Thursday, October 15, 2009

BAD09: the Psychology of trading carbon emissions and why it is misguided.

It is blog action day and the topic is climate change. today I want to focus on why carbon emissions trading is not the right approach. This is a small post inspired by something I read/watched recently, but cant place the source right now.

The argument goes like this. There is a moral domain of deliberation and reasoning and then there is an economical. Both place different constraints on thinking and lead to different results. while the moral deliberation would be guided by feelings of guilt and responsibility; the economical would be guided by self-interest and 'greatest good for greatest people' utilitarian concerns. All hell breaks loose if we mix the two domains.

Climate change is a moral and not an economic problem facing us. It is psychologically hard (due to affective forecasting) to envision what would be best for our future selves, so how hard it is to envision and care for what might be apparent only after a few generations. If we purely go by the well-meaning economic approach of carbon emissions trading, we'll perhaps ease the guilt/discomfort that individuals and nations feel today on wasteful and needless emissions. If rationalized from an economic perspective, the emission trading may actually backfire. It is akin to levying minor fines on littering; rich people then become prone to littering thinking they can get away easily by paying the fines: instead of a punishment , the small fine becomes a convenience fees to be paid for not bothering to look up proper waste disposal mechanism.

All of the above is based on solid psychological studies and concepts and hopefully would enlighten those who are hell bent on thinking that carbon emission trading is a step in the right direction.

Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Misty Mays said...

This was a very insightful post.