Home Climate Change That Green Recovery Ain't A'Comin'

That Green Recovery Ain’t A’Comin’



There are many people who would use these current economic events as the entryway to a properly – by their desires – organised economy. The problem with this only being that the majority of people don’t agree with them:

People are planning to drive and fly more in future than they did before the coronavirus pandemic, a survey suggests, even though the overwhelming majority accept human responsibility for the climate crisis.

People like flying and driving. This is, of course, the base climate change problem in the first place. We like doing the things which lead to emissions. If we didn’t then there wouldn’t be the emissions as there wouldn’t be the activity – thus no problem.

This then poses that conceptual problem. How much should people be able to do what they want when their doing so harms others in the future? It may well be, for example, that I like swinging my fist but there is a certain amount of other peoples’ nose that rightly limits my freedom to do so.

With climate change, as with other slightly vague – vague in the sense of being able to attribute effect upon one person directly to the cause of the one other person – and large scale effects. We have to fall back to that utilitarian calculation of the greatest good of the greatest number. That is, if the benefits of the action are greater than the costs then it should still go ahead, even though there are such costs.

Say, the use of a gallon of petrol causes a reduction in the maize crop of 5 kg in some foreign field in the year 2050. I don;t say that’s actually trackable but just take it as a useful working assumption to follow the logic. A use of a gallon of petrol is justified if the benefit is greater than that loss of 5 kg of maize in 30 years.

OK, some calculations need to be done. What’s the net present value of that 5kg? The Stern Review deals with that. Maybe rightly or wrongly but we’ve a discount rate at least. We can make assumptions about how much maize is per kg (50 cents? A buck> Summat). We can also make some sorts of assumptions about the value right now of the activity.

A gallon used to get me fresh bread for my lunchtime sandwich might not be worth that future cost. A gallon used to take a pre-eclampsic woman for her magnesium injection, thereby saving two lives, might well be. But whose valuations do we take here?

The base assumption is that valuations, that utility gained from an action, are always resident in the person taking the action. Utility is personal. We doing the thing decide what the value of the thing being done is. So, now we want to balance that valuation by us now with that cost in the future. We know the cost in the future, we know the net present value of it. So, if we add that to the costs of taking the action then we’re done.

The people acting now are considering the costs in the future against their current benefits because those costs are, through the carbon tax, included in their decision making process. Cool we’re done, we now have the optimal amount of climate change that maximises human utility over time.

We already have the appropriate taxes on fuel use in the UK at least. Fuel duty and Air Passenger Duty are above the correct Stern levels in fact. So, we’re done.

As it turns out we the peeps are entirely happy with there being rather more climate change than some think we ought to have. The correct answer to which is that we are already done here, we do have the correct, Stern complaint, mechanism in place and we the peeps get to decide from thereon. Bugger the greenies in fact.

The apparent disconnect between beliefs and actions raises fears that without strong political intervention, these actions could undermine efforts to meet the targets set in the Paris agreement and hopes of a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Sadly, that’s not what they’re suggesting. Instead we must be forced into a diminution of human utility because the ecofascists aren’t prepared to follow the science here. But then that just brings us back to the usual observation – this all really isn’t about the science, is it?



  1. May I be the first to say that the more petrol I burn the happier plants are going to be in 2050?

    The issue is still due diligence. If you want me to change my life completely, prove your assertion. Account for climate change BEFORE fossil fuels. Explain the mechanism whereby the planet is supposed to warm up and show it by means of experiment, not unopposed supposition.

    And forget carbon tax, it is a tool of the enemies of mankind.

  2. One correction is in order, I believe. The calculation should be the net present value of the maize multiplied by the probability that the theory is correct. Or, preferably, the sum of a series of calculations involving the probabilities.

  3. @ Esteban
    The 5kg should be the “expectation” of the effect on the yield of maize: the weighted average, using probability of outcomes as the weights, of all possibilities of changes in the maize yield. Tim is (or should be) factoring the probabilities into producing the figure of 5kg.

  4. The “green recovery” in employment *is* going to come because too many political establishments have decided that it will and us peons are going to have to pay for it. Mostly by forfeiting a significant slice of our life savings but probably a few with their lives as Grenfell Tower is no more likely to be the last than Lakanal was.
    In theory the government could pass a law requiring everyone to wear (preferably shapeless) woolly sweaters to keep us warm in winter so we could reduce oil & gas imports and CO2 emissions but the feminists won’t tolerate it. So HMG will force private individuals to spend £billions on insulation.
    In theory we could demand that China reduces its emissions per head to UK levels before we waste any more money on CO2 reduction but it won’t happen and if it did China would simply lie as it usually does.
    In theory public transport could become so efficient and reliable that most of us would prefer it to the hassle of driving and consequently would be economic at fares that were lower than the cost of driving and paying parking charges for one-person-per-car levels. but ASLEF/RMT will prevent it getting within sight let alone shouting distance.

  5. As usual I point out any carbon tax is a heap of ordure because ” in the UK at least. Fuel duty and Air Passenger Duty are above the correct Stern levels in fact. ” A carbon tax will never bear any relationship with the carbon cost of climate change. Because a government will always set any tax at the level where the screams resulting from the pips being squeezed are at their maximum acceptable volume.

  6. Air Passenger Duty are above the correct Stern levels in fact.

    I’m surprised by this (but probably because I’ve been greenwashed). I knew it was true for car, bus and coach travel (though not, I believe, for trains given the government subsidies). I hadn’t really considered ferries or cruise liners. However, air travel surprises me.

    Could our host, or anyone else helpful, point me in the direction of the proof of this for my education and aso that i can explain to others in future please?


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expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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