The Dim-Post

February 26, 2016

Notes on environmentalism and political economy and growth

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:26 pm

ACT has decided they’re environmentalists. Which, great! I suppose. (This feels very research-group driven, doesn’t it. Like, ACT paid someone to find out which demographics liked David Seymour, and it turned out to be younger voters, who also care about the environment, and so ACT now cares about the environment.) But, anyway, I wanted to make one point:

“The worst environmental disasters occurred in the Soviet Union, basically because there is nobody who owns property saying, ‘Hey, if you pollute this you are going to devalue my property,'” Mr Seymour told the Herald.

The worst environmental disaster – by an incomprehensible magnitude – is climate change, which is mostly coming from the large capitalist economies and intensifies as developing countries adopt industrial capitalism. But if you look at this list of historical environmental disasters you see a bunch of them happened in socialist or communist economies -Chernobyl, the Aral sea, etc – but also a bunch of them happened in capitalist economies. And, if the Cold War turned out differently there would still be socialised coal power stations and countless socialised cars spewing out carbon and heating the planet. Neither system deals well with environmental externalities.

One of the biggest political and environmental books of the last few years has been Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, in which Klein argues that the main driver of climate change is free market capitalism, and the solution to the problem of how to stop climate change is that we get rid of capitalism. (She is super-vague about what we should replace it with: ‘creative communities’ is about as specific as it gets). The core of her argument is that capitalism is a system that is based on the premise of infinite growth, but we live on a planet of finite resources. This rapidly increasing growth is consuming those resources, and, she says, climate change is the most catastrophic symptom of this phenomenon.

It’s a very popular argument among environmental circles, but I have huge problems with Klein’s hypothesis. Firstly, if we wave a wand and get rid of capitalism overnight we still have a planet with seven billion people on it, almost all of whom want to live lives made easier by technologies which are fueled by the consumption/emission of carbon. But, I think Klein would reply, at least we wouldn’t have a system that kept driving all those people to more and more growth and consumption.

That’s where she really loses me. If we no longer had free markets we’d still have the basic economic problems of scarcity and allocation. We’d need to figure out who got what, and why. That’s a political problem and, presuming that Klein’s creative communities have democracy, its leaders or communal decision making process or whatever would need to find political solutions to it, or get replaced by other leaders who could. And the most peaceful, politically palatable solution to that problem is always going to be economic growth. Everyone gets a little bit more! Obviously in late capitalism this solution is horribly broken – but if Klein has figured out a way for democracies to peacefully resolve demand and allocation without growth then she forgets to mention it. Otherwise we’d just have ‘creative communities’ chasing growth instead of corporations and, if they couldn’t deliver it, their polities demanding political economies that could. Like, say, free market capitalism.

I sometimes wonder if Thatcher’s mantra ‘There Is No Alternative’ has been too successful, and that people think the current, very dysfunctional form of capitalism is the only model available. But there’s nothing inevitable or even logical about the current settings of capitalism as its practiced in the anglosphere, or anywhere else. There’s no reason we tax income rather than carbon, say; or make it illegal to pour poison in the water supply but legal and even profitable to operate a coal power plant. They’re arbitrary political settings which can be changed. It is going to be really tough to change capitalism so that it is compatible with the environment. But that challenge is nothing compared to the task of overthrowing capitalism, which, even if it was somehow achieved, wouldn’t actually solve the original problem.

78 Comments »

  1. Rodney Hide had a degree in some sort of environmental science. Differing views on the means doesn’t mean differing views on the desirable outcome.

    I’m not at all convinced that climate change is the biggest environmental problem facing the world. Water, overpopulation, in south east Asia particulate pollution – those are all actually killing people. Climate change won’t be killing anyone for 50 years, if then.

    And I think the mantra of “infinite growth is impossible with finite resources” is grossly simplified. Firstly, infinite only if projected infinitely into the future. If we assume that the universe has a limited life, or that the Earth has a limited life (when the sun goes supernova), or that the species has a limited life (somewhat before the sun goes super nova), or that the species only needs to worry about that period in which we’re a single planet species (hopefully shorter still), then suddenly steady growth doesn’t lead to infinite resource consumption any more. Still large resource consumption, but not infinite.

    Next, we need to consider that not all growth consumes physical resources. When I build a new iPhone app and people buy it, there are no physical resources consumed. To the extent that our quality of life is increasingly driven by services rather than products, and even more, by virtual services, then in fact there is no resource constraint at all. Some would argue that as we all become fatter and lazier, and eventually sit on our couches connected to our VR headsets living a virtual life, plumbed into some sort of crazy recycling devices that feeds us our own poo in reconstituted form (plus a little bit of sugar or something), then we’ll consume very few physical resources at all.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

  2. Oh, and I forgot to mention Klein. I think her history suggests that her main aim is the overthrow of capitalism, and climate change is just the latest vehicle through which she advocates that. I personally suspect this is true of many who claim to be environmentalists (particularly in the Greens – hence the prevalence of people on the far left in that party). On that basis I would be much more interested in a market-based environmentalism than an environmentalism that appears to take as a starting premise the belief that we should all be poorer and/or there should be fewer of us.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

  3. I forgot to mention Klein. I think her history suggests that her main aim is the overthrow of capitalism

    Klein is actually really upfront about this in the introduction to her book in which she explains that she didn’t care about climate change until she realised its a great pretext for abolishing capitalism.

    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2016 @ 1:53 pm

  4. Only semi-related but you should look up the concepts of “circular economies” and “cradle-to-cradle” systems. There’s work underway to make capitalism more sustainable. Slowly slowly catchy monkey

    Comment by gasmark — February 26, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

  5. “And I think the mantra of “infinite growth is impossible with finite resources” is grossly simplified. Firstly, infinite only if projected infinitely into the future. If we assume that the universe has a limited life, or that the Earth has a limited life (when the sun goes supernova), or that the species has a limited life (somewhat before the sun goes super nova), or that the species only needs to worry about that period in which we’re a single planet species (hopefully shorter still), then suddenly steady growth doesn’t lead to infinite resource consumption any more. Still large resource consumption, but not infinite.”

    So only infinite for the lifespan of our species. That has to be the most ridiculous caveat ever.

