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1500 Private Jets Fly to Davos for Climate Talks (theguardian.com)
174 points by kyleblarson 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments



Unpopular Opinion: There is no viable solution to climate change through policy or political action.

No one wants to give up their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of "the planet." Even people I know who are self-described ardent environmentalists still fly in planes frequently to all manner of touristy destinations so they can keep "collecting experiences."

Shit, look at Paris. They champion this climate accord and the minute the government raises taxes on fuel to help pay for some the policies, the people riot and destroy things and the government backs down.

The only "solution" to climate change, if you can call it that, is through technology and adaptation. As the Earth warms and the waters rise, people will need to move, and we will need to create new technology to ensure our agricultural production doesn't lessen and we can keep feeding people.

Honestly I don't really think it's gonna get all Mad Max/Extinction Level Event, but who knows, it might!


>Shit, look at Paris. [...] the government raises taxes on fuel to help pay for some the policies, the people riot and destroy things and the government backs down.

The fuel tax was only the trigger of a much larger discontent of the population, more so: only 19% of that tax increase will actually be used for the energetic transition (I could post sources on that but they're in French, ask away if you want to have a look). It sounds like you're assuming that the French population is an hegemonic group of people, but even among the yellow vests you'll find people fighting for various, and often contradictory goals.

Now I don't disagree with the general feeling of your message. The main issue to me, which is mostly empirical, being that the very people who are mostly responsible for climate change will be the very last to actually suffer from it.

Is climate change the great filter?


There's a pretty simple, viable solution.

Carbon taxes.

Yes, it's hard to get 195 countries to agree to implement a carbon tax, but you could have said the same thing about the ozone layer / CFC problem.


The problem with carbon taxes is that they are regressive.

Carbon taxation plays out as a consumption tax on goods people consume in roughly the same quantities independent of income.

Take fuel as an example. The average american adult consumes about 550 gallons of gas a year for driving. It doesn't matter substantially how wealthy you are - there are only so many hours in the day to drive.

A $20/Metric Ton CO2eq carbon tax means a fuel price increase of 0.18c/gal, or about $100 a year per person. So we'd expect to see consumers either pay this additonal 18c to keep driving on gas, or some close equivalent cost if they find a competitive renewable fuel at this new price point.

So:

- If you are at the 10th income percentile, you make $11/hr and society now expects 9 hours of labor from each adult in your household a year to pay for energy transition

- If you are at the 90th income percentile, you make $29/hr, society expects you to work 3.4hrs a year to pay for transition.

This makes carbon taxation, and related schemes like gas taxes, politically unpopular. See for instance yellow vest protests in France, where gas taxation was a key issue.

----

Incomes: https://www.bls.gov/oes/oes_perc.htm

Carbon tax -> fuel cost: http://www.rff.org/blog/2017/calculating-various-fuel-prices...

Fuel consumption: https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/01/14/heres-how-much-gas...


They need not be regressive.

For starters, high income people tend to have much greater carbon footprints. I, in the top decile, probably quintuple my carbon footprint by engaging in a little bit of unnecessary air travel (living in New England, in 2018 I went once to Shanghai, once to Puerto Rico, and once to Montana). The average private jet owner probably has a carbon footprint 10x - 100x of mine.

Then, you have a tax and it _still_ turns out to be regressive (or even if it doesn't), you can use the tax revenue in a way that disproportionally benefits low income people.

The best policy (IMO) is a carbon fee-and-dividend, where all of the proceeds of the tax are redistributed evenly amongst all residents of the nation.

There is a bill in the US congress that would enact just this policy (https://energyinnovationact.org/) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/7173). If you like the policy, let your congressmen know. And everyone else too.

And it _really_ is the best policy. Even if it did nothing to reduce emissions, it's a matter of justice. I won't tell you that you can't fly across the country every single weekend or emit a gigaton of carbon mining bitcoin but, if you do, you _really_ should reimburse me and my 2-year-old daughter for the harm you're doing to our futures.


Very well said. I think this is a convincing argument that I'm wrong.

> The best policy (IMO) is a carbon fee-and-dividend, where all of the proceeds of the tax are redistributed evenly amongst all residents of the nation.

This seems ideal; get the benefits of moving carbon externalities into the price of consumption and use that revenue to both make the tax palatable and reduce wealth inequality.


"Carbon taxes are regressive" is too simple, and I'd argue wrong, for a variety of reasons:

- Some experts just flatly deny it: "low-expenditure households devote a smaller share of their budget to gasoline than do their counterparts in the middle of the expenditure distribution" --- https://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/63747/isgasol...

- Carbon taxes are often less regressive than alternative sources of revenue e.g. sales taxes

- Depends on how the revenue is spent. If, for example, it's used to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in the US, the overall tax and spend pattern would be progressive.

