This Changes Everything? OH Naomi Klein, NO

It's not capitalism that's broken here, it's publishing


Let's do the sums ...

It's true, however, that there are a lot of people who are not quite convinced by basic economic theory. At this point we can and should turn to the Ur-text, the foundational document, of the economics of climate change. That's the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios from the early '00s, which you can find here.

In order to work out whether Flipper is going to be boiled or just scalded, we need to run computer simulations of what emissions are going to do to the climate. In order to do that, we need to have an idea of what emissions are going to be – and that's obviously decided by the IPAT equation. Impact will equal the Population, their Affluence and the Technologies they're using. And it's that the SRES provides, a series of scenarios looking at how many people there might be, how rich they're going to be and what forms of fuel and transport they're going to be using. Those 40 SRES scenarios were the foundation of the first four IPCC reports and the ones used for AR5 are updates, working on much the same lines and assumptions. So this is all basic input into our knowledge about what might happen concerning climate change.

And those scenarios are divided into four families: A1, A2, B1 and B2. The A stands, roughly, for a capitalism red in tooth and claw, the B for a more kumbaya-orientated socialism or social democracy.

I would probably prefer the first, Klein the second: largely on the grounds that the capitalist models predict richer people. I think it being a good thing that the people who come after us will be richer.

The 1 refers to a globalised economy, the 2 to more regionally orientated and fractured economy. And here's the thing: the results in a globalised economy lead to lower emissions than a fractured and regionalised one. In fact, the globalised results lead to there being fewer, richer people (on the obvious grounds that richer people have lower fertility rates than poorer ones) and also lower emissions levels than the regionalised versions: A1 has (except for one very odd indeed scenario) lower emissions than A2, B1 lower than B2.

It is, of course, open to people to disagree with these assumptions. But they're also the assumptions that are fed directly into absolutely all of the science and modelling we have about climate change. To reject these assumptions means rejecting everything that the IPCC tells us.

At which point along comes Naomi: “Hey guys, let's reverse globalisation to reduce climate change!”

This is the point at which you should be thinking of Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard doing the facepalm.

I have actually checked the book for any instance where Klein has mentioned economics of climate change. The book doesn't actually mention the above SRES at all, it makes only a couple of brief and passing references to the Stern Review (which says that a carbon tax is indeed the way to go) and there's not a trace of William Nordhaus, the grandaddy of this economic field nor of Richard Tol, who has been one of the economists on every IPCC report so far.

Yet the book is all about what the economic reaction to climate change should be without there being any evidence at all of the subject under discussion, let alone an understanding of it.

Basically the book's clueless on this subject - all 540 pages of it. But then, as I said up at the top, someone has to wade through it so that you don't have to. ®


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