31 October 2006

Time for a change?

Climate change is very hot right now. And getting hotter, after economist Sir Nicholas Stern announced that, by 2050, global warming will have been directly responsible for a 20% loss of GDP. After all the scientific warnings these last 20 years, it seems curious to hear global warming expressed in terms of cold cash: "We'd love to take a holiday to Mars next year" my grandsons will be saying in 2054, "but what with the surface temperature increasing by 3 degrees we just can't afford it". Can anyone actually visualise a 20% reduction in GDP in a meaningful, tangible way, in comparison with, say, your garden being flooded, or London becoming a desert? But coming from an economist, we're all suddenly supposed to REALLY take notice this time, and not just switch over the telly to watch X-Factor.

Leaving aside the tired arguments about whether increasing mean temperatures are man-made or, indeed, real, it's a subject that is clearly of the moment. Coming on the back of a "leaked" government memo outling a package of green taxes, and David Cameron's newly discovered floraphilia, it seems that no matter who one votes for, Carbon Tax is to replace Income Tax as the moral source of Inland Revenue. But why now?

I went to work today, October 31, without an overcoat, and in my garden roses still bloom. My August-flowering Clematis is just starting to bud. Finally politicians have the freak weather conditions to background the story of climate change; 20% of GDP in 50 years is a bit obtuse but spring flowers in autumn is apocalyptic in a way ordinary people can grasp. I don't think it's cynical to suggest that had 2006 been the usual dismal British summer, we might not be hearing quite so much about green politics.

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