Tag Archives: Behavioural change

No problem with taking the helicopter since we have “perfectly simple” solutions for climate change?

Here’s a short and bold comment by climate scientist Myles Allen. It will definitely give you some food for thought. If only all climate scientist could write in such an exciting way!

Photograph: twitter@iamwill

I attended a talk by Myles Allen last month and after the talk a PhD student went up to him and said “I want to tell you where you’re wrong.” Trying to emulate this self-confidence, I’ll list two points where I think Allen’s comment doesn’t hit the mark:

  1. Taking the helicopter from London to Oxford is a problem. To see why, assume for the sake of the argument that we only have two strategies available to solve the climate problem: First, a political solution that relies on technology and market instruments. Second, a conversion of the hearts and minds of individuals to motivate themselves for a greener lifestyle. Here’s my point: Even if you strongly believe in the first strategy, you still cannot fully do without the second.
    The climate problem requires such large scale changes that we will not be able to do without at least some shift in our mindsets. For example, how will we get people to vote for Allen’s preferred solution (carbon sequestration) if there has not been at least some shift in our mindset in a green direction? After all, mandating carbon sequestration will be very expensive and if these economic costs are to be politically feasible, people need a sense of urgency about the climate problem. That sense of urgency goes hand-in-hand with at least some greenwards change in our minds and lifestyles. Poking fun at “heroical” individual behavioral changes is not helpful to support that change.
  2. Allen makes the following point: If Will.i.am (or even Europe as a whole) reduced its carbon consumption then that same carbon would simply be pumped into the atmosphere later on. But why should we think so?
    Allen himself considers it possible that humanity will in some way or other manage to politically enforce a solution that relies on putting carbon back in the ground. But if that solution should be politically feasible, why shouldn’t it also be politically feasible to keep the carbon in the ground in the first place? Believing the one to be politically feasible but not the other requires a justification.