That is our responsibility. After (or concurrently–we should also fight climate change) that is addressed we can give a thought for the future–not before.
Nair’s Third Myth is that “Technology Will Provide A Solution,” where he writes, “Despite what many hope, it is not clear what technology the developed world has to offer. ” This is laughably false. Technology has already offered multiple solutions, ranging from nuclear power to cloud seeding. If Mr. Nair wishes to reject the solutions on offer he is certainly free to, but France has shown the world that a modern country with an excellent standard of living can provide more than adequate energy (they export their leftover energy to Italy) without relying on fossil fuels. Mr. Nair is conducting an exercise in myth making here, not myth busting.
Nair’s Myth number 4 is that ‘The World Can Decouple Economic Growth From The Use Of Fossil Fuels.” Again, Nair is creating not destroying a myth. Economic growth is not ‘coupled’ to fossil fuel usage. Fossil fuels have contributed greatly to increased productivity which has led to monumental economic growth. But economies have grown before without fossil fuels and again, France’s GDP grew very strongly during the period when they were divorcing themselves from fossil fuel dependency.
Nair is actually trying to decouple economic growth from prosperity, writing “So long as we understand economic growth as our only indicator of prosperity, the world will never have a specific plan to reduce emissions.”
Nair is creating another myth. Nobody is saying that economic growth is our only indicator of prosperity. There are numerous other indicators, from HDI to the Happiness Index. What has proven true, however, is that economic growth is a good proxy for human prosperity. When it moves up, so does prosperity however it is measured.
So when Nair writes, ” Creating a different indicator — one that is not reliant on a free ride on carbon — is the challenge that the developing world must meet,” he is creating yet another myth. Different indicators exist and are used.
And why should he limit their applicability to the developing world? Those emitting the most include exactly one developing country–India. If what Nair was saying was actually true, the indicators would be more useful in the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
The world has numerous, very specific, plans for reducing emissions. COP21 celebrated the diversity of these very specific plans for reducing emissions and a number of countries, including the USA, have implemented them. Successfully.
Mr. Nair’s mythmaking is far more pernicious than the myths he is trying to destroy. Huffington Post does no favor to its readers or to those anywhere trying to put together a sane strategy to fight climate change by publishing this drivel.