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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Roger Kerr totally misses the point

In an ill-conceived and frankly idiotic press release by the New Zealand Business Round table entitled Global Warming and Kyoto Becoming Decoupled, Roger Kerr attempts to argue that the Kyoto Protocol and anything like it is fruitless.

I wonder if Roger Kerr is also dismissive of the objective of the Kyoto Protocol which is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human-caused interference with the climate system.

Early in the article Roger Kerr says:
no democratically elected government could impose large economic costs on its citizens today for minimal environmental benefits a century into the future.
I guess Roger thinks that stabilizing the global climate system is a 'minimal environmental benefit'. Or perhaps he is refering to some of the other 'minimal environment benefits' of curbing global warming? Perhaps saving the Arctic from disappearing altogether is not important to Roger Kerr. Perhaps preventing a modern mass extinction event in the next century (the last one was 65 million years ago) is not a pressing issue for Mr Kerr. Perhaps maintaining the ability for humans to live on the planet past his lifetime is uninteresting to him. Otherwise his statement makes no sense. It is true that the Kyoto Protocol is not enough to curb global warming, but that is an argument that we need to do much more than Kyoto, not less.

I would guess that many democratically elected governments would impose large economic costs on its citizens today in aid of:

* Saving the Arctic from disappearing completely.
* Maintaining a sustainable environment for our children and grandchildren.
* Preventing large rises in the ocean levels.
* Preventing further increases in fires, droughts and flash floods in Europe and around the world.
* Prevented global warming from contributing to the extinction of many of the worlds plants and animals.

I would certainly vote for a government that wanted to do those things.

Roger Kerr goes on to say:
A report for the Greenhouse Policy Coalition by economic consultancy firm Castalia released this week makes it clear that it will be impossible to meet our Kyoto targets without causing unacceptable economic hardship.
What hardship is unacceptable given the potential consequences of unchecked climate change? I assume he is worried that he might have to settle for one latte a day rather than two? It seems that the smallest reduction in the amount of spare change in Roger's pocket would be totally unacceptable, even if saving the planet is the cause. Does Mr Kerr hope that by ignoring climate change it will go away? Maybe an old man who doesn't care about future generations can make that case, but I sure can't.

Turning to the newly elected New Zealand government and the agreement between the Labour party and its minority supporters, Roger Kerr crows:
Especially pleasing is the provision in the agreement with United Future that 'a new cost benefit analysis of the proposal to introduce a carbon tax as part of our Kyoto obligations will be conducted and no legislation will be introduced before the analysis is completed.'
Sorry Roger, but in any reasonable cost-benefit analysis, I suspect the cost of a few shiny dollars will be slightly outweighed by the long term benefit of saving the planet from being flushed down the toilet. How do you put a cost on our planet anyway? These money-worriers have to realize that the planet is not their personal port-a-loo. Someone has to clean up around here and for too long economists have been neglecting to notice that the planet is small and we only have one of them! If you want a worthwhile read, that uncovers the nonsense of doing a cost-benefit analysis of climate change, look no futher than here.


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