Azara Blog: Someone argues against carbon trading

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Date published: 2006/11/12

Kevin Smith (from some project called Carbon Trade Watch, from some organisation called Transnational Institute) on the BBC says:

In 1992, an infamous leaked memo from Lawrence Summers, who was at the time Chief Economist of the World Bank, stated that "the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that".

The recently released Stern Review on climate change, written by a man who occupied the same position at the World Bank from 2000 to 2003, applies a similar sort of free market environmentalism to climate change.

Sir Nicholas Stern argues that the cost-effectiveness of making emissions reductions is the most important factor, advocating mechanisms such as carbon pricing and carbon trading.

While dumping toxic waste in the global South might look like a great idea from the perspective of the market, it ignores the glaringly obvious fact of it being hugely unfair on those getting dumped upon.

In a similar way, Stern's cost-benefit analysis reduces important debates about the complex issue of climate change down to a discussion about numbers and graphs that ignores unquantifiable variables such as human lives lost, species extinction and widespread social upheaval.
Such schemes allow us to sidestep the most fundamentally effective response to climate change that we can take, which is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. This is by no means an easy proposition for our heavily fossil fuel dependent society; however, we all know it is precisely what is needed.

What incentive is there to start making these costly, long-term changes when you can simply purchase cheaper, short-term carbon credits?
Effective action on climate change involves demanding, adopting and supporting policies that reduce emissions at source as opposed to offsetting or trading.

Carbon trading isn't an effective response; emissions have to be reduced across the board without elaborate get-out clauses for the biggest polluters.

Well it's good to see at least one person willing to argue that carbon trading might not be sensible. On the other hand his proposed solution, to stop the world, is not very practical. He might not have any ambitions in life other than to live and then die (and not consume any resources of any kind), but most people do. And the planet can perfectly cope even if fossil fuel is used, the question is how much, and that partly relates to the fundamental source of this problem, and most other problems, which is that there are too many people on the planet. All these academic so-called environmentalists would contribute much more to the world if they actually did some science and engineering (e.g. figuring out how to make solar cells more efficient) rather than just write diatribes against modern life.

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