- The impacts of excess carbon are also "regressive" in that global warming affects poor people more severely. This means that the net effect of a regressive tax which reduces a problem with an even more regressive incidence could be progressive.


The end result of this is that driving a lot and excessive heating and cooling of spaces are more of an expensive luxury. The problem is people see owning and driving a personal vehicle as something like a right instead of the extravagant over-the-top luxury it really is. And once someone gets used to something, they get really angry when something threatens to take it away, pretty much no matter what it is. That's one of the biggest pitfalls of human nature.


Yes, but this is irrelevant.

France just threw away a political year on a gas tax they had to roll back. The political fallout, in the form of the yellow vest conservative movement, may well delay further progressive climate reform by another election cycle at least. The fact that a gas tax makes logical sense does not matter, what matters is if it has real world efficacy.

If the climate reform you are passing is causing backlashes that nullify it, we just wasted precious time for no reason. It does not matter how much you think the voting public should just get over themselves.

As an example: There is broad public support for substantially increased rates in top marginal taxation and in capital gains. Raise the money there and use it to subsidize low-carbon or negative-carbon alternatives.

This also highlights that what works is contextual. To my knowledge there is very little opposition to the ongoing rollout of cap-n-trade in the EU. And of course, if you can pass carbon taxation schemes, they are fantastic since they simply pull the external costs into the price and let the market sort it out.


The yellow vests are not a conservative movement, they are a movement fed up with austerity politics and extra expenses placed on ordinary people, while the wealthiest get tax cuts.

Macron was attempting to make ordinary people pay for the extravagant resource use practiced by the wealthy and by industry.

That is why people riot, because they (rightly) perceive those policies as taking from the working class and giving to the elite.


Owning an economy car is not “extravagant over-the-top” in the least. Another problem is hardliners taking such extreme positions against reasonable everyday people.


In a global sense, it really is. So is eating at restaurants regularly, or even eating meat with every meal. We just don't realize it because we live in such rich countries, and everybody does that stuff here. Me included. But most people in the world can't afford to live that way and currently don't. Please note that I don't think these things are bad or immoral, just that they are expensive to produce and expensive to consume. The Earth's resources can only sustain a small fraction of its population living that way. They are extravagant luxuries, and we should be thankful we get to have them.


It is though, globally speaking. It's something that consumes a massive amount of energy and pollutes a lot and should be priced that way.


>>The average american adult consumes about 550 gallons of gas a year for driving. It doesn't matter substantially how wealthy you are - there are only so many hours in the day to drive.

The wealthiest 10% of Americans by income spend ~$3,000/year on gas, while the poorest 10% spend only $870/year. So looking at only gas purchases, the wealthy do consume much more gas. This could be caused by differences in vehicles (bigger/luxury cars are more expensive and typically consume more fuel), fuel grade (premium vs regular gasoline), and distance driving (poor Americans are just not driving as much).

https://www.bls.gov/cex/2017/combined/decile.pdf


The top 10% doesn't have 3 times the wealth of the bottom 10%, it's more like millions or more. If the tax is on gas, why should the group without money shoulder 30% of the cost? Just charge all the money to the top 10% and all can benefit, it's almost a rounding error for them.


From the grandparent post:

- If you are at the 10th income percentile, you make $11/hr and society now expects 9 hours of labor from each adult in your household a year to pay for energy transition

- If you are at the 90th income percentile, you make $29/hr, society expects you to work 3.4hrs a year to pay for transition.

The bottom 10% earns 38% of what the the top 10% earns, and pays 30% of the cost. A carbon tax is a progressive tax according to these calculations.


Yes, we get it. People don't like taxes. So how come we have income taxes and VAT? Because the government needs the money. A carbon tax kills two birds with one stone. What if France had eliminated their VAT at the same time they implemented the carbon tax? The two taxes are roughly similar in terms of being regressive.


This is an important argument to consider, but I think it is not so obvious that this is true.

A hidden assumption in your calculation is that poor people emit the same amount of CO2 as rich people. Poor people may not have a car, and may not take a plane to go on vacation. They are also likely to live in a smaller apartment, reducing the heating/AC costs. This is probably more true if you view this on a global level.

Even if CO2 taxes are regressive, you could think of a way to compensate for this by altering tax rates/brackets


There is a simple solution to this problem: redistribute part or all of the carbon tax money. While it will likely not be possible to ensure that there is no loser among the poor (ie. the ones that buy the most carbon-intensive goods), it could make this number as low as possible.


