Waving, not drowning (yet)

I found myself hesitating over reporting a further attempt on the part of Oxfam to draw attention to the increasing plight of populations in poorer countries faced with the early effects of climate change. In this case it is Oxfam New Zealand’s Wave of Change campaign, highlighting climate impacts in the Pacific region.

Why was I hesitating?  Fear of overdoing a theme? Recognition that there is not absolute scientific certainty that a particular event can be attributed to climate change? Caution about compassion fatigue? Foreseeing reactions from some that this is just another begging strategy devised by the pesky poor? A general feeling of hopelessness about the likelihood of rich nations taking a sustained interest in the plight of others, even when their responsibility for that plight is established? Not wanting to be seen as a bleeding heart liberal?


All these elements, and others, were discernible when I interrogated myself. None of them justified ignoring the Oxfam news release sitting in my inbox.  All the more when I read George Monbiot’s latest Guardian article. His argument is more generally political than climate change related, and I don’t propose discussing it here in those wider terms. But his conclusion was entirely relevant to this post:

“People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see.”

So let me write briefly about the Wave of Change campaign. It’s timed as the Cancun conference comes into view.  There appears to be some slight hope that Cancun will see advance on the transfer of finance and technology from developed countries to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Oxfam intends that New Zealand politicians and negotiators are well aware of the seriousness of the need of our Pacific Island neighbours in this respect. The declaration opening the short video on their website:

“People of the Pacific are among those to be hit first and worst by climate change.”

This isn’t just about the future danger of islands disappearing as a result of sea level rise, as Oxfam’s Coordinator Anne-Marie Mujica pointed out when launching the campaign:

“Right now people are struggling with salt poisoning their staple food crops and polluting their drinking water.”

A Pacific Conference of Churches spokesperson underlines this when he  speaks on the video of the increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather patterns.

“Salt water is now seeping into the food crops and the drinking water. Tropical storms are more fierce.”

One woman puts it simply:

“Seawater is coming. Every high tide I have water in my front yard.”

The campaign seeks a fair deal. Two Pacific Islanders on the video say it:

“Our Pacific urgently requires a fair deal on climate change.”

“We need to protect our Pacific regions. We need to speak out loud and clear for a fair and ambitious deal on climate change.”

Fair deal is the right note to strike since issues of justice are clearly involved when the effects of  emissions are felt by those least responsible for them.   One woman speaker says:

“Climate change is not just about science; climate change is about human rights.”

These are island voices. People alarmed by what they see happening where they live and asking for attention and fair treatment. Auckland is the most appropriate city in the developed world for their voice to be raised loud and clear.

Awareness-raising events taking place around Auckland this week are detailed on this Facebook page.

One of the campaign activities suggested is writing to the NZ Prime Minister. He should be open to the plea. New Zealand has signed up to the Copenhagen Accord and consequently no doubt expects to make a proportionate contribution to the funding targets outlined in that Accord to assist developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Last word to Oxfam’s Mujica:

“New Zealand may be a small country, but we’re a big player in the international climate talks. Our negotiators lead, or are members of, important working groups. It’s time to show the government that its citizens want them to do more to protect our Pacific.”

95 thoughts on “Waving, not drowning (yet)”

  1. The adoption of a 2 degree target by NZ is a policy stance that our government knows will see some Pacific island states disappear. At the same time, we have no policy for accepting people from these states as climate refugees.

    For me, these facts combined get uncomfortably close to the UN definition of genocide. It requires an intent to, among other things, “deliberately inflict on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

    There is an element of intent here in that NZ is party to an emissions ‘pact’ that has the explicit result that nations will disappear, without providing a means for their people to relocate.

    So there is a strong argument for creating the legal category of climate refugees. Perhaps an official information request for work the government is doing on this?

    1. I agree Tom.

      Interestingly your quoted passage “deliberately inflict on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” would – if I am allowed to replace ‘group’ with ‘humanity’ for a moment – classify a continuation of our global exponential growth paradigm without a sustainable base of resources and with predictable catastrophic consequences count as ‘genocide’ with all of us sitting in the sinking ship.

      As it must be obvious to anybody with a brain that the thick end when the train hits the wall will be truly catastrophic for a very large number of our kind….

    2. Genocide???

      What planet are you on Tom?

      Genocide is a deliberate policy to wipe out a group of people. It is not achieved by policy omission.

