09 June 2009

It's just too complicated...

...for government, or indeed any single organization, to handle. From 'New Scientist':
The life-cycle emissions generated by cars, buses and aircraft are dominated by tailpipe emissions pumped out in day-to-day running of their engines. Hence, the best way to reduce emissions from these modes of transportation would be to increase fuel efficiency and push for renewable fuels. Crisscrossing the US with a rail network, however, creates a different problem. More than half of the life-cycle emissions from rail come not from the engines' exhausts, but infrastructure development, such as station building and track laying, and providing power to stations, lit parking lots and escalators. Any government considering expanding its rail network should take into account the emissions it will generate in doing so.... Train can be worse for climate than plane, Catherine Brahic, 8 June
Can you imagine any government doing that? And getting it right? And continuing to get it right when new technology or new information about emissions and their effects becomes available? It's not going to happen.

Which is why we need, urgently, an outcome-driven approach. The old way of doing things, with government doing what it thinks is best, might have worked when government was well intentioned and environmental depredations much simpler to identify. It just doesn't work nowadays, when government does what its paymasters want it to do and environmental relationships are much more complex. Government is not up to the job of working out whether climate change is best tackled by subsidising rail, windmills, or catalytic converters. It's not what government is good at, it's not what people go into government to do, and it's not what they are motivated to get right.

What government can do is set up a regime whereby people are rewarded for achieving climate stability, however they do so. In other words, it could contract out the achievement of a more stable climate to a motivated, diverse, adaptive private sector. It could, in summary, issue Climate Stability Bonds.

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