Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sue the B******s

Chris Huhne thinks that the victims of climate change could sue the perpetrators (It won't be long before the victims of climate change make the west pay). He makes a case that starvation and war in the Sahel are the fault of climate change.

While climate change may play some role in recent droughts in the Sahel, and hence his claim isn't precisely utter nonsense, it's so close to being utter nonsense that it really ought to offend any thinking person. Huhne is peddling a sort of dim-witted moralism that hurts his cause more than it helps it. In the first place, the Sahel has been tough forever. In the second, starvation probably has a lot more to do with population growth -- due largely to that other evil Western invention, modern medicine -- than with climate change.

He has the following paragraph:

The science also opens up the possibility that the victims of climate change could begin to take international legal action against the countries responsible, particularly the early industrialisers, such as Britain, Belgium and Germany, whose carbon continues to warm the planet a century after it was emitted. Legal action is not a substitute for politics, but it could highlight the evidence in an uncomfortable way.

He wants to target the original polluters - The US, Britain, Europe, but it would actually make way more sense to target those big and rapidly growing polluters in Asia - India and China, rather than the slowly decreasing carbon polluters of the US and the EU. Nobody is about to pay for their past misdeeds if they can get away with not paying, and since all of the above are precisely the people in the world who have most of the power, they won't. They also all have their own problems with climate change, and if that won't motivate them, a bunch of junk lawsuits from micro-powers won't either.

I think that the world needs to come up with a sensible approach to limiting human caused climate change, but I see little sensible thinking on the subject. Many people are obsessed with meaningless micro-battles that will achieve nothing, or even be counterproductive (like the Keystone pipeline). One of the few things that actually might help are carbon taxes, some portion of the proceeds of which ought to be dedicated to amelioration of some of the worst effects of climate change.

I'm not optimistic.