3E Intelligence

Most of my readers will know by now that Herman Daly [Wikipedia] [Encyclopedia of the Earth] is one of my long-time heroes. When I started reading him in the beginning of the eighties, I came to understand the weaknesses of classical economics and the promise of ecological economics. His diagnosis of the established economics paradigm is still a must-read for anyone with a real interest in sustainability and economic growth.

One of the biggests virtues of his writings is the clarity and the logical consistency of his arguments.

In a recent guest post published on the Gristmill blog, Herman Daly has done it again, but now on the climate change issue. His main message is that we should not wait until we have solved all the uncertain issues surrounding the climate change science but act on what we already DO know now namely that we cannot continue to add carbon into the atmosphere:

As long as we focus on measuring inherently uncertain empirical consequences, rather than on the certain first principles that cause them, we will overwhelm the consensus to “do something now” with the second order uncertainties of “first knowing the exact consequences of what we might someday do.”

To put it another way, if you bail out of an airplane, you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter. And if you also happen to take an altimeter with you, at least don’t become so bemused in tracking your descent that you forget to pull the ripcord on your parachute.”

Daly then moves on to the main cause of our predicament: “our irrational commitment to exponential growth forever on a finite planet” and he ends with a convincing plea for a tax on carbon: “a stiff severance tax on carbon, levied at the well head, mine mouth, or port of entry, would go a long way by both reducing carbon use and giving an incentive for developing alternative carbon-free technologies.”

Worth reading the full article.

BTW: Daly also features as one of the wise men in Leonardo diCaprio’s 11th Hour.

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