    Comment by James — February 26, 2016 @ 2:19 pm

  6. @paulL – the iPhone app isn’t a good example, as it relies on both the production of the devices, which are very resource intensive to produce and extract the components needed, and the other externalities like energy to run the servers and provide the bandwidth.

    Comment by awbraae — February 26, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

  7. Yeah, I struggle with Klein a bit, for much the same reasons. Her critiques are great, I loved No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, but the fact that she is putting up no really detailed alternatives is a huge problem. At least Stiglitz followed up ‘Globalisation and its Discontents’ with ‘Making Globalisation Work’ where he actually detailed positive policy proposals (market based ones that used the mechanisms of capitalism positively – *gasp*).
    Glad, to see Act getting on board with Climate Change, even if it is mostly spin. This need not be a partisan issue, in some ways it is just a technical problem to solve. The Greens proposal last election for a carbon tax and dividend that puts a price on an undesirable externality and recycles the revenue as a personal tax cut (boosing human capital, something we want to invest more in) this is not an inherently left wing policy at all, it got labelled as such because it came from the Greens, but it is a very centrist market based policy that would not look out of place coming from folks like the Act Party market-technocrat geek wing (if there are enough people left in Act that it could be considered to have wings anymore)…
    Its a few years back now but the Economist had a great peice a few years back called “The real wealth of nations” about how our economic decisions would be very different if we spent as much time accurately measuring wealth (such as natural assets and human capital) as we do measuring growth.

    Comment by Richard29 — February 26, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

  8. I loved No Logo and The Shock Doctrine

    Me too. There’s lots of good journalism in this book but she’s stuck with a ridiculous thesis, and there are all these caveats and acknowledgements all the way through it which makes me think she kind of knew that.

    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

  9. Climate change won’t be killing anyone for 50 years, if then.

    Arguably is killing people right now if you take into account increases in extreme weather events.

    Comment by izogi — February 26, 2016 @ 2:40 pm

  10. yeah, those heatwaves and storms kill a lot of people, and they’re getting worse

    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  11. Another salient point Danyl, is the disappearance of capitalism won’t stop large scale biome change. Political systems have very little effect on what people want to eat. Some of the worst damage done in recent years has also been done in the name of environmentalism in the pursuit of biofuels.

    Interestingly capitalism can be a also be a force for good. I think this is the news segment http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201790709/sawmillers-worried-as-foreign-companies-plunder-forests which contains the sawmillers’ representative saying that Maori forest owners are looking at not replanting pines and instead planting manuka for honey and as a nursery crop for native timber.

    Comment by Robert Singers — February 26, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

  12. @PaulL
    “Climate change won’t be killing anyone for 50 years”
    Sorry Paul but that is just plain wrong.
    There are a bunch of grieving families as near as Fiji and as far away as New Orleans who can attest to the fact that an increase in severe storms (as climate change is already causing) does kill people.
    Now we can’t point to any specific death from any specific storm and say that it was climate change in the same way we can’t say that a specific cigarette killed grandma. But scientists can say with a high degree of certainty that global warming is causing more severe storms, floods and heatwaves and all of those things kill people (sometimes in large numbers). So yes, climate change is killing people. It’ll be killing more people in 50 years but it is killing plenty today.

    Comment by Richard29 — February 26, 2016 @ 2:49 pm

  13. Doh… ok somebody wrote in a sentence what I took three paragraphs to say…

    Comment by Richard29 — February 26, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

  14. “If we no longer had free markets…”
    But, Danyl, we don’t have free markets NOW…😉

    Comment by NZJon — February 26, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

  15. @James: no. Not infinite for any fixed timeframe.

    The human race has existed for around 100,000 years (give or take), if we went the same again (unlikely, but who knows), then growth wouldn’t be infinite over that time.

    The estimated life of the earth (in terms of it being habitable) is somewhere between 1 billion and 4 billion years, near as I can tell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_of_the_Earth#Loss_of_oceans. Growth is not infinite over that timeframe.

    In short, the calculation that growth is infinite is that “if growth continues at 3.5% per annum FOR EVER then growth would be infinite”. When I change that to “if growth continues at 3.5% FOR THE LIFE OF THE UNIVERSE” then growth is no longer infinite, it is finite and calculable.

    In short, people are misusing maths to make a political point. Of course anything projected infinitely will become infinite. But that is kind of like begging the question – you’ve embedded the infinite bit into your assumption, it’s not the growth rate that’s causing it. There’s no reason to assume growth would continue for ever – the universe will end, the human race will die out, the sun will explode. As soon as you predict growth to any of those events, it’s no longer infinite.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

  16. @awbraae: yes, I need the iPhone. But whether I have 20 apps or 200 on my iPhone, it doesn’t consume more resources. The example isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely very different from the perception that we’d need to strip mine the earth for every last atom of metal in order to continue growing.

    @Richard29: last I saw the US hadn’t had any of the top category (category 1?) cyclones made landfall for a very extended period, and that was quite unusual. There’s definitely increasing damage from storms, but that’s largely due to people building expensive houses in places prone to storms – the increase is almost all down to land use and not to a change in storm intensity. I’m pretty sure even the IPCC say that the link between warming and extreme weather events is unproven. And fundamentally, if we cared about people being killed by storms then providing assistance to those people most at risk (overwhelmingly very poor people in the third world living in places like river deltas) would be a way better idea than attempting to halt climate change (something we’re failing at). And the best assistance for most of those people would be free trade…..

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

  17. @PaulL: Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re arguing, apart from semantics.

    The whole “infinite growth” thing refers to how capitalism is built upon always growing, which often means using up resources of which there is a limited amount (like oil, for example). This causes a lot of problems and pain for certain people. These resources will run out long before the end of the humanity or the universe, so I don’t see the point of arguing infinite doesn’t technically mean infinite here. Maybe “indefinite” is a better word.

    The debate is about is there a better economic system that doesn’t rely on relentless growth no matter the outcomes. Can we manage limited resources better, is there solutions to short-term chasing of higher stock prices, etc.

    Comment by James — February 26, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

  18. The free market and capitalism are two separate things that don’t have to go together. One is a method of exchange and the other a method of funding. The free market can be retained while replacing capitalism with employee ownership and raising funds through specialised/local banks and bonds instead of shares.

    I do think that the government should own all infrastructure systems though (infrastructure being where having two of something is obviously inefficient), while everything else is part of a regulated free market.

