“Is this destruction and poisoning of the natural world, this trampling of human rights, the legacy that climate campaigners want to leave the world? Is this really the only ethical way to deal with the question of global warming? Is it even ethical at all? … A public debate on the damage being done by climate change policy is long overdue.”
At the heart of much policy to deal with climate change lies an ethical approach to the question of intergenerational equity, namely that current generations should avoid passing costs onto future ones, who can play no part in the decisions. In fact it has been said that this is the only ethical way to deal with global warming, although this is not true – professional economists have identified several alternatives.
Working within this ethical framework, governments have taken expensive policy steps to prevent the costs of climate change falling on future generations, for example by fixing energy markets in favour of renewables or by instituting schemes to cap and trade carbon emissions.
As shown in my new study for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, there has been an unfortunate and bewildering array of unintended consequences that refute the ‘ethical’ label for the framework:
• clearing of rainforests
• human rights abuses
• hunger and starvation
• destruction of valued landscapes
• slaughter of wildlife
• transfers of wealth from poor to rich
• fuel poverty and death
• destruction of jobs
• higher-than-necessary carbon emissions.
In view of the damage done by this ‘ethical’ approach this report calls for a public debate on alternative approaches to intergenerational equity and for an end to the measures that are currently being used to address it.
A review of climate policies indicates that market “fixing” has had many consequences that one can only hope its architects did not intended.
As rainforests are cleared to make way for biofuels, their inhabitants evicted from their ancestral lands, as land is diverted from food to energy production, as hunger grips the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world, as havoc is wrought on the countryside and its wildlife, as money is handed to big business, as the old and less well-off worry about their ability to pay their energy bills, those whose work has been behind the change in approach to climate change must surely have pause for thought.
Is this destruction and poisoning of the natural world, this trampling of human rights, the legacy that climate campaigners want to leave the world? Is this really the only ethical way to deal with the question of global warming? Is it even ethical at all?
As we saw at the start of this report, there are other approaches to intergenerational equity that would lead to profoundly different policy responses, responses that would avoid the damage being visited upon the poor of the world and improving the lives of everyone.
With all the unintended consequences of government policy on view, and with new, lower estimates of the likely extent of global warming now appearing every year, the time is ripe for a reassessment.
A public debate on the damage being done by climate change policy is long overdue.