What Environmentalists Need to Know about Economics

[h/t to MT for the following presentation]

It really suits the series I’ve recently been working on:

Efficiency is Truly Virtuous: Planning Prosperity
You Know What They Say About a Man with a Big Footprint
How Greenwashing Really Can Make a Difference
Sustainable Growth Not as We Know it
The Price of Sustainable Cities


One thought on “What Environmentalists Need to Know about Economics

  1. An interesting presentation with some very good points. However:

    Environmentalists need to use better messaging? Professor Scorse himself starts off with bad messaging, alienating the very people he wants to reach, by dissing them (eg #t=225s, #t=1130s). Examples? All the environmentalists I know are very good at messaging. How to win friends and influence people… 🙂

    #t=588s Interesting thought that economics debate has been hijacked (by free market charlatans) and the initiative needs to be regained. This is EXACTLY what’s happened concerning climate change messaging. #t=1027s suggests it’s the same people disseminating both sets of FUD. The Heritage Foundation is a main center of disinformation regarding AGW.

    ‘Market failure: externalities’ – Interesting choice of statistic #t=319s (‘50% of mercury pollution in central valley of California originates from China’). Rebuking environmentalists for poor messaging? Audience here is (I feel safe in assuming) USAn: the message taken away is almost certainly ‘China is bad’. Why not suggest something that USAns do that pollutes others? EG massively inequitable per capita oil usage.

    #t=418s ‘Market failure: imperfect information’ – “… to government officials who don’t even know there are huge uncertainties with the big picture of things, like climate change.” This is extremely bad messaging, as it exacerbates debate where there is none. Yes, there are uncertainties BUT NOT ON WHETHER CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL. I’ve no doubt that some proportion of the audience will misunderstand Professor Scorse’s comment here. This is also prime (mis)quote material for disinformation distributors!

    #t=625s More poor messaging: speaker says “It’s really market distortions that… ” but it’s NOT: it’s FAILURES and distortions, as it says on the overhead.

    #t=763s It’s all very well saying that ‘property rights need not be private’ but in practice they MUST be, when “… somebody has to be ultimately liable and responsible”. Community ownership? Who owns a river upstream and downstream from a dam? Who owns the seas? The atmosphere?

    #t=1390s ‘Conclusion: Environmentalism is entirely consistent with traditional/ classical/ neoliberal economics’. This does NOT follow as a conclusion of the presentation; asserting something doesn’t make it real. It seems to me that classical economics perpetuates the myth that growth is good, which is what got us into this mess in the first place (see eg Prosperity without growth: economics for a finite planet by Tim Jackson). We DO need ‘ecological’ – or sustainable economics, as the current flavour has failed us badly (eg ‘credit crunch’!)


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