      I have no problem looking to accomodate the people who will have their land impacted by climate change in the South Pacific. The maximum amount, (at the very high end of the scale), would be in the range of a hundred thousand or so. We have more than enough room for them here.

      1. By the end of this century my grand children will have to deal with hundreds of millions of climate refugees from rising sea levels, especially Asia.
        The other effects of AGW, especially shrinking agricultural output will likely make the casualties of WW II look like a walk in the park.
        We do seem to live on different planets.

  2. @Gosman “What planet are you on Tom?”

    When are jokers like you going to get the fact that we have only got one planet? We are wrecking this planet at an increasing rate – for what? money? Private profit?

    I’d rather have a home by the sea, not a home taken by the sea.

    1. Wow, what an interesting, if banal, T-shirt slogan you have thought up there.

      How about this in relation to Earthquakes – ‘I’d rather have a house on flat earth, not a house flattened by the Earth’?

      Societies that didn’t believe in private profit like the former Soviet union seemed to be as equally good, (if not more so), at destoying natural environments as Capitalist ones. It has nothing to do with money or profits.

      1. That is a rather stupid remark Gosman.
        Nobody wants a rerun of inefficient central planing ala Soviet style.

        But perhaps you can agree that we need to find an economic model that allows us to run a steady state economy that is fair, inspired, inventive, motivating and meaningful and will not allow private interests in growth to destroy the planet.
        We have not found this model. Our current economic system that is predicated on 3 to 4% annual growth is doomed. There is no process in nature that grows exponentially forever.
        We have this one planet and we already are well into overshoot territory with our current level of consumption of non-renewable resources.
        I challenge you to come up with any reasonable idea as how humanity can carry on growing consumption and population and aspire to allow all humans to live in dignity and with some of the comforts you enjoy today!

        1. “I challenge you to come up with any reasonable idea as how humanity can carry on growing consumption and population and aspire to allow all humans to live in dignity and with some of the comforts you enjoy today!”
          Realistically, it can’t be done. With a substantially reduced global population we could face a lifestyle somewhere between a stone-age maori and a medieval peasant, but without any prospect of a future industrial revolution because we’ve already blown those resources. We will have a lot of knowledge they didn’t have, but no Internet to share it. Don’t throw that old Encyclopedia Britannica away.
          Nearly all of our modern technology will be dog-tucker, it’s a huge interlocking tower built on foundations dependent on cheap energy, something we’ll run out of sooner rather than later.

            1. I’m deluded for thinking Kiwiiano’s vision of a future where everything reverts back to somewhere between a stone-age maori and a medieval peasant is funny?

              I’d suggest you need a serious reality check if you think that.

            2. Gosman have a read of this:


              Now I am a bit more hopeful than Duncan but I am afraid that his arguments are very hard to refute.

              There is a real chance that Duncan’s vision of the future is closer to reality than most people realize.

              You might also want to check out Richard Heinberg and his Peak Everything talk, its on youtube.

              In any case you are in good company. Most people are blissfully unaware of these issues.

            3. Wacky maybe, Gosman, but perhaps you could read this from Energy Bulletin and report back:
              Energy and food constraints will collapse global economic recovery
              We may rail against the regulators, politicians, and others who failed to understand and manage past risks, but we are just as culpable for our failure to engage with severe, well-signposted, imminent ones. Impassioned arguments over bank nationalisation, battered government finances and the austerity-stimulus debate consume us today, but in reality may be little more than a Lilliputian tussle over the fag-end of our globalised economy. But it seems we cannot see our own predicament…..
              read on at http://tinyurl.com/2eqogxn

            4. Newsflash to the Droid toaster network.
              Standby for incoming steganography:

              This paper has taken up Samuelson’s [1979] invitation to verify empirically his claim that all the regression of the Cobb-Douglas [1928] production function does is to reproduce the income accounting identity according to which value added equals the sum of the wage bill plus total profits. We conclude that Samuelson was right, and believe that this argument has very serious implications for today’s work in macroeconomics.

          1. Every generation populations grow, but every generation income per person also grows. This idea that we need to reduce population is unfounded and extremely dangerous.

            Cobb & Douglas (1928) show production (and income) is based on the level of factors per person and the efficiency of the use of those factors. Solow (1957) expands this to show the rate of increase in production per person is based on capital per person change and technology change. So income per person is based on capital (physical, natural and human (education)) per person and the level of technology.

            Reducing populations would increase the amount of capital per person and have a short term increase in income per person. However the long term effect would likely be a lower rate of technological change, as there are less innovators at any one time. So the long term effect would likely be a reduction in income per person.

