Matthew Taylor at the RSA has recently argued that the Green movement is its own worst enemy.
This is so, he says, because in holding that ‘every little helps’ there has been a lack of policy focus on global warming solutions. This exposes a ‘scattershot’ approach to global warming (my term, not his) that has been taken so far. The One Hundred Ways to Save The Planet Right Now tendency leads to information and decision overload – “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” (Simon 1971:40).
In place of this, Taylor proposes a simple idea:
fix one policy area at a time, then move on to the next.
It’s both inspired and inspiring. The questions begged, of course, are: Who draws up the priority list? and What should be on it? Taylor thinks home energy efficiency is an obvious candidate, but who decides, and how, that it deserves top priority?
Perhaps in this time of electronic connectedness there is scope for a ‘people’s list’ – climate change action priorities voted directly by the public. In Australia the online pressure group Get Up! worked out its (admittedly more varied) priorities for 2009 in this way and it was a very successful process.
A shortlist of actions could then be vetted by ‘experts’ who could advise on the quantitative effectiveness of the measures proposed (eg. in tonnes of CO2 removed from atmosphere).
Perhaps then the most credible handful of contenders could go into a TV showdown, as did competitors for National Lottery Funding. It could be called ‘Britain’s Got the CO2 Factor’, or else, ‘So You Think You Can Cool’.
In some ways, perhaps ironically, the proposal to prioritise is similar to that of climate change sceptic Bjorn Lomborg, who has been arguing for policies that actually fix something specific like Malaria or HIV/AIDS, rather than the too general (and, for him, possibly spurious) Global Warming. Without agreeing in any way with Lomborg’s climate scepticism, a ranking process, or something like it may well have potential for climate change action. His latest thinking is that top of the priority list should be:
“spending 0.05% of GDP on research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies.”
This would enable ‘reasonably priced alternative energy technologies’ to come into common use ‘within the next 20 to 40 years’.
It does appear, though, that Lomborg thinks thas measure alone might ‘fix’ global warming – and do it more effectively than seeking to limit CO2 emissions by means of regulation or trading regimes.
I’m going to put some thought to my personal climate change desiderata. I wonder what your next action list would look like.