The only way we can avoid truly devastating climate change is if you and I and everyone else like us radically reduces consumption and energy use and does it fast. It’s as simple as that. But also as difficult. What needs to happen so you will stop flying, drive less and eat less meat?
Some people are calling for governments to introduce incentives or regulation. It could be lowering the legal limits for emissions from car exhausts, or from power plants. Maybe it would be a legally binding promise to decarbonise the energy sector in a certain timeframe.
Those on the left of the political spectrum* are more likely to think that the above steps all sound very sensible, even that they are no-brainers.
If you are on the right, though, you are more likely to think that those kinds of measures smack of the nanny state. Why should the government intervene in our lives to such an extent? Surely we should be trusted to do make our own choices and take responsibility.
That being the case for you, then you’ll obviously be taking major steps to reduce your carbon emissions, right? I don’t need to explain what I mean by that, because you’ve already done your research and are well on the way. You carbon footprint has gone down by 20% already. You trust that everyone else will be doing the same. The markets will adjust to the realisation of the long-term risks and will help bring about the rate of change we need – it doesn’t need additional regulation…
Hang on, I’m not going to do any of that if no-one else is, you might say. I want to take responsibility for my own choices, but it’s not fair unless everyone else does the same.
So does that mean we need the regulations or not? Or maybe we need the tax set-up to change so we are all incentivised to make the changes necessary? We’ll talk about that in a future post.
Climate change represents the greatest ever test of right-wing political ideals. Not because it has been invented by left-leaning hacks (it hasn’t). It’s because without regulation and an effective carbon market, emissions are going up, and the rate that they are going up is increasing. People are not changing their behaviour, they are becoming more entrenched in their denial. It is likely that you are not taking drastic steps yourself to reduce your emissions. You’ve probably not even calculated your carbon footprint.
That is why right-leaning politicians and public are much more likely to deny the science than those on the left. 80% of UKIP voters deny climate change – it’s the same pattern in the US. That’s because it doesn’t look soluble if you stick to the principles of the right alone.
Don’t get me wrong – markets and business may be a large part of the way out. Even big business such as Shell realise and would welcome a stronger government hand in helping change conditions so they can be part of the solution rather than the problem.
So, what would get you to change your behaviour?
* If you know whether you are left or right leaning, then stop reading this footnote – you’ll probably find it condescending. If you’re not sure or are but are interested in an online test to get it verified, then try the Political Compass. I used to come out slightly closer to the centre than Ghandi.