            1. You live in the early 20th century economics. All that old theory is totally toast.
              These people never factored in the truism that we only have one planet and are running down non-renewable resources.
              Economic theory in a resource constrained world is entirely different from that in an open universe where we would planet hop ala Star Trek. But that won’t happen as I can tell you with confidence. I have a degree in Physics.

              Your arguments about growth are equally absurd as that of a yeast bug in a brewing vet proclaiming the virtues of endless exponential growth to his mates….!

            2. Can you show me the papers showing Solow and Cobb-Douglas are toast please? This is news to me.

            3. My main point is that reducing populations is a short term solution to growth. Ie killing everyone on the island means you get more of tonights feast, but you are stuffed when it comes to preparing a feed for tomorrow.

            4. Anyway if Thomas’s and Kiwiiano disturbing vision of the future of humanity is correct people in the West should welcome AGW with open arms. The areas of the planet most impacted by Climate change will be the Tropic and Sub Tropical areas of the Planet where most of the Developing world resides. Given the fact that the West has currently got the means to stop these areas from overrunning the West we should all sit back and let nature take care of the overpopulation problem.

              Now I don’t things are as bleak as portrayed by those two doommongers but if you agree with them then I’d be interested in hearing an alternative to the scenario I put forward.

            5. R2D2

              What I said was that early 20th century economics was undertaken without reference to operating in a closed system with severe resource limitations and exhaustion of essential resources on the horizon.
              These economic theories led to the paradigm of exponential growth that underpins the current western economic model. Without a continuous exponential expansion of economic activity (growth) the finance model of the current system can not operate and collapses as debt under the current system can only be repaid from the profit of future growth. No growth, no debt repayment no credit -> crash.
              As perpetual growth is an absurd premise, this economic model is equally absurd. The current crisis is the beginning of the markets taking note of this.
              After all most people do have a brain….

              I do not have the time to read the economic papers you cited and do not assume that they have any bearing on our current predicament.

            6. R2D2:
              You are still not understanding anything.
              We have to stop growing!
              I did never suggest that a reduced population is a way to achieve individual growth of the survivors fortune!

              What I am saying is that we must come up with an economic system that bestows happiness (as surely that should be the aim of our economy, what else?) on people without the need to grow our consumption of resources!!!

              You are still stuck in the mantra that you need to grow the economy and your personal wealth in pursuit of a reason for your existence. But that exactly is the fallacy at the core of our current mess!

            1. “Per capita wealth has continued to grow.”
              I’m wondering about that one. Does it take into account the millions of people crippled by the last financial collapse, who lost their jobs and savings? The total amount of money swilling around divided by the number of people may look good, but with this morning’s Press showing a NZ$2,500,000,000 home for 6* being housewarmed in Mumbai, one has to ask how the have-nots are getting on?
              (* plus 600 full-time staff, of course)

        2. Ummmm….I think you are having trouble with your comprehension Thomas.

          I was pointing out that it is not a desire for money or profits which cause environmental degredation as economic systems which do not emphasise these, (like the old Soviet Union), are more than capable of equalling and exceding what happens in the West.

          1. I was pointing out that it is not a desire for money or profits which cause environmental degredation as economic systems which do not emphasise these, – Gosman.

            What specifically in the Soviet era are you equating with the rampant destruction of the Earth’s natural systems carried out by this current global civilization?.

            1. Why discuss this historic failure in the context of our current issues?
              What WE do now is what counts.
              Your argument is just as moot as that of a criminal in front of a judge who points to another criminal saying: But that guy shot 10 cops, I only shot 5, begging for mercy….

            2. Ummmmmm…. Thomas I understand you are German so you might be having trouble following the debate.

              The point I am making is that the issue is not one of desire for profit or money which causes environmental degredations. This happens regardless of whether a society values these or not AS EVIDENCED BY WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SOVIET UNION.

              People who try and link the two are missing the point. Human activity causes environmental degredation not some abstract concept like Money or Profit.

              Do you understand now?

            3. Human activity is a matter of choice. Choice is made based on several factors, among them Greed and Ethics.
              The current model favors greed. Corporations will chose the most cost effective mode of operating. If that means dumping waste into the environment for future generations to worry about then that is exactly what they will do and have done amply over the past.
              Corporations are beholden to the bottom line dictated by their shareholders.
              It is only through legislation that Corporations can be forced to behave as responsible citizens. Either by making sure that they are liable for the consequences of their doing or by invoking environmental laws that prevent damage in the firstplace and force best practice.
              The same is true for individuals and legal frameworks that assure good practice.
              Legal constrains on business to behave has nothing to do with the stupid examples from old Soviet times you cite.
              Being German and having lived in several continents in my life has given me the benefit of a global perspective.