    Comment by Korakys — February 26, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

  19. @james: I think it’s important. Because as soon as you move from something that is definitionally impossible “infinite growth within finite resources” to saying “if we keep growing at 3% per annum then every year we’ll use 3% more resources, and compounded over 100 years that means we’ll use 19 times as many resources in 100 years as today.” Because for that latter statement people will say:
    – what resources exactly?
    – how much do we have today?
    – what about recycling?
    – what about substitution

    And I’ve turned this into a classic Malthusian discussion, and we all know how they work out. Not to spoil anything for you, but the modern world hasn’t ever run out of any physical resource, we’ve substituted to another resource as soon as something starts getting expensive. Because human ingenuity is close to infinite.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

  20. The IPCC have several interesting things to say about extreme weather events. On the one hand:

    “Major impacts of climate change on human health are likely to occur via changes in the magnitude and frequency of extreme events (see Table 3-10), which trigger a natural disaster or emergency. In developed countries, emergency preparedness has decreased the total number of tropical cyclone-related deaths (see Section 7.2.2). However, in developed countries, studies indicate an increasing trend in the number and impacts (deaths, injuries, economic losses) of all types of natural disasters (IFRC, 1998; Munich Re, 1999). ”

    But on the other:

    “… there is no clear evidence that sustained or worldwide changes in extreme events have occurred in the past few decades.”

    and in the IPCC report specifically on extreme weather events:

    “There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including
    increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led
    to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures at the global scale. There is medium confidence
    that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is
    likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme coastal high water due to an increase in
    mean sea level. The uncertainties in the historical tropical cyclone records, the incomplete understanding of the physical
    mechanisms linking tropical cyclone metrics to climate change, and the degree of tropical cyclone variability provide
    only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic
    influences.”

    So the jury is out on cyclones, but heavy rain and coastal flooding events seem to have a clearer picture of an increasing trend.

    Comment by Dr Foster — February 26, 2016 @ 4:25 pm

  21. The core of her argument is that capitalism is a system that is based on the premise of infinite growth, but we live on a planet of finite resources.

    This is a line that annoys the living shit out of me when talking to “anti-GDP” or “assumption-of-infinite-growth” folks. They simply don’t, or willfully won’t, understand that GDP is not limited to the accumulation of more stuff.

    GDP is also about access to and provision of new services, advancements in technology, and improvements in efficiency. Yes, our resources are planet-wide finite, but our ability to innovate and improve the lives of people are literally unbounded. This is what drives modern GDP.

    Comment by Phil — February 26, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

  22. @Dr Foster
    Thanks for doing the cyclone research that I considered but couldn’t be bothered.
    What does the IPCC say about heat waves? I’m really curious to know whether PaulL thinks that heating the planet won’t cause more heatwaves or that heatwaves don’t kill people:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Indian_heat_wave
    Or maybe he’ll just politely acknowledge that his initial statement about climate change not causing deaths is incorrect.

    Comment by Richard29 — February 26, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

  23. @Phil “They simply don’t, or willfully won’t, understand that GDP is not limited to the accumulation of more stuff.

    Except that the bits they are “anti” about are the bits related to accumulation of stuff. Which is also the bits that majority, mainstream capitalism typically aspires too as well.

    Comment by RJL — February 26, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

  24. “..There are a bunch of grieving families as near as Fiji and as far away as New Orleans who can attest to the fact that an increase in severe storms (as climate change is already causing) does kill people.”

    The Met Service does say “No increase in Tropical Cyclone numbers has been observed in the South Pacific over the last few decades since reliable satellite data have been available.” http://blog.metservice.com/node/1048
    Even their year by year numbers roughly indicate the last 10 years has less of these major systems than say the mid 70s to mid 80s. But of course as noted in other parts of the world the number of cyclonic storms are not good indicators of climate change per say, unlike droughts.

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — February 26, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

  25. @Richard29: far more people die from cold than from heat. Do we count the savings on people freezing to death when there’s less freezing weather? Do we deal in aggregate deaths (some on, some off), or do we only count one side?

    Is there a clear tie from climate change to an increase in heat waves that materially changes the number of deaths from heat waves?

    People dying from heat waves are largely a problem with them being unprepared for heat, rather than the fact that there’s heat. The same weather in other locations doesn’t cause deaths. To put it another way, their problem was poverty, not the heat wave, although it would also be nice if there hadn’t been a heat wave. I think it would be better to lift those people out of poverty (something capitalism is very good at), rather than choose a solution to climate change that results in them being or remaining poor, but with some small reduction in the incidence of heat waves. Because being wealthier helps with more things than just heat waves.

    If it makes you happier I’ll adjust my statement to one that a lot of people are currently dying from pollution, lack of access to clean water, and a myriad of other environmental ills. A small number of people are possibly dying from the effects of climate change, although there is no clear evidence of that. I’ll also add that we have a clear and known path that would result in people getting access to clean water, or resolving some of those other environmental ills, and almost not clear or plausible path to reducing the extent of climate change, despite spending a literal fortune on it.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 5:17 pm

  26. …people think the current, very dysfunctional form of capitalism is the only model available.

    There is, I believe, macro reasoning for balancing government budgets in the service of environmentalism. What government borrowing does is take money from the future and use it today, which is fundamentally a waste of the future.

    This removal of government debt could be achieved either by ACToid small government low taxation or old school socialist high taxation. Either solution is valid and is a better environmental fit than the borrow and spend policies of the centrist norm.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 26, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

  27. Klein is actually really upfront about this in the introduction to her book in which she explains that she didn’t care about climate change until she realised its a great pretext for abolishing capitalism.

    Probably her publishers focus grouped her readership and found out it turned out to be younger voters, who also care about the environment.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 26, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

  28. Please note in economics productivity is defined as the ratio of output to inputs used in the production process, i.e. output per unit of input. If you can produce more outputs from same or less inputs, that’s a productivity improvement that generates growth.

    Note this view of economics on productivity is not necessarily that same as what some people attach to capitalism.

    On economics and environmental issues, it’s worth considering the strong support for pigovean taxes, including by Greg Manikew.

    On economics and policy solutions a read of concrete economics by Brad DeLong is worthwhile. Main thesis is less ideology and more pragmatic this works for now.

