Monday, November 25, 2019

The Joy of Transition

Big thanks to Joel Pett

It is now clear that the world is about to make a transition from a carbon-based economy to a renewable energy based economy. This is a big challenge. France has had one year of rioting which had many causes, but was initially sparked by rising costs of fuel and basic provisions. 

We need to show that the transition away from fossil fuels has many positive characteristics above and beyond the fact that it will enable our children to avoid the living hell of a +3 degrees Celsius world in 2100. See this short video, or this detailed text to see what +3C would look line.

So how do we make the transition without a French-style response?

Here are five simple, brief points that are needed to help us to make the historic change in a rational way:

1.  Government needs to explain what it is doing and why it is doing it. This immediately runs into a problem because deniers of man made climate change (anthropogenic climate change AGW), although defeated scientifically, and marginalised from public discourse, are still active, and will still do their best to slow down the transition. The best response is to simply tell them their hypothesis, that we can continue to change the greenhouse effect with impunity, has been disproven, and refer them to a single authoritative website that lays out the disproof.

Some newspapers may still give space to AGW deniers. Government may need to bring in laws to prevent newspapers from publishing false statements, and must be ready to apply the law fairly but rigorously. One of the simplest mechanisms is that corrections must be given the same prominence as the original false statement.

It is vital that Government presents its economic actions in terms of its being based on the No Free Lunch principle. A good place to start here is with air travel. People need to know that airline fuel is not taxed, and as soon as the fuel is taxed, both as a normal commodity and with a carbon tax, airline tickets will jump up in price. There will be a further hike when the extra damage caused by emissions at height are applied to airlines. Then there will be a health levy applied to airlines to pay for human infectious diseases contracted in airlines. Then there will be levies to cover plant diseases that are spread around the globe by air travel. Finally, a frequent flier levy imposed on the handful of  frequent fliers who cause most of the pollution from aircraft should make air travel considerably more expensive.

The sixteen (16) largest ships emit as much sulphur dioxide as the world's entire fleet of motor traffic cars and vans. Aircraft and ships can both save significant amounts of fuel by going 5-10% more slowly.  This is a simple measure that can reduce CO2 emissions with very little impact on ordinary people.

2.  Government needs to lead with a carrot rather than a stick. For instance, it needs at least to start to insulate the nation's housing stock before putting up fuel prices. It needs to make public transport cheaper than the fuel costs of private cars before it starts putting up petrol prices. Likewise, it needs to start to make buses more frequent, and bus stops more convenient.

3. We need to show that the transition will benefit the majority, not just in the future, but now.
The Green New Deal will eliminate all unemployment except necessary structural unemployment (which is essentially, people who are between jobs). This in itself will help to reduce inequality, which is the cause of most social problems.

The swiftest and most cost-effective way to get people moving out of unemployment into constructive green work is through the Green Wage Subsidy.

There are huge opportunities to renew manufacturing industries in renewable energy and energy storage.

It is important to understand that the Green Economy covers not just energy and pollution, but satisfying all human needs, so includes health, education and caring services.

4.  To pay for the cost of the transition, the whole world needs to get together and stop tax evasion and close tax havens. Remember that the transition has to be a global project, and every country will benefit by not having wealth leaching out from the community of the nation into private accounts in  tax havens.

5.  We can take comfort from the fact that human beings are social animals, and we can manage with all manner of adversity if everyone is in the same boat. In the 1939-45 War Against Fascism, any grumbling was met with the comment "There is a war on, you know".

This is a very important point. For instance, if we are told that we are going to use our car very much less, and walk, cycle or take public transport instead, our minds immediately present an image of difficulty, because public transport at present is expensive and infrequent. What we have got to grasp is that with the transition, public transport will be different. The roads will be clearer, so buses can go more quickly. Buses will be more frequent, and will have more diverse routes. If you miss one bus, there will be another along in five minutes. In the country, you will be able to phone a flexible route minibus to come and collect you. It is vital that this boost to public transport is made to happen before the screws begin to be applied to the motor car.

Air pollution will drop dramatically as the internal combustion engine goes into decline. Parents of asthmatic children will be among the first to notice this, as will respiratory and cardiac departments of hospitals, who should notice their workload lifting.

The NHS will also notice an uplift in the general health of the nation, as exercise through walking, running and cycling becomes more prevalent.

These are just a few salient points. There are literally thousands of changes, both small and large, that we will all be making. Many will involve increased cooperation, which in itself involves a better social life for all, which in turn means more health for all.

The tide is turning. We have no choice but to change from a carbon based economy to solar based economy. The opposition from the fossil companies and their stooges will continue, and they will do their very best to make the transition seem harder. It is our job to envision the positive side of the new way of living that is coming to us.

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