            4. “It is only through legislation that Corporations can be forced to behave as responsible citizens.”

              What absolute rot. I’d suggest you have no evidence whatsoever that Corporations can only be forced to behave through legislation In fact there are numerous examples where Shareholder activists have used other means to change behaviour of companies to what they perceive to be more ethical.

              See http://www.businessweek.com/investor/content/jun2010/pi20100613_947219.htm

            5. I’d suggest the fact you are German comes through in your views around the role of the state in maintaing authority and exercising power.

            6. Gosman, your last comment on Thomas’s nationality is nasty and an embarrassment. I agree with him entirely that regulation must set boundaries for market activities. So do many prominent economists.

            7. It’s not nasty. It is well known that Germans have a greater tolerance for authority in general than Anglo-Celtic cultures. I don’t mean totalitarianism either. The German economy has far more state involvement in it and has far more regulation than places like the UK, Ireland, The US, and N.Z. I would say the same if he was French or Swedish.

              I find it insulting that he thinks corporations can only be forced to behave ethically by legislation (i.e. state enforcement). That is a slipperly slope in my mind.

            8. OK, I’m relieved by your explanation. I had the impression that you were harking back to the totalitarian era. But I still wouldn’t want to depend on corporations doing the right thing without regulations being in place, any more than I’d want to depend on a community being crime free if there were no laws. There will be some corporations who may behave responsibly, just as there are some of us citizens who don’t need the constraint of the law to behave decently in our communities, but law and regulation are surely essential to civilised life. I don’t see why you’re so hot on the subject.

            9. I don’t think anyone here has claimed that Corporations should have NO regulation. However it is not logical to state that they can only be made to act in a correct manner via state legislations.

              Corporations are only collections of individuals after all. These individuals live in society and generally reflect the views of that society. They can therefore change their behaviour on occasions without being forced to by the heavy hand of the state.

            10. Corporations these days, especially large international ones, are owned by shareholders who are far removed from the actual business practices of the company.
              I agree with Gosman that there are noble exceptions where shareholders force companies to behave as better citizens but by and in large that is the exception.
              In regards to AGW some large corporations actually welcome legal initiatives as these would set a firm framework in which they can plan their investments.
              Without a legal framework enforcing the same standards on all, those who by their ethical standards enforce practices that are working towards a sustainable economy will be out-competed in the market by those who hunt for the cheapest ways to produce whatever the consequences.
              The same is true for consumer choice. Most people will bicker about sweat labor below the poverty level in Asia but readily go to the big red shed to chase the cheapest deal, thereby driving local businesses out of the market.
              International shareholders and international customers make their choices in anonymity and with their own greed as the guide. That is unfortunately the reality.

              As of the wisdom of the Anglo-Celtic culture above that of some other nations, well, I shall leave you to interpret for yourself the current state of the economies of the USA, UK and others in comparison to say Germany and how well they are doing on their path to sustainable economy or the current political drift in the USA in regards to the Tea party movement…..

              And thank you Brian for you moderation.

            11. which led to areas such as the Aral sea drying up or massive damage to the Caspian Sea basin

              Gosman, why is it that you can see that practices of the Soviet era were bad, though many times smaller in the magnitude of harmful consequences, yet blithely ignore the ongoing horrendous damage meted out to the environment by the current global economy?. Ever seen:

              – the scale of the Alberta tar sands in Canada?

              Mountain top removal by coal mining companies

              Devastation of the Amazon rainforest?

              Hopefully you agree this is a “huge amount of environmentally damaging activity” and clearly not sustainable.

  3. No worries.
    The Royal Society tells us :
    “Regionally, we are seeing visits to New Zealand and Australia by a US geo-engineering company interested in obtaining carbon credits via large fertilisation of the Southern ocean waters of New Zealand.”
    I propose the shutting down of all NZ sewage treatment plants (energy savings = carbon credit$$$$) and the pumping into the sea of the raw sewage thereby fertilising C-sequestering phytoplankton (more carbon credit$$$$). A true win-win.

      1. How is my satirical post any more “thilly” than the proposal entertained by the Royal Society Workshop? On a silliness scale it’s up there with the Golgafrinchan’s revaluing the leaf by cutting down the forests.