    Comment by WH — February 26, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

  29. OK, someone commented that a new iphone app doesn’t consume resources. Except it does – the programmer presumably ate food to gain the calories necessary to write the app, right? Which came from a fixed asset

    If we could perfectly convert solar energy…

    Comment by Early Commuter — February 26, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

  30. @PaulL
    Ok… lets call it even.😛
    You seem to acknowledge that climate caused things like heatwaves do indeed cause deaths. I was not aware of the findings about cyclones and warming so I learned something today.
    Your arguments for alleviating poverty and disease are as noble as they are irrelevant. I don’t think anybody is arguing that it is not possible to do both, its a matter of political will not money. We could feed the world with what the world spends on pizza, porn and video games in a year (warning: made up statistic – but probably still accurate). Its a red herring like that awful leftist argument that John Key was totally gonna solve child poverty until he realized he’d spent everything on a flag referendum.
    The argument for adaptation rather than mitigation (or should I say Bjorn Lomborg’s argument – who you’ve read I assume) is flawed. Fine if the costs of adaptation were finite, but the earth doesn’t have some kind of correct default temperature, if we do nothing while we let the earth heat by 2 degrees and adapt then we get faced with the problem of whether to do anything to stop it heating another 2 degrees and adapting again, and another, and another until we eventually chooae mitigation. Every time we kick the can down the road the bill for adaption grows. The cheaper option is to stop the heating as early as possible, the technologies required are already well developed in a lot of areas and others are not far off, and I’m told that human ingenuity is a renewable resource😛

    Comment by Richard29 — February 26, 2016 @ 8:56 pm

  31. @Richard29: I see where you’re going. I have read Bjorn Lomborg, and I think his argument is less flawed than you suggest.

    The problem is that we’re really not sure what the accurate measure of climate sensitivity is. We know that warming has tracked below all the models for quite some time, so those models are over estimating sensitivity, even after the last IPCC report reduced the estimate of climate sensitivity quite a bit. It’s possible that we don’t have as big a issue as we thought.

    On top of that, we actually don’t have a good mechanism for reducing emissions. There’s still some low hanging fruit – some countries still subsidising fossil fuels (actually subsidising by reducing the price, not obscure claimed subsidies like the ability to write off normal business investment). That should stop. And there are barriers to using natural gas in many places, but moving from coal to natural gas has a large benefit. Some countries such as Germany have decided to close down zero carbon power plants and start up coal ones instead, which isn’t a great idea.

    Beyond that, the main thing that has been proven to reduce emissions is to have a recession (worked in Russia, Europe and America). I’m not in favour of that. I think that other than the low hanging fruit, we’re still in a place where we don’t have good ways to reduce emissions. If we did, we’d be doing it – we’re sure as hell spending a lot of money trying. Many of my friends who care deeply about the environment also drive large SUVs. They don’t really care, they just want to sound like they care.

    Whilst we’re spending all this money and attention, there are real problems we could be solving that have real solutions. We could then wait for technology to catch up to the point we can have low carbon energy without needing subsidies. It’s not that far off, and once that happens then it will sweep the market. The fact that it currently isn’t is the clearest sign that it’s not actually economic yet.

    Comment by PaulL — February 26, 2016 @ 9:29 pm

  32. I always wondered whether Klein was allowing for the carbon emissions from the civil war to abolish capitalism. Presumably she’d try to use bullets rather than flamethrowers, where possible.

    Comment by Gareth Wilson — February 26, 2016 @ 9:37 pm

  33. Thing is, it’s all about choices and consequences.

    Capitalism is best suited as a developmental economic system, something to take us from the feudal to the democratic, but it;s a horrible system if we want sustainability. It is happy to externalise/social costs and keep the profits internalised. Under capitalism,it makes economic senses to externalise costs and internalise profits, so that’s what we see.

    What we need is a system in which every single economic transaction takes into consideration the environmental, social and capital costs of the services and/or goods exchanged.

    I’m an anarchist, but not a smash-the-state-anarchist, and I want an evolved solution.

    My solution is to implement a tri-currency economic model in which each economy has currencies that represent the social, environmental and capital costs in a transaction. That would be Red, Green and Blue money, respectively. The concept is that there is no exchange between currencies, and that Red and Green represent the social and environmental costs of a good or service, and Blue value is handled by an unfettered market. Economic activity that has a high social cost will have an increased Red currency cost, and those that have a high environmental cost will have a correspondingly high Green currency cost. The Blue value is entirely up to the market, and there would be no attempts to cajole the market via triple bottom lines and the like.

    When you purchase something, you will naturally seek to minimise all three costs, and this will drive further innovation to drive the social and environmental costs down (the capital costs have a long history of being minimised via extant capitalism).

    But we would need expertise / crowd knowledge to set the Green and Red costs; it would work best if Greed/Red were subject to a decreasing supply to encourage businesses to innovate accordingly.

    This tri-currency approach neatly deals with most/all of the issues facing capitalist economies, all we have to do is recognise that the Free Market is a subsidiary tool, not the superset tool.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — February 26, 2016 @ 11:15 pm

  34. Going back to Seymour, his newfound enthusiasm for the environment may be a good thing, he seems to be an effective young fellow and may manage to score some small wins for environmental causes (other than global warning).

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — February 27, 2016 @ 12:17 am

  35. @Mikaere: 1) What’s the point of the blue currency?
    2) Are there any situations where something has environmental costs but no social costs? Given that environmental damage has no social costs, it seems all environmental costs are social costs.
    3) Similarly, it’s hard to imagine something with a social cost but no environmental cost.

    And finally, if you believe in some kind of technocratic cabal dictating currency, you’re not an anarchist.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 27, 2016 @ 2:51 am

  36. @Mikaere: What would be the point of the blue currency?

    And why separate red and green currencies? Every environmental problem also has a social impact since there can’t be society if there’s no environment.

    Surely your system would work better if we only had the green currency.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 27, 2016 @ 6:15 am

  37. So yes, climate change is killing people. It’ll be killing more people in 50 years but it is killing plenty today.

    And millions of people die each year from disease, inadequate drinking water, and lack of food.

    It’s unfortunate these deaths don’t matter so much because they weren’t caused by storms or heatwaves.

