Government Gets Stern

Well, as you can tell by looking in the “environment” category here, I’m likely to be pleased to hear about the Stern report, released yesterday (Guardian article and links to report here) and also pleased to hear that the UK government is taking the report seriously…. more or less.

I’d have a lot more to say, but I’ve said so much about this already, and I’m not really up to a long post on this right now. But I could not let this excellent (and hopefully landmark) event go unmarked. The point, as has been said before:- Nobody is going to get going on this because it is “the right thing to do”, since it is difficult for individuals and businesses to act in a way that makes things less than convenient for yourself for a cause that seems so abstract. Pure market forces will not do it either. We need actual leadership from the scientists -which has more or less happened for a while now (see my earlier reports on the UCS here and here for example)- and action and structure put in place by the people who will really get things going: economists and then governments (because they follow the money).

Well, Stern is a major figure in the “economists” group, and so this is good news. I must admit though that it really did make me cringe every time I heard the announcers on BBC Radio 4, while trying to emphasise how significant the report’s findings were, saying things like “this is not a report from an environmentalist, it is a report from an economist”… and other sentences of similar structure, where sometimes “environmentalist” was replaced by “scientist”. It is as though they were saying that somehow this all carries more weight now because someone strongly associated with money is saying we should worry, and act promptly.

No, wait… that is what they are saying, thereby reinforcing the public’s own imbalanced priorities when it comes to expert opinion about things that matter: It really matters if you spell it out with money. It irks me no end, but I have to grin and bear it. I should just be glad that this is maybe a way to get the message across somehow. Before it is too late. If it is not already.

-cvj

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