        1. Steve: you should know that neither the RSNZ nor the NZ scientists who research iron fertilization support the idea of this purported geoengineering option, principally because it doesn’t work. I know this because I am involved in both groups. One of the purposes of the workshop was to make these conclusions more widely known within the framework of other geoengineering ideas, most of which are equally crackpot or dangerous.

          There is a difference between promoting discussion about issues and advocating for them. We would hate to see crackpot solutions adopted because the scientists kept their misgivings quiet. You are right to lampoon the idea of iron fertilization, but not the people promoting discussion about it.

  4. Gosman

    Agreed that we should be thinking concretely in terms of making space available. Integration into the community will be important. And an early start – people arriving in the midst of a crisis have more trouble integrating. Perhaps NZ’s newest green mayor can make a point of saying that our green capital city is a climate change refuge as well as inspiration.

    There was also an important subtlety in what I wrote – “these facts combined get uncomfortably close to the UN definition of genocide.”

    “uncomfortably close” is the key phrase. Its the combination of a refusal to take steps that we know will prevent submerging of some island states, while having no policy on what happens to people that we know will be without land.

    So it is more than simple omission, but I would agree it doesnt go so far as high level active causation that the normal genocide definitions require. We could imagine other examples, small tribe x depends very heavily on a certain migratory mammal, country y (within which x resides) knows this, but adopts a policy which it knows will make the mammal extinct. It has expert advice that that this will certainly mean starvation for tribe x. No policies are put in place to provide food aid. Not quite genocide, but uncomfortable nevertheless.

  5. Fair enough that you didn’t state it was Genocide. I’d still say it is a long way away from genocide to be even mentioned in the same sentence.

    That stated we are in agreement that we need to look at better policies at dealing with displaced people regardless of how they get displaced.

    1. It’s not often I get to say I agree with Gosman, but I don’t think that applying the word ‘genocide’ – a very, very intentional and systematic crime – to a species of obtuse selfishness or callous neglect, even if it’s substantially racially motivated, is overly useful.

      Not that refusing to aid refugees isn’t appalling, but were the allied commanders who refused to bomb the railways leading to the deathcamps during WWII, or those who turned the SS St Louis back from Cuba guilty of genocide?

      What will we call a systematic and organized attempt to obliterate a people and/or their culture if we allow the term to expand in this manner?

      It’s a bit like the labelling of every strident right-wing populist as a ‘fascist’.

      We need key words to describe these things whose real meanings we should never forget; it’s important that we don’t allow a kind of linguistic inflation to dilute that meaning.

      Anyway, I’m glad to see agreement on the appropriateness of accepting such refugees – here in Oz a few hundred poor, sad, scared people in leaky boats pitching towards WA’s empty coastline each year is enough to have a big chunk of our population ranting like strident rightwing populist nationalists!

      1. I realise I should have acknowledged Tom’s ‘uncomfortably close’ point about his own statements in the text above.

        Sorry, Tom – this is a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine, and I tend to take the opportunity to express why I think it’s important when the chance arises!

  6. There will be no help from the rich countries that caused the seas to rise. Even at 500mm rise, London and Holland will be under threat along with Florida and the rest of the east coast of the USA. New Orleans, San Francisco. The list goes on. When they are struggling to save their infrastructure and economy how much help are they going to offer to Pacific Islanders on the other side of the world. We are on our own.

    1. Thats odd, I’ve just looked at NASA and they are still showing a sea level rise of 3.26 mm a year and still accelerating. They are also very concerned about Pine Island and Greenland Still I don’t suppose that they are proper scientists. Just boy racers in space.

  7. I’ve just had a look at the flood map and with a one meter sea level rise I would guess that about 200 million people will be looking for a new home. Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese and Bangladeshi’s all have big populations on river deltas..

  8. Meanwhile Nasa’s Jason and Topex satellites confirm that the sea level has only risen 3mm per year since 1992.
    So good news then. To go up 2 metres will take centuries.
    The reason sea water is getting into the drinking water is because the water cant support the population due to increased growth and its being used beyond its capacity to be replaced, ie the water table is too low. There are many Peer Reviewed papers confirming this.
    The inability to get rid of waste is also not helping.
    But hey, lets not destroy some good propaganda sent to deceive the ignorant who cant be bothered researching the actual science.