    Comment by Ross — February 27, 2016 @ 8:57 am

  38. the programmer presumably ate food to gain the calories necessary to write the app, right?

    I think you’ll find that even the unemployed eat food.🙂

    Comment by Ross — February 27, 2016 @ 9:00 am

  39. A thoughtful article that identifies main problem Green parties face in trying to attract votes.

    Comment by artcroft — February 27, 2016 @ 9:26 am

  40. I think it’s a bait and switch point from the Act guy (sorry can’t remember his name without scrolling up) – less “socialism did bad things to the environment” than in reality – the less broad the public mandate and awareness around a situation (i.e. the less democratic), the easier it is for humans to follow the natural path to let others wear the externalities. Obviously authoritarian systems enable this, but where actors in our state-capitalist-democratic systems can gain enough remove from oversight, they do it too. If the RMA got repealed without some equivalent replacement, we’d see it everywhere. We see the privatise the profits, socialise the cost element in capitalism everywhere, e.g. GFC, so it’s just not a valid point about socialism or indeed, the environment, and in trying to make it like that, the guy is just being a bit of a dick. Be interesting to see how many folk fall for the sincerity of Act here (compared to the Greens). I’m not betting against their polling going up massively to the giddy heights of say, 1.5% though.

    Comment by Joe-90 — February 27, 2016 @ 10:23 am

  41. I had the same thought when I finished reading This Changes Everything: her takedown is great, her solution is weak, vague, and unsatisfying. Like most critiques of neoliberalism actually. To be honest I’ve haven’t yet found a good and realistic alternative to neoliberalism, or capitalism more broadly, and I’ve been looking since 2009.

    I’m not actually sure there is one. Maybe there is no other option. Maybe capitalism is the best fit for human beings living in complex technological societies.

    Another possibility is that our political systems have become too decrepit, too malfunctioning, to solve massive problems like climate change. Historically speaking, change only occurs in these times when a “historical arsonist”, as Dan Carlin puts it, come in, and sweep everything away for human societies to start again: Genghis Khan, Hitler for instance. It is amusing to wonder if Trump will be the 21st century’s historical arsonist.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — February 27, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

  42. > Be interesting to see how many folk fall for the sincerity of Act here (compared to the Greens)

    Suspect it depends on whether Seymour can get any environmental runs on the board

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — February 27, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

  43. She’s does a prophet act.

    There is Problem. There is a Cause. There is a Solution. Listen to me and I’ll show you the Way. (And don’t forget to buy the book).

    Overall I think the environmental movement has had a significant positive effect. But I don’t think much good comes from trying to change people’s lifestyles with a – you’re lifestyle will destroy us all – approach. Lots of movements have tried that.

    Comment by NeilM — February 27, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

  44. @Seb: Maybe your epic quest (since 2009!) to find an alternative political system would be more successful if you spent less time listening to Dan Carlin and more time reading actual historians

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 27, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

  45. I think the argument that private property rights help to protect the environment from pollution is basically nonsense – they have the theoretical capability to protect from pollution if you have a system that makes it easy for people to take action against pollution that affects their property, but putting in place the systems to enable that is no easier than putting in place other systems for protecting the environment. Now, if he focused on the profit motive as a way of encouraging efficiency, he would have more of a point. Part of the problem in the Eastern bloc was that the pollution was worse than it would be if they used their resources efficiently, because they had no incentive to use resources efficiently.

    However, I don’t think that’s the main reason why the Eastern Bloc was so polluted. The main reason is that there was no way to hold people to account for environmental destruction, because there was no freedom of the press, no civil society, no democracy, and not much freedom to protest. But of course that e3xplanation doesn’t serve the ACT party’s purpose.

    Comment by Can of Worms, Opened — February 27, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

  46. PaulL has been giving us lots of reasons for not taking urgent action on climate change, the most convincing one of course being ” Many of my friends who care deeply about the environment also drive large SUVs.”

    Comment by Corokia — February 28, 2016 @ 8:09 am

  47. I think ACT just wants to be able to hand over some government money to rich people who want to green up some of their spare land , aka “Partnership”.

    Comment by Mike — February 28, 2016 @ 8:17 am

  48. Evolving incrementally toward a system that sees the problems addressed makes more sense. The only variable that really matter is time – do we have enough of it to evolve markets and economies in a thoughtful, considered way? Or do we need some kind of emergency phase to address the most compelling aspects of the problem in some shorter time frame and then deal incrementally afterward with the outstanding issues?

    In 1990, when climate change was first globally recognised as a risk we had loads of time. Vested interests saw to it that time has been largely wasted. The need to address the issues is becoming more pressing. When people are in a hurry they generally seek a leader and resort to compulsion. Later…..when the problem is less pressing….they may relax. But the leaders like the power so relaxing can be delayed for some years …or even decades.

    Comment by truthseekernz — February 28, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

  49. Holy crap, DM, you mean a leftie has jumped on to the cAGW bandwagon only because it supports her objective of destroying capitalism? No other lefties have done this. Oh… wait…
    It’s funny, that when folk suggest that some people’s support of the theory of cAGW is driven by their politics, they are dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Yet many of the lefties opening admit their bias, including Klien here.

    “10.yeah, those heatwaves and storms kill a lot of people, and they’re getting worse
    Comment by danylmc — February 26, 2016 @ 2:45 pm”
    “There are a bunch of grieving families as near as Fiji and as far away as New Orleans who can attest to the fact that
    an increase in severe storms (as climate change is already causing) does kill people.” Richard29 @ 12.

    Okay people, please link to data that shows that the extreme events have increased, and that deaths from natural disasters have increased.

    “The whole “infinite growth” thing refers to how capitalism is built upon always growing, which often means using up resources of which there is a limited amount (like oil, for example). ” James @ 17
    have you heard those expressions: “Coal saved the forest, oil saved the whales” and;
    “the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stone, the age of steam didn’t end because we ran out of steam”
    Most growth comes about because of innovation. Look at how we manage to feed 7 billion, when folk (cough, Paul Elrich, Club of Rome) told us we’d suffer mass starvation by now. Oh, and peak oil.

    “The free market can be retained while replacing capitalism with employee ownership and raising funds through specialised/local banks and bonds instead of shares.” Korakys @ 18
    Capitalism is a free-market in capital. When capital isn’t free to move to it’s most efficient use, neither are the assets/resources that the capital represents. Just look at Eurozone, Japan.