The solutions are all out there the issue goes even beyond getting the taxes in place to begin with, they have to be left in place even as they cost people money. CFCs were easier because it's a little esoteric and didn't actually change that much for people in their day to day life (helps that there were good enough replacements available for cheap). Carbon taxes on the other hand to work have to hurt enough to change behavior which will make them very unpopular.


Simple yes. viable, no. Tyrannical, yes.


>No one wants to give up their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of "the planet."

Seriously?

Who are you to say that of others?!

I'm French (Parisian, actually) and I keep demonstrating with yellow vests to try and force political action so we can save the biosphere.

I've been giving up on my personal comfort for years to reduce my environment footprint and help others do the same: I don't go skiing anymore, I don't fly, I stopped driving (this morning, like any, I rode a bicycle although it's snowing heavily in Paris), I spend more and more to buy organic food for the environment (not for my health but to support farmers who care), I spend hours every weeks in NGO and various "1901 associations" to better understand how other can save the environment (even though it's extremely difficult for many, especially the poor) and to help others caring about the environment. I've been changing everything in my life just for the environment (I don't want to live on a dying Earth and watch the world burn), and I really don't know what I can do more.

I'm really tired and comments like yours are really adding insult to the injury.

I really want to scream a big F*CK you to your face for saying that "No one wants to give up their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of "the planet."". Can you understand that? You seem to have given up any hope in political change, but please, don't speak for other.

Edit: one might think I can simply afford spending times and money of trying to reduce the environment but when you've reduced consumption to the minimum, work in a company that try its best to develop technologies to trigger an energy revolution and spend as much time and money possible to accelerate the movement, there's little else one can do to not rerupt when hearing comments such as OP's (and go into depression). Go watch First Reformed if you haven't already.


> I really want to scream a big FCK you to your face for saying that "No one wants to give up their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of "the planet."". Can you understand that? You seem to have given up any hope in political change, but please, don't speak for other.

You expect a political solution but your immediate reaction to someone expressing a differing opinion is overt hostility.

I don’t know how to say this politely. You’re not a good advocate for the political process if you can’t calmly discuss the opposing viewpoint.

At no point did you provide evidence that a political solution is viable. You just complained about others and explained how you’re an environmentalist martyr. Most people don’t want to be martyrs.


That isn't my intention at all. English is not my first language so it might not help but please bear with me.

I intentionally said "I really want to scream" and not "Let me say" because I certainly do not want to be hostile. I shared the point of view of the person I responded to, so no, I really did not express hostility but an invitation to understand that some people actually are giving up "their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of the plane".

>I don’t know how to say this politely.

Look, you're writing something very similar to my "I want to" with this "I don't know but". I'm sure we both have good intentions.

> You’re not a good advocate for the political process if you can’t calmly discuss the opposing viewpoint.

I do not pretend to be a good advocate here. I'm trying to have someone consider that the actions of others are sincere. That people are actually fighting and giving up comfort (which the OP comment denied). I don't want to complain because I'm well off myself (good job, very secured financially, etc) but there are so many people who would not act if we keep denying the possibility of change and insists in making other choices non-existent or insincere. That would have be the case a younger me, that's why I'm quite emotional. It's just my feeling and I understand that it may not be welcome.

>At no point did you provide evidence that a political solution is viable.

Again, that's not my point. I could comment on that, but I reacted to the assumption that "No one wants to give up their own personal comfort or lifestyle for the sake of the planet". This is a very bad starting point to discuss this because the last decade of my life shows the contrary. I only complain that stating the contrary is false (logically) and morally wrong (who can speak for others about their intention?). Why do you think I'm a martyr? I certainly don't feel like one (again, I live in Paris and have enough time and resources to care not about my personal situation but climate change and poor workers who can't bear taxes). Nor do you I want anyone to be a martyr because I know we would have a violent regime change (probably not for the best) if people start feeling like they would have to die to be heard.


There's a saying that comes to mind when I read this post.. You judge yourself based on intent. You judge others based on action.


I'd say we can judge him or her based on both intent and action, they seem in line with each other.


> Why do you think I'm a martyr? I certainly don't feel like one

Metaphorical martyr. Half of your post was about the sacrifices you make (e.g. biking in the snow). Most people are not willing to make enormous sacrifices to stave off climate change, especially because they don’t feel their sacrifices meaningfully impact the outcome. This is why they riot over fuel taxes.


I wouldn't call this "overt hostility".


"I really want to scream a big F*CK you to your face" is certainly more overt than covert.

Still, I sympathize with the sentiment, the attitude of despair is EXTREMELY frustrating.


I "wanted to" because of frustration, but my entire comment is intended to express the frustration, explain it and make sure we can better understand one another. Really the opposite of hostility but I certainly failed to express myself correctly. I'll try to do better next time.