    1. Yes and no, the rise may take decades to rise significantly IF the input for melting icecaps and thermal expansion stays to same, something we have no reason to expect. In the mean time coastal communities will still be at the mercy of increasingly frequent and violent storms and storm surges.

      As an aside, am I the only person who can only see ‘thumbs up’ options on Comments? There’s been a few who need a resounding thumbs down.

      1. As an aside, am I the only person who can only see ‘thumbs up’ options on Comments?

        Gareth disabled it after an influx of tinfoil wearers from WUWT.

    2. I would not count on a continuation of the 3mm/year linear trend.
      There are many possible scenarios that could speed this up a lot.
      Gradual warming may lead to the breaching of tipping points around Greenland that would accelerate melting there. Once warming significantly affects the Antarctic further tipping points can be reached there.
      The above shows post glacial sea level rise in the last 20,000 years.
      There were long periods with rise levels of about 2m/century or 20m/millennium with pulses exceeding these rise speeds.
      No wonder stories of floods and devastation can be found in many prehistory mythologies.

  9. Gosman
    “It has nothing to do with money or profits”


    It has everything to do with money and profits. And yes, intentionally misinforming people on climate change, to protect profits might end up being considered genocide.

    The global warming denial phenomena is manufactured.

    Do some reading, if you don’t already understand that.

    Suggested reading:

    “The Boiling Point” and
    “The Heat Is On” by Ross Gelbspan

    “Climate Cover-Up”: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming”
    by James Hoggan with Richard Littlemore

    “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”
    by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

    “Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change”
    by Clive Hamilton
    He outlines the decade-long, coal-industry funded campaign in Australia to deny climate science.

    “Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate”
    by Stephan H. Schneider and Tim Flannery

    “Censoring Science: the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming” by Mark Bowen

  10. “People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind”

    I agree that this is the way the argument may seem. However, in relation to domestic economics, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. Experiments with a more cooperative society have lowered welfare for all members of that society. So in fact it is the values of greed that are most kind. Setting policy based on ‘intrinsic’ values is not actually to the benefit of anyone (that is not to say society does not need a safety net). So it is actually those that want to set policy based on greed that need to stop being embarrassed by their values.

    1. We can all cherry pick Adam Smith:

      All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

    2. If Smith were alive today I doubt that he’d agree with you! More selective quotation –

      Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workman,its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favor of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters.

      Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.

      Then there was the bit about whenever traders and businessmen get together it always ending in ‘a conspiracy against the public’.

      In short, Smith wasn’t an idiot or an ideologue, unlike many of his fervent contemporary adherents.

      I suspect he’d have been horrified by a world dominated by hyper-conglomerates – frequently trading in pure moonshine, e.g. ‘derivatives’ and CDO*s – that have been designated ‘too big to fail’ .

      The tremendous success of the post-war social-democracies shows you’re wrong – and, in case you haven’t noticed, the Great Reaction that began in the 1980s (allegedly because social solidarity ‘didn’t work’, but actually a bog-standard elite power-grab) resulted in the disaster of the GFC (definitive ‘not working’) and is now cheerfully barbequing the planet.

      But it seems we need even more consumption and even less regulation because the survival of The One True Idea is more important than mere people and ecosystems!

      Shorter R2D2: Greed is Good! The following phrase is actually quite chilling – this is the Capitalist equivalent of pure Stalinism –

      So it is actually those that want to set policy based on greed that need to stop being embarrassed by their values.

      Actually, you folks have been carrying on shamelessly since Thatcher! Where are we now, would you say? Stores full of power-guzzling wide-screen TVs by way of glitzy compensation for dreary, meaningless lives? Ecosystem services tottering. Oh, and we cannot even have the population drop, either! We have to consume and reproduce to oblivion. Sorry, ‘prosperity’.

      No wonder it’s so very important for you to deny AGW. It rather proves that your whole philosophy is one giant maladaptation! And no, Gosman, it’s not the only maladapted philosophy in history, but it’s the one that counts here and now.

      *Yes, I know that in a rational world these things have their place in managing risk. But this isn’t that rational world, as the GFC definitively demonstrated.

      1. This gets my goat up. All this angst displayed by certain people about how dreadful it is people want widescreen Televisions. I mean why can’t everybody just be happy with the technology they had in the 1950′?. Who needed Ipods when we already had transistor radios? Essentially they are displaying the same thinking as Luddites from the 19th Century.

      2. And I love this phrase – ‘maladapted philosophy’. As if the problems of the world are related to the failure to adapt a particular social philosophy correctly.