    Dr Foster @ 20, Google suggests that you took that text from the SPM, Summary for Policy Makers. It is the summary of the summary, of the actual assessment report.
    When you dig down into the main report, you’ll see that the uncertainty surrounding those conclusions is so high as to make them unreliable. The SPM defines “Climate Extreme” as “the
    occurrence of a value of weather or climate variable above (or below) a threshold value near the upper (or lower) ends of the range of observed values for the variable.”
    That means it includes temperature. So Heathrow Airport’s record temperature is classed as an extreme (and these temperature records are only decades long). This kind of extreme is the only observed “class” of “extreme event”
    that the IPCC concludes has occurred, due to climate change, with anything approaching certainly.
    You concede “So the jury is out on cyclones” which means that the data does not support the claim that these types of storms have increased. Therefore it is plain wrong to say that people are dying in cyclones DUE TO CAGW.
    This is in spite of governments and scientists spending a lot of money on collecting and analyzing the data.

    If GW was having an effect already, it would be supported by the data. But the only data showing an increase is temperatures. Well, up until about 1998.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 28, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

  50. Vested interests saw to it that time has been largely wasted. The need to address the issues is becoming more pressing.

    Probably, but not for those vested interests.

    I suspect this is also part of the problem; the same super-wealthy few that have captured various political systems to ensure inaction, will also ensure that everyone else bears the cost.

    It all comes down to incentives, really.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 28, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

  51. @Corokia: nope, not giving reasons for not taking action on climate change. Giving reasons why taking action on climate change hasn’t worked so far, and why I think it will probably not work in the future. The cost/benefit isn’t there.

    Comment by PaulL — February 28, 2016 @ 10:04 pm

  52. @ Paul. Some of us consider not having a liveable climate in the 2nd half of this century too big a cost to pay. Short term financial benefit to the 1% might be the reason why action hasn’t been taken so far, but doesn’t justify risking a 4 to 6 degree rise in temperature.

    Comment by Corokia — February 29, 2016 @ 7:20 am

  53. @Corokia. It’s not the 1% that are the problem (remembering that 100,000 NZers are in the top 1%, and 50% of NZers in the top 10% – so it’s yourself you’re talking about here probably). It’s that about 99% of the population don’t care enough about climate change to change their own behaviour in a meaningful way. They sort of like to talk about it, but they also like to drive their SUV and have cool houses in summer/warm houses in winter. And fly to warm places for holidays. Unless you think that behaviour’s going to change soon then we’re waiting for technological innovation to make those things less carbon emitting. All the conferences in the world won’t change that.

    Comment by PaulL — February 29, 2016 @ 7:30 am

  54. “Some of us consider not having a liveable climate in the 2nd half of this century too big a cost to pay. ”
    Gee, you’ve been reading something (the Gaurdian, perhaps) but not the IPCC reports!

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 29, 2016 @ 8:39 am

  55. Enjoying the read, DM, but have to say breaking my “don’t read the comments” rule was painful.
    Ad hominem, gentlemen, is not a good attack.
    There is no point in time, to my knowledge, when Ms Klein has not been completely transparent in her own writings, about the purpose of those writings. Perhaps you should read the book itself, not some review of it, or worse, crib notes written from the perspective of an anti-socialist bias…

    If you’re confused by the data Metservice produce around cyclones, then try NIWA, who are doing research into the warming of oceans & how that plays into the development of cyclonic systems across the Pacific (in which we swim as a landmass… )
    Then there’s the core sample research in Antarctica, being done by Peter Barrett’s Antartic Research Centre in VUW, and associated work by Ralph Chapman there in the Environmental Science Faculty.
    No, I’m not googling it for you, do your own damn literature search.

    Comment by anarkaytie — February 29, 2016 @ 9:27 am

  56. anarkaytie, work on modelling what may happen with warming oceans, is NOT the same as data on the occurrence and strength of the history of cyclones. After all, people on this thread have claimed:
    a) more people are dying,
    b) due to more occurrences of extreme weather
    c) this is caused by AGW

    If the statistics do not support either a) or b), then c) cannot be true, as least, not yet.

    I draw your attention to table 1 in the SPM for the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

    Increases in intense tropical cyclone activity: LOW CONFIDENCE that there have been long term changes; LOW CONFIDENCE of a human contribution to observed changes.

    You’d think Danyl, with his interest “in the development of algorithms and IT systems to solve problems of computational biology with an emphasis on the analysis of large-scale proteomic data-sets” would look at the data before saying “those heatwaves and storms kill a lot of people, and they’re getting worse”. Or perhaps there IS supporting data? If so, a link would be appreciated.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 29, 2016 @ 10:42 am

  57. (How do ice core samples provide data on tropical cyclones?)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 29, 2016 @ 10:44 am

  58. “Under capitalism,it makes economic senses to [a]externalise costs and [b]internalise profits, so that’s what we see.”
    Easily(ish) fixed:
    a) minimum labour standards, environmental standards, resistance of corporate welfare, cut subsidies
    b) taxes on payrolls and profits

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 29, 2016 @ 11:17 am

  59. @Clunking Fist: and resist the various calls for bailouts of companies that should be allowed to go bankrupt. Air NZ should have been allowed to go bankrupt, and the residual assets (including the brand and the bookings) bought by someone (preferably not the govt) who would continue flying it. All the shareholders would heve lost their money, and would have learned to be more careful who they elected as chairman, and what things they approved (such as buying Ansett). Same with banks and everyone else who got a bailout, same with “green industry” that is usually a vehicle for vested interests to line their pockets at taxpayer expense.

    Comment by PaulL — February 29, 2016 @ 11:46 am

  60. Under capitalism,it makes economic senses to externalise costs and internalise profits, so that’s what we see.

    That’s what we’ve seen all through human history, at least since we developed our ability to rationalise and began to grasp the concept of cause and effect.

