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Errm, no Mr Sparrow, no

“When [a] crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the idea that are lying around.”

Nowhere has Milton Friedman’s dictum applied with more force than in respect of the environment. When scientists first raised the alarm about global warming in the late 1980s, the ideas “lying around” all pertained to neoliberalism. As a result, mainstream climate action has prioritised free market mechanisms, with disastrous results.

We have, in fact, a paucity of free market solutions. Free market here meaning well, how do we introduce the incentives we desire into markets so that markets can then do their job of chewing through the problem?

Anywhere got a comprehensive carbon tax? No, well then, we’re not using the market solution to that then, are we?

No single definition of “nature positive” exists, with one study suggesting that 10 organisations using the term all define it differently.

Yet it’s a slogan generally associated with a monetary valuation of the natural world – and that’s what worries the letter’s signatories.

The call to put “a price on nature” can appeal even to environmentalists, who hope it might force businesses that treat the Earth as worthless to register its degradation on their balance sheets.

But that misunderstands what’s at stake.

To harness markets for nature, technocrats and economists must separate an ecology into its component parts and then assign values to the aspects deemed worthy of protection.

Complete bollocks. The valuation processes entirely and wholly different. We are not – because it’s impossible – trying to apply an objective value to things. Instead, we look around and try to work out what value is it that people ascribe to that thing. There’re only us chickens around to allocate values, values are therefore the value we apply. This is as true of clean water as it is dolphins or gawping at the sunset. What values do humans apply to these things?

Substitutability is invariably the point of environmental pricing: by transforming the unique components of a biosphere into abstractions as exchangeable as dollars or Euros, it facilitates processes like offsetting, so that destruction in one place can be “compensated” by investment elsewhere.

Again, complete crap. The aim is that more folk can have more value. To do this we need to know what people value so that they can have more of it. We attempt to value the environment – say – so that we can craft policies so that people get more environment, by weighing the benefits of having more against whatever else it is that we have less of.

To take a gross and stupid comparison. We could return Ukraine to steppes. Just wild rolling grasslands with three ponies on it. To do so would mean losing tens of millions of tonnes of grain a year. Well, which do we humans, in aggregate, value more? You see the point of doing the valuation?

Marketisation also has consequences for governance, taking environmental decisions away from the public and trusting them instead to the market’s invisible hand.

No, marketisation means that the only calculating machine we have that actually works – the market, the economy as a whole – chews through the implications of the prices and interventions we make. Those last two being where the politics is.

Given the glaring relationship between profit and extinction (think of the logging firms clearing the Amazon), you might wonder at the mental gymnastics required to present financialisation as an alternative to immediate government regulation.

Sigh. Financialisation is the method, the manner, by which the regulation is imposed to gain that desired end – the optimal distribution of resources.

Yet political theorist Philip Mirowski reminds us in Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, one of the great commandments of neoliberalism holds that any perceived problems thrown up by markets can and must be resolved by further markets.

Ignorance. Neoliberalism – and I’m one of the acolytes, even if not a fully made up member of the priesthood – insists that markets are sometimes to often the appropriate tool to gain the end goal. Not always, markets often need to be tweaked or crowbarred into it but they are only a tool to achieve that end. Sometimes to often they’re more efficient than direct regulation, sometimes they’re not – see Garrett Hardin.

But what really marks out Jeff Sparrow as an entirely ignorant tosser is that he’s from Australia. One of the very few places in the world that has actually wholly and entirely solved one such environmental problem by the judicious use of markets suitably crowbarred. Fishing there just isn’t a live issue because it has been solved by the use of individual transferable quotas plus large no fishing zones. That’s Hardin (Marxist open access to a limited resource cannot be maintained when demand rises) plus Friedman, Hayek and all the rest of us little neoliberals. Assign property rights to the resource, plus some direct regulation in the no fishing zones, we’re done.

Sparrow actually observes the neoliberal solution working then claims that the neoliberal solution cannot work.

Tosser. Ignorant, ignorant, tosser.

16 thoughts on “Errm, no Mr Sparrow, no”

  1. Ah, that carbon tax again.
    OK Tim. Now set a value on carbon emitted. Who’s value. The value of carbon’s going to be different for a Just Oil protester to somebody shivering in a freezing cold house. And the tax. Sorry, but no politician is going to set a carbon tax at what value you’ve discovered. They’ll set it to maximise revenue. That’s what politicians do. So now the question: Is the solution worse than the problem it’s supposed to be solving?
    Reader’s vote?

  2. Now recast the question as to what it actually is.

    1) A carbon tax

    2) The ghastly stupidities that are being inflicted upon us by the planners.

    Nowt ain’t an option, not in the current world it ain’t.

  3. As for the subject of the post, the environmental movement has been an unmitigated disaster. Just look at electricity generation. Renewables would have happened, environmentalism or not. Nuclear power stations happened without a thought of the environment. A cheaper way of producing electricity. (Or would be but for f**king enironmentalists). Because you get railroads when you can build railroads. The technology for renewables had arrived & would eventually have been used for cheap electricity generation. Roundabout now at a guess. And would have been introduced in an economically viable manner. Not years before with all the concomitant problems currently being experienced & all the wastes of endeavour & resources.
    Market forces & actual democracy would have done the job far better.

  4. Tim, the ghastly stupidities will continue until the pitchforks and hempen ropes appear, so shouting at the moon about a carbon tax won’t progress anything. If a carbon tax appears, it will be in addition to the ghastly stupidities.