        BTW the GFC was entirely rational. I can’t understand why you would think it wasn’t.

        1. “the GFC was entirely rational”

          and so are you…

          “Essentially they are displaying the same thinking as Luddites from the 19th Century.”

          sorry was that you quoting Adam Smith a moment ago, Mr modern man? The problem isn’t so much the TVs and iPods, buthow many TVs and Ipods, how soon they are obsolete and how completely toxicand unrecyclable they are. Are you really for transmuting our whole planet into landfill? that would be rational…

    1. John, to be a true sceptic you should be equally sceptical of theories regardless of if they are pro-AGW or anti-AGW. I suspect the link you post simply makes you look like a ‘denier’.

      1. I posted a link I found.

        I made no comment on that link.

        The article was by Geoffrey Lean, a well known AGW cheerleader

        How does that make me a denier?

        1. Yep you chanced on something of another worry John.
          Water mining is indeed a massive issue. The 1/4 of current sea level rise is not the problem as it is rather small when compared to whats in store from the melting Greenland ice.
          The real issue of water mining is that it is another canary in the coal mine of our unsustainable state at the current level of humanities expansion. The real worry of water mining is not that it adds a few cm to the sea level, the worry is that we already depend on heaps of crops grown on land that can not grow much once the water tables are exhausted or the rising energy cost of pumping it up from greater and greater depth can no longer be met.
          A very significant and rising proportion of India’s electricity production is going into water pumping for example.
          There is no ‘alternative way’ to getting water in these places. Desalination is not a real option in an energy constrained world either. Go figure…

  11. R2D2

    Monbiot is arguing that promoting self interest and markets to solve big environmental issues hasnt worked. i agree with him – not enough self restraint and leading by example in my view. We seem to have forgotten how much ethics in business and personal life actually helps to make this whole thing we call civilization actually run.

    You seem to say the more naked self interest the better – let the markets run riot – so a cap and trade enthusiast I presume?

    1. I agree with the conclusions of Garnaut and also Tol.

      If you presume the conclusions of Stern are correct, then cap and trade could work if it was done on a global scale. When done on a domestic scale mechanisms are needed to overcome emissions leakage. These are descibed well by Garnaut.

      But the underlying assumption is that to cap emissions is welfare enhancing. I have not been convinced of this. The work of Tol shows that Stern is over estimating the costs of emissions.

      1. Tol?

        This one?

        Post by Richard Tol » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:20 am
        a good environmentalist would push a red button now

        (referring to the news of Pachauri staying on at the IPCC)

        Funny how the Red Button theme has permeated even to IPCC authors. I wonder if our new Green mayor has one?

        1. According to the pic in yesterday’s Dom, CWB is a supported of dragging [CO2] back to 350 ppm, something that could only be achieved by red-buttoning several billion.

  12. It also really rails me every time someone blames the ‘GFC’ on ‘capitalism’.

    Capitalism is an economy where decisions about production are made by those who have capital. For example, should I save or invest. A planned economy is the opposite. Production decisions are made by the Government. Ie Soviet Russia.

    The GFC is very closely related to the policies of the Federal Reserve. A massive housing bubble caused people to speculate and spend. This housing bubble was not caused by mis-guided savings, but financed by debt, and a result of massive liquidity created by the Fed. So the ‘GFC’ was not a product of capitalism. By no stretch of the imagination. It was a product of economic planning gone wrong.

    None of this is to say I disagree with the central banking system, I don’t. I think central banks have been very good at reducing the number of recessions (look at historical economic data for any nation with a central bank). However central banks need to pay more attention to the issue of ‘a small recession now is better than a big one later’. By avoiding recession after Sept-11 they created too much liquidity and the bubble that resulted in the GFC.

    So also the GFC has nothing to do with the environment.

    1. Joseph Stiglitz agrees with you that the Fed created too much liquidity. Not surprisingly, he and many other economists point out a number of other important drivers of the financial crisis. In  “Capitalist Fools”  Stiglitz identifies five key factors that led to the crisis and then concludes:

      The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America-and much of the rest of the world-of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.

      1. Maybe R2D2 needs a lesson in history?. Why does he think so much regulation of financial markets was enacted after the Great Depression?. Is he even aware that it happened?.

        Regulation was enacted to stop the boom and bust cycles which were prevalent leading up to the Great Depression. All down to irrational, but typical, human behavior I’m afraid. It was all hunky dory until late in the 20th century when people like Alan Greenspan slowly but surely peeled back the many layers of regulation in the guise of creating a truly free market.