    Comment by Phil — February 29, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

  61. @ PaulL The 1% own the mainstream media and advertising agencies and they lobby politicians worldwide to continue with business as usual.
    Its not that people don’t care, but almost all the messages they are given (by the media ) are telling them it isn’t a worry, instead there are ads for cheap flights & SUVs
    @Clunking fist. NASA and https://www.opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php

    Comment by Corokia — February 29, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

  62. @Corokia: you’re not watching the same mainstream media as I am. The mainstream media I watch could only be described as alarmist, typically reporting anything that someone claims is caused by global warming without any scepticism at all, and always reporting the most alarming scenario of any that are provided in a paper. Even with that massive push by media, the general population aren’t changing their behaviour. That suggests to me that it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

    The fact that you claim 4-6 degrees of warming indicates to me you’re also listening to that same media. The IPCC midpoint is substantially lower than that.

    Comment by PaulL — February 29, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

  63. I would have thought that the old argument, that capitalism equates to environmental pollution, is mostly a redundant argument. Given Government-imposed tax measures such as excise taxation and penalties for excessive pollution, it seems to me that the potential severity of environmental pollution is, by and large, mitigated in the context of our capitalist society and that of most other western countries. I would say that the US could still be considered an exception to this, look at how their political campaigns are funded mostly through donations by large corporations.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 29, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  64. I recall Jared Diamond in ‘Collapse’ stating that multinational corporations are now so keen to do business that their presence in some places has positive impacts on threatened ecosystems or endangered species. But of course it would be nonsense to say this is the case in each example of international financial concerns seeking to exploit or utilise a resource or place. China is now becoming more ‘capitalist’ – the environmental impacts in terms of smog-control (or lack of it) of this are up there with London in the fifties, and arguable in excess of that..

    Comment by leeharmanclark — February 29, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

  65. “…If you are going to try to go to war, or to prepare for war, in a capitalist country, you have got to let business make money out of the process or business won’t work.” – Henry L Stimson, FDR’s secretary of war in WWII.

    The first problem people seem to keep making IMHO is they anthromorphise capitalism and give it a moral force, good or bad or banal, depending on your POV. In particular, capitalisms staunchiest defenders on the right atttach all sorts of moral virtues to capitalism. But all capitalism actually is is a system that maximises the efficiency of money by always seeking the best profit. The mechanism of capitalism has no more conscious morality than th mechanism that allows a sunflower to turn to face the sun. Stimson recognised that even in the face of the mortal evil of Hitlerism businesses dedicated to capitalism would do nothing unless they could seek a profit.

    It seems to me the neoliberal view of captialism is not coolly rational as they would have you believe, but rather that of a deeply revanchist romantic view of capitalism as a moral good that, if left to it’s own devices will alwways produce the “best” outcome. This neoliberal romaticisation of capitalism is deeply irrational (actually it is quite fascistic, but we will leave that for now), which is the real reason why despite all the evidence of failure so many on the right still defend neoliberal capitalism.

    But if we were to acccept that capitalism is no more evil or immoral than a weed being allowed to take over the garden in an uncontrolled way is evil or immoral, then Stimson’s quote becomes relevant. Captialism is just a tool. There is no need to invest it with magical powers or emotional values. Then, as Deng Xiaopeng put it, it doesn’t mattter if how we deal with climate change is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it does the job.

    The second point is that modern capitalist industrial society is, in it’s current form, doomed and and an inevitable Malthusian catastrophe looms. In less than 200 years we’ve pumped 500 million years worth of stored sunlight into the atmosphere; that energy has alllowed our species to balloon by anywhere between 4-6 billion additional humans more than the planet can naturally carry in a sustainable way. Furthermore, six plus billion of us are here courtesy of a climate and ecosystem we are destroying as fast as we can. There is no going back from this. As it stands, we are heading for 6-20 degrees of climate change and a world 3-500 years from now that will be utterly devasted, where resource depletion, population collapse and mass extinctions will be our species legacy.

    We are a cultural species, unique amongst all the living being on this planet and who knows, maybe within the entire galaxy. An aspect of culture is our technology, the technology that has allowed us to get ourselves into the pretty pickle we are now in. As I said, there is no going back. We have got the tiger bu the tail and we have no choice but to seek technological solutions to the problems of technology we’ve created.

    To sum up, the ONLY hope we have of a avoiding the deep Green fantasy of population collapse and resource depletion complete with war and devastation is to let business make money out of the technological process of mitigating climate change. Give Boeing and Lockheed Martin trillions of dollars to develop the technology for a space umbrella. Pay Airbus to build aircraft that willl spray aerosols to reflect sunlight. Make mandatory the household CO2 scrubbers every home will have to purchase from Samsung or Sony. Give huge subsidies to BP and Shell to develop fusion power. Unfortunately, the only way out of the mess we’ve allowed romantic capitalism to get us into, is to use rational capitalism to get us out of it.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 1, 2016 @ 3:19 am

  66. Wow @Sanctuary, that’s an amazingly pessimistic view of the world.

    I agree with you that there’s no need to anthropomorphise capitalism, nor the market. The market is no more than people buying and selling stuff. It’s a very natural human system, every small town in the world had a market. When you hear people say “the market had the jitters today” or “the market lost confidence” what they really mean is that more people were selling than buying today. Which sounds much less scary.

    With capitalism, really it’s a combination of letting the market price things (i.e. letting people buy and sell stuff without interfering), plus the limited liability corporation. What we have in many places around the world though is more crony capitalism than capitalism – basically as govt increasingly intervenes in the market it becomes more economic to get the govt to rig things to favour you than it is to just make stuff that people want to buy. Hence the rent seeking behaviours in many large economies.

    As for your predictions on climate change….just wow. They’re way beyond the IPCCs worst case scenarios. And I note that if things were as grim as you say, there’s a quite easy solution which would be to go heavily into nuclear power plants (if we’re all doomed anyway, why not). These could easily support our current living standards, the problem is that we’ve basically regulated them out of existence.

    Comment by PaulL — March 1, 2016 @ 6:35 am

  67. Could we conceive of assisting African nations to have nuclear power – access to electricity to heat homes built using ‘technology’ to offset the many premature deaths from smoke inhalation from open fires? How about employing ‘technology’ to provide clean drinking water? We flush more of it away at one sitting then many African and other nations’ populations get to consume in a day. The Malthusian epic is in fact offset by Western reluctance to share its technology with less fortunate nations. This is the real prolem that I see with ‘capitalism’ but we ar all complicit is many ways. We export ecological and human rights abuses to other nations so we can enjoy cheap shit, daily. A couple of photo-attractive Americans die of a virus every seven years or so, – it’s a ‘pandemic’ Millions die of Malaria every year, or contract AIDS but that’s well just hard luck. It could be argued that Global warming is the least of many peoples’ problems and our attitude towards technology reeks of sanctimony (and a certain amount of racism), when it apparently comes with a western selfish attitude towards not sharing technology with certain people, because it might not be good for ‘the planet’, or the people aren’t ‘developed’ sufficiently to ‘use’ it responsibly.