  5. Probably the ghastly stupidities, Tim. Eventually their unpopularity we see their demise. The CT is far more insidious. Horrible idea.

  6. @BiS

    But there aren’t democratic choices. You can’t vote the green crap out because all the politicos are just different shades of bullshit.

  7. Anywhere got a comprehensive carbon tax? No . . .

    Lol, that’s not real Marxism carbon tax.

    Now recast the situation to what it actually is – everywhere that has a carbon tax is also subject to the ghastly stupidities that are being inflicted by the planners. There isn’t an option to have only a carbon tax because that’s not how human beings work.

    Any political/economic theory that doesn’t take into account real human behaviour is just religious wank.

  8. The task may seem daunting given the vast forces supporting the lie that we are facing a climate crisis of our making, but I prefer to keep fighting the good fight. People accept the anthropogenic global warming narrative because they do not have the knowledge to see that it is built to deceive, it relies on ignorance.

    I take every opportunity to ask questions like those below and try to enlighten friends, family and colleagues that the current climate change is neither unprecedented nor indeed particularly unusual.

    1) Have the north and south poles ever been ice free?
    Yes, over the history of the earth, ice free poles are the norm.

    2) When did sea levels start rising?
    20,000 years ago at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum when sea levels were 120m lower than today. Back then, you could walk from the British Isles to Europe, the location of Venice was not on the coast and most of the Torres Strait Islands were mountains rising out of a plain (most because some are coral cays).

    3) Have temperatures and CO2 levels ever been higher than they are now?
    Current temperatures and CO2 levels are historically low. In the last 500 million years, temperatures have been more than double the current approximately 14C, and regularly at levels of 6C or higher, including during the last 200 million years when mammals have been in existence. For most of the earth’s history, CO2 levels have been above 1000ppm, at times much higher.

    4)Have sea levels ever risen at a greater rate then the last 100 years?
    There were periods during the last 20,000 years when melting ice caused sea levels to rise at a rate of 40mm/year or higher, more than ten times the current rate.

    5) Have temperatures risen faster than in the last century?
    Yes, much faster. During the numerous Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations, periods of rapid temperature rise and gradual cooling, temperatures rose up to 8C over a matter of decades.

    The simple message is: if the climate has naturally changed more rapidly in the past than in the present, why would we think that the current change is due to humans and within our control.

  9. Coase is so often borne out by real life that he should be much more famous than he is. Regulation always makes things worse

  10. Here’s interesting thought. By their own standards climate change cannot be dealt with by politicians. It’s not as if they’ve come even close to the commitments they entered into some years back. They’ve demonstrated failure. But mitigation, if there was an adverse effect, would be mostly done by individuals. Where & when it was needed. So the best course would be to abandon all the government plans & mitigate. Lynch a greenie today! Lynch some economists while you’re at it as well.

  11. we don’t have a carbon tax, Tim? Have you been living under a rock?

    Wind and solar cost 15 to 20 times more (CO2, mining pollution, energy input) for the equivalent energy output than oil or gas. Yet we subsidise “renewables” and tax O&G at 70% (before the latest windfall taxes).

    Government rules are so stupid that only spivs and crooks can make a buck in the UK. Meanwhile we rely on foreigners – immune to our stupidity – to keep the lights on.

  12. How can a problem be solved that doesn’t exist?

    But let’s follow the trail. We tax activity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, this reduction will reduce rate of global warming, this reduced rate will ‘stop’ the climate from changing in 50? 100, 200… years time.

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is tangible and can be measured, is a proxy for climate change which is intangible and cannot be measured? But it is a proxy that cannot be validated. How many units of atmospheric carbon dioxide equal how many units of climate change. How many units of tax equals how many units of atmospheric carbon dioxide? How many units of atmospheric carbon dioxide equals how many units of global warming and how many units of global warming equals how many units of climate change?

    It is in fact a chain of proxies none of which can be measured or validated. There are no numerical values in that chain of events, no quantitive measurements that can be made to see by how much each step is influencing the next step… are we doing enough/too little/too much… or when we have actually reached the ultimate number…. which is what?

    Carbon tax to stop climate change is a stupid as a tax on bullets and knives to stop murders that might happen next century.

    ‘ Nowt ain’t an option, not in the current world it ain’t.’

    Yes it is otherwise doing something accepts insanity as real. We would not bow down before an insane who was proclaiming he were the Emperor Caesar Augustus and let him rule the Country on the grounds doing nothing isn’t an option.

    The option is nit calling out insanity and refusing to accept the premise of climate change not enabling and encouraging it as if real by cooperating in its mitigation.

    Have the last few years of ‘The Science’ and blind compliance to authority not taught anybody anything?

  13. DocBud:

    The simple message is: if the climate has naturally changed more rapidly in the past than in the present, why would we think that the current change is due to humans and within our control.

    Because humans consider themselves the Pinnacle/Lords of Creation, and expect Nature to bend to their Will. All that Sunday School and Godbothering Propaganda in their formative years and stuff. Doubly so for Politicians.

    When faced with something that is wholly out of their control, people panic and blame anything that comes to hand to show the rest of the Mob it “wasn’t them wut did it”.
    Demons, Changelings, Fae , Witches, those Corrupt Priests, the Nobles, Evil Capitalist Bastards..

    Because your average human may be “intelligent” , but is also quite stupid and fear-ridden. And it’s in the interest of the Priests of the New EcoReligion to keep them that way.

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