        The end result was a bunch of shysters……errrr financial experts who managed to hoodwink a whole lot of people that shonky loans made to poor people, with no real means of repaying the debt, were a great investment. They even gave them a cool sounding name – collateral debt obligations. The rest as they say is history.

        In fact if history tells us anything, it’s that regulatory intervention by the state is absolutely necessary to prevent these boom-bust cycles created by investor behavior.

        If any lurkers are interested, this is a great series to gaining a better understanding of the modern financial system – The Ascent of Money by Professor Niall Ferguson

        1. Boom and bust is an essential; part of Capitalism. Trying to regulate them out of the system is what has contributed to the GFC as R2D2 has highlighted.

          1. Trying to regulate them out of the system is what has contributed to the GFC

            Gosman, clearly you haven’t been paying attention. See my post at No. 82. & watch the videos, neither of you (yourself and R2) seems to have a grasp of economic theory, nor how this all came about. The deregulation of the market lead to the shambles with “over the counter” derivatives and the collateral debt obligations.

            Boom and bust is an essential; part of Capitalism

            Glad you agree an unregulated system will not work.

            Here’s another video, specifically on over the counter derivatives, Alan Greenspan & his battle with Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairwoman, Brooksley Born. Note the deregulation that lead to the global financial crisis. The documentary makers are hardly subtle about it.

            Please pay attention this time. Frontline: The Warning

            1. Blaming it on regulation is bit like the tail wagging the dog is it not? You need regulation when you manipulate markets. The Fed gives huge amounts of money to registered banks at the target rate, so then they need to regulate a reserve ratio and ways the banks can loan it etc. If the Fed just didnt give such easy credit strong regulations wouldn’t be needed. On the other hand even the strongest regulations wont stop a bubble when you expand M3 by so much.

              But yeah, some regulation is always needed and i’m not denying that. Only saying that it wasn’t caused by too much capitalism.

            2. @ Dappledwater

              Do you actually know what OTC Derivatives are and how they work?

              Please try and put it in your own words and don’t rely on linking to or regurgitating some leftist websites view on them.

              BTW I’ve worked with derivativatives in the past so I have a fair idea about them.

          2. We should also note the craziness of the financial system in the USA which leads to more extreme outcomes than in apparently similar countries.

            First the tax deductibility of home interest payments. Which unsurprisingly leads to Americans taking on more mortgage debt than workers of similar financial status in other countries.

            Second, the amazing homestead laws. So long as a loan or mortgage is explicitly tied to the home, the overstretched debtor can literally walk away from the debt and not be liable for any deficit the lender might incur on sale of the house. Anywhere else this would lead to personal bankruptcy. Yet another incentive for Americans to overcommit on home loans.

            Pure madness.

            1. So you admit it was regulation that contributed to the Housing Bubble in the US getting so large then do you adelady?

            2. Not really. My point is that the unusual arrangements in the US make their system much more likely to go out of kilter than, say, here in Oz. In Oz if banks were being so profligate with loans, you’d see heaps and heaps of personal bankruptcies much, much earlier than you would in the US.

            3. You might not think you are but you are essentially agreeing that Government regulation caused the US situation to be much worse than it may have been.

              Tax deductability of interest payments was a social policy decision because it was seen as desireable by politicians to encourage home ownership.

              Equally the Homestead laws you find so bizarre are also the result of social policy decision made by Central Government.

              As you pointed out these two policies, coupled with several more such as federal guarrantee of mortgages, led to distortions in the market.

            4. Behold, a fairy with gosman wings has come to show you wondrous things!

              Ah, the Utopia of the free market unencumbered by Government regulation, where we could once again buy and sell people and their organs for profit and send our offspring out to work instead of kindergarten without fear of reprisal or recrimination. Drug companies could conduct their trials on the population at large, government jobs could go to the highest bidder, and monopolists could sleep peacefully next to paedophiles. Free at last.

            5. There is tax deductibility on home loans in the UK and Norway, as far as I know.

              In fact, Norway allowed tax deductions on any loan, including that used to buy shares. I don’t know if this is still the case.

              Norway is considered a “socialist” country, so go figure.

      2. Say what you want about the rest of it, my point is at the core is an economic planner (Greenspan). So don’t blame it on capitalism. It was not fueled by capital, but by an economic planning institution – The Fed.

        Yes big mistakes have been made and some people views have been shown to be flawed.

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