The latest and greatest report on climate change insists that we’re all going to have to become very poor indeed:
In order to save the planet from catastrophic climate change, Americans will have to cut their energy use by more than 90 percent and families of four should live in housing no larger than 640 square feet. That’s at least according to a team of European researchers led by University of Leeds sustainability researcher Jefim Vogel. In their new study, “Socio-economic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use,” in Global Environmental Change, they calculate that public transportation should account for most travel. Travel should, in any case, be limited to between 3,000 to 10,000 miles per person annually.
Vogel and his colleagues set themselves the goal of figuring out how to “provide sufficient need satisfaction at much lower, ecologically sustainable levels of energy use.” Referencing earlier sustainability studies they argue that human needs are sufficiently satisfied when each person has access to the energy equivalent of 7,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per capita. That is about how much energy the average Bolivian uses. Currently, Americans use about 80,000 kWh annually per capita. With respect to transportation and physical mobility, the average person would be limited to using the energy equivalent of 16–40 gallons of gasoline per year. People are assumed to take one short- to medium-haul airplane trip every three years or so.
This is, of course, idiocy. As to why it is the core mistake is here:
Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C
The reason this is a mistake is because it’s not accounting for how the 1.5 oC target was set.
OK, now lie a little bit and disregard the fact that it’s an entirely political target. The original one was 3 oC and everyone then noted that we could reach that with a twiddle or two and we didn’t have to destroy capitalism. That wouldn’t do so the political target was lowered to 2 oC, that way we get to destroy capitalism. As it turned out – and the point is explicit in the original IPCC economic models – that’s also possible without destroying capitalism and that’s not the political point here at all. So lower to the target again so that we get to destroy capitalism.
Quite why anyone thinks we’re going to constrain resource use by abandoning our most efficient known economic system is unknown but there we are.
Leave all that aside and concentrate upon the 1.5 oC. Why isn’t it nothing? Why is it that we’re not to have ICE engines after 2030 instead of this afternoon? Because it’s entirely obvious that the costs of abandoning emissions this afternoon is higher than any good it can possibly bring. Billions would die by next Friday if we did abandon this whole energy driven civilisation thing overnight. For those of us not members of the Optimum Population Trust this is too high a price to pay for saving Flipper’s likely end being broiled over the fumes of the last ice floe.
Now leave aside the actual price we’re willing to bear and just concentrate upon the logic. There’s some good that will come from lowering, preventing, halting, climate change. There’s some cost involved in doing so. We are talking here about real costs, not pieces of paper. Our task is to maximise the utility of humans over time. So we are talking about number of babies cooed at, portions of Mom’s apple pie and the ability of jus’ plain folks to live their lives as they wish. Uncrushed by an unfairly and grossly polluted atmosphere and all that.
The correct temperature target is the one which achieves this. Balances those costs of life forgone against lives saved to be lived well.
OK, so, given that the IPCC and COP whichever it was got their temperature target right by correctly balancing the benefits of climate change diminution as against the costs of that diminution what happens when someone comes along and says “Hey, Folks! The costs have changed!”?
Correct, the temperature target changes. Because the benefits of hitting that target are still the same but the costs have risen. Therefore costs no longer balance benefits and it is the target that needs to change.
So, what are they doing here? They’re telling us that the costs have risen but also that we should still have the same target. Therefore they are wrong.
Just as an aside, a by the way, this is indeed the logic in the Stern Review, this is not something being made up by a plutocratic lackey running dog like myself. This is simply the correct logic being deployed here. We really are trying to maximise human utility over time and when the costs of a target change then it’s the target which should.
So, you know, bugger solving climate change then.
It gets worse, of course it does. Because here they flip over into lunacy:
The carbon or environmental intensities of life expectancy, understood as measures of unsustainability, increase with income inequality (Jorgenson, 2015), urbanisation (McGee et al., 2017) and world society integration (Givens, 2017).
They say that emissions get worse in a more globalised world (“world society integration”). Which is of course entirely contrary to the basic economic models which underpin the entirety of the IPCC’s work. In all of the modelling that has been done it is clear and obvious that local production and consumption, as opposed to globalised of both, increases emissions for any specific standard of living.
This being entirely obvious – doing stuff where it’s most efficient to do it is going to reduce resource use, isn’t it?
So, they’re ignorant of the basics of the subject they wish to speak about and loons to boot.
Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK
We’re paying for this shit too. That attractions of getting medieval on the halls of academe increase by the day.