Mark Jaccard outlines challenges of climate change action in new book, Deluding Ourselves to Disaster

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Industry also exploited an anti-establishment bias. It’s easier to convince people to disbelieve science if they see the IPCC as a conspiracy-like establishment that forces climate scientists to conform to a pre-established agenda.  

Anti-government bias is exploited by portraying solutions as excessive regulation, higher taxes, and social engineering. Industry also created alternative images of fossil fuels through green-washing labels like “natural gas” and “ethical oil.”

Jaccard encouraged the audience to consider the delusions of those who want to address climate change, such as the expectation that they will be readily understood. He recommends the book Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking substance in an age of style by Randy Olson.

Jaccard took on some common arguments against taking action on climate change.

Argument 1: What about the Chinese?

Jaccard has put this question before high school students and the answer is always the same. Rich countries go first with cutting their emissions thus lowering the costs of CO2 free technologies and fuels. Soon they provide subsidies and apply trade measures if necessary to ensure universal compliance with global effort.

For example, if the US implements cap and trade and other countries don’t have similar systems within the decade, they could be required to pay to trade with the US. “We can’t hold climate change hostage to global equity,” Jaccard said.

Argument 2: Canada’s emissions are only 2 per cent of the world total.

Canada takes great pride in its contribution to World War 2. If you compare the number of Canadian troops to those of its all its allies, it was only 2 per cent.

Argument 3:We need the economic growth and jobs.

Elementary school students have figured out the answer to this one: what happens when your job creation strategy destroys the planet? Low carbon growth will be more energy secure, cleaner, safer quieter and more bio diverse. It’s the growth story of the future because high carbon growth will destroy itself. Economic growth was used to justify the harm inherent in child labour and slavery as well.

Argument 4: How do you tell regions that are rich in fossil fuels that they can’t use them?

You don’t. If you tell them they are done for, they will put all the money and resources they have into subverting your goal. You tell them that if they can figure out a way to use it without destroying the planet, go to it.

Argument 5: We don’t need a climate policy.

Corporate social responsibility can’t solve climate because businesses ultimately compete on basis of bottom line and fossil fuels are cheap. Green consumism doesn’t work because all human expenditures involve energy use at some stage. The number of energy using devices has grown from 15 in 1976  to 45 in 2006. Energy efficiency is cheap, but usually more expensive than burning fossil fuels. Peak oil belies the plentitude of fossil fuels in earth’s crust and human ingenuity in extracting it. Carbon offsets give a false sense of progress because people keep emitting carbon anyway.

Argument 6: Climate policies can’t work

We have 20 years of evidence that information and subsidies don’t work. Jaccard advocates regulations as having the greatest potential to create the most efficient pricing mechanisms. Successful environmental regulations phased out acid rain, smog, lead, and among other polluttants.

What to do

Jaccard returned to the central problem: What is your moral duty as a citizen if independent evidence consistently show your government is not telling the truth and the implications are disastrous? What is the right thing to be doing with your life right now?

He reviewed the options presented by social networking campaigns, boycotts, and postponing high emission projects through legal action. He sees “NIMBY” opposition as a double-edged sword, because it has been used to defeat renewable energy as well as high emissions projects. Also, climate destructive projects can just moved, as could be the case if the Keystone pipeline is rerouted to avoid the Ogallala aquifer.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you....

The final slide suggests that economists like Jaccard are joining scientists like James Hansen in the concluding that civil disobedience can be the most rational response under present circumstances.   


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