    It’s just a view…. start the car…

    Comment by leeharmanclark — March 1, 2016 @ 7:28 am

  68. It is supposed to be 6-10 degrees, not 20!

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 1, 2016 @ 9:14 am

  69. One other thing. Nuclear will never be able replace, well, anything. Current proven reserves of uranium will last about 300 years at current consumption. New discoveries may double that. So at current consumption, 600:years max.nuclear energy provides about 10% of the world’s electricity. Thus, if nuclear replaced even half of current consumption we would run out of uranium in 100 years. I guess we could use fast breeder reactors, which would give us 3000-6000 years of power at 100% of world generation, but then even country in the world would have lots and lots of weapon grade plutonium….

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 1, 2016 @ 9:24 am

  70. Nuclear will never be able replace, well, anything.

    But as part of long-term transition strategy to renewables, it has a lot going for it.

    Comment by Phil — March 1, 2016 @ 11:17 am

  71. “China is now becoming more ‘capitalist’ – the environmental impacts in terms of smog-control (or lack of it) of this are up there with London in the fifties, and arguable in excess of that..” leekarmanclark@64
    That’s not a problem of capitalism: it’s a democracy v dictatorship problem. If China had a functioning market in politicians, you would presume citizens would dump leaders who failed to do anything about the pollution.

    Sanc, good points about capitalism being amoral. But “if left to it’s own devices will always produce the “best” outcome” in terms of resource allocation.
    “even in the face of the mortal evil of Hitlerism businesses dedicated to capitalism would do nothing unless they could seek a profit” It isn’t the role of business to fight Hitler: the role of business is to produce goods and services that are demanded, at the most cost effective way. If the government says “you’re forbidden from trading with Germany” then business will comply, or risk penalties. Just like business complies with the ban on class A drugs, executing lazy workers, etc.

    “4-6 billion additional humans more than the planet can naturally carry in a sustainable way” Can you link to something scientific that shows how this can be true? Remember: we are supposed to have run out of food and oil by now, yet collectively, we consume more of both everyday.

    “Current proven reserves of uranium will last about 300 years at current consumption” Actually, it’s more like 90 years. But in 90 years time, it could still be 90 years.
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-resources/supply-of-uranium.aspx
    You may want to have a bit of a read-up on the latest developments in nuclear energy. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600757/china-could-have-a-meltdown-proof-nuclear-reactor-next-year/
    Have you confused reserves and resources?
    http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Issues/AlaskaCoal/CoalTerminology.html
    Not all the resources have been discovered (which is why JK wanted to spend taxpayers money on surveying our seas for oil) and new technology (like horizontal drilling, fracking, etc.) reduces the cost of recovery, boosting the % of the resource that can be exploited, boosting “reserves”. And rising prices boosts reserves as well, similar to how booming dairy prices brought marginal land into production.

    Long before we run out of uranium, we will have moved on to something else. Just like the iron age didn’t end because we ran out of iron, etc.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 1, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

  72. @Sanctuary: that just tells me you didn’t keep up with the tech. 🙂 We can use molten salt reactors, and in particular thorium molten salt reactors. They consume the 90% of uranium (233 was it? Can’t remember) that current reactors don’t use. We could power the world for about 10,000 years with that technology, and it is proven in that a test reactor was running in the 70s. It didn’t get progressed exactly because it didn’t create plutonium, and at that time reactors were all about making weapons.

    Comment by PaulL — March 1, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

  73. Refer this wikipedia article. It looks to have been the subject of some debate. There are some clear evangalists for this technology, and also some groups who either a) want to protect the existing light water reactor model, or b) don’t like nuclear at all, and there is quite a debate about whether all the claims stack up. But interesting nonetheless. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor. You can find plenty of other sources by googling LFTR.

    Comment by PaulL — March 1, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

  74. Surely the most likely outcome of climate change for the First World is that everything just gets steadily and persistently worse but not quite fast enough that anybody can really ‘feel’ it, and by 2050 or so there’s a sort of hazy cultural memory that the weather used to be better and there used to be a bit more snow around and the Third World probably wasn’t quite such an apocalyptic megadeath-ridden hellscape, for ever and ever, amen.

    Comment by Trouble Man — March 1, 2016 @ 5:33 pm

  75. @Trouble Man

    I’d take that any day over a full out nuclear war, major meteorite strike, or supervolcano eruption

    Comment by Antoine — March 2, 2016 @ 3:48 am

  76. I put it to y’all that thinking about overthrowing capitalism is not a particularly productive occupation for any modern day New Zealander.

    ‘Thinking about how to live well (*) in the capitalistic world we live in’ is more to the point.

    A.

    (*) Insert whatever definition of ‘well’ floats your boat

    Comment by Antoine — March 2, 2016 @ 3:50 am

  77. Antoine – I agree.

    The trouble is ‘well’ as a subjective measure for most people continues to slowly but inexorably erode, while the tiny few make out like bandits.

    It’s not a new thing of course but it is depressing.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 2, 2016 @ 8:50 am

  78. “erode” indeed.
    Perhaps it’s time to review a flat rate of tax and a citizen salary? Anyone?
    One thing that “harms” NZ workers, is ongoing immigration. After all, 97% of economists agree that immigration helps reduce wage inflation. And yet the parties of the workers, all seem to be enthusiastic about immigration. Perhaps if our benefit system didn’t trap people on welfare, we could source fruit pickers from within NZ. Look at how there’s quite good labourforce participation from superannuitants.
    “Beneficiaries” could pick up what ever casual work came their way, without it impacting on their entitlement: this is the citizen salary model. I only wish I had the time (and skills) to cost it, develop ideas around all the likely scenarios (recent immigrants entitlement, starting age, etc.).

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 4, 2016 @ 10:25 am


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