.. but I thought the yellow vest protests directly lead to rolling back legislation meant to increase prices of CO2-polluting fuel, so that renewable fuels would be able to compete? https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/fr...


It's far more complicated than that.

Most of those who suffer from those tax do NOT have any alternative to their heavily-polluting cars. Rich people can pay such tax or go full EV but you cannot compel the poor to pay such taxes that will make them just poorer.

When you already have trouble feeding yourself and your family, you go crazy and you vote Macron out. Believe me, if Macron keeps lowering the taxes on the extra rich and insists on making the poor pay high taxes for indispensable fuels, we'll get the far right pretty quickly and a far, far worst government in power that will happily destroy any environmental regulation. We've probably passed that point already but there isn't many other options but to force Macron to stop his crazy politics (he lowered the tax on capital gains to a point where I pay far less tax on my stock gains than on my actual work, it's really absurd).


Yep, that was my understanding as well

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46439469


A comment further down this thread has the correct answer to this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18972868

It's a about the email exchange between by the author of the fuel tax and the guy who introduced the law (if I recall correctly) in which they admit the tax is only a way to recover the tax revenue lost after the government decided to keep lowering employer taxes (aka C.I.C.E). The fuel tax was required after the Paris Summit (which took place before Macron became president) and the current government took it as an opportunity to switch the tax burden from the biggest companies (the ones that benefits from the CICE) to people who can't afford clean vehicles.


No: https://www.lemonde.fr/climat/article/2018/12/08/marche-pour...

I'm a yellow vest only because I care about the environment.

I was in most of the demonstration and believe me, we share a lot between ecologists and the poor workers who cannot bear the burden of the transition. I come from a "milieu social" (don't know how to translate) where you pollute 100 times more than the poor and be praised by Macron for being part of the "startup nation", "those who succeeds vs those who are nothing" etc.

Macron doesn't really care about the environment (ask Nicolas Hulot!).


> No one

I understand your anger here, but I'm 99% sure that the person you're replying to didn't mean that literally. 'No one' is often used to mean 'almost no one'.

I'm sure you'll agree that your behaviour is well into 1% territory, as an overall percentage of people.

You are to be applauded of course.


>I'm sure you'll agree that your behaviour is well into 1% territory, as an overall percentage of people.

I was in the 99% territory before being in the 1%, then. And your comment could have convinced me not to change and give up.

That's what I'm trying to say in my bad English, and with vivid emotions, so my apologies if I'm rude or not clear enough.


> I was in the 99% territory before being in the 1%, then. And your comment could have convinced me not to change and give up.

> Seriously? Who are you to say that of others?!

> [...]

> I'm really tired and comments like yours are really adding insult to the injury.

> I really want to scream a big F*CK you to your face...

No zealot like a convert.


Do you realize that your comment contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy that climate change deniers (among others) have been pushing for? Denying the possibility of political solutions makes it harder to fight for such solutions. Reducing one's environmental footprint is quite difficult already, but fighting the fossil fuel industry (and many other lobbies who do NOT want a transition) is even harder.

When you realize that many banks and financial institutions have huuuge fossil-related assets on their books, you'll realize that an enormous % of the economy is resisting the switch to renewables. Not just the energy and auto industries. And many politicians are corrupt and will make sure not to fight for a quick transition (even if it means slowing down some technological developments, juuust a little). Innovations are made in the real world, where political institutions have real control and where human beings have real limits and real emotions. Of course we will have to switch to renewables (that's obvious: non renewable are not renewable so they can't last infinitely) but by denying the important of political action/solution, we'll certainly end up rushing into violent events (possibly wars). So please, be very careful not to forget that things always end up being political because we always have to make decisions (is it okay to pollute how much, should we finance some research / education, etc). And please don't be indifferent to the millions activists (many of whom are scientists/engineers) who work their asses off to not devastate the biosphere.


> Denying the possibility of political solutions

Of course the most viable solutions are largely political; I've never said or implied otherwise.

> When you realize that many banks and financial institutions have huuuge fossil-related assets on their books, you'll realize that an enormous % of the economy is resisting the switch to renewables.

These and related facts have been high on my mind for decades now.

> So please, be very careful not to forget that things always end up being political because we always have to make decisions

I'll never forget that.

I think you need to calm down a bit.


That was in reaction to the parent comment ("There is no viable solution to climate change through policy or political action."), sorry.


No worries.

This is profoundly important stuff. Likely THE MOST important stuff.

For things that are really important, it's vital, in my opinion, that we lay emotions aside and get as pragmatic and focused as possible.


Curious as to why you quit Skiing, why do you think that’s contributing to climate change?

To me it seems like a really low emission activity, particaurly ski touring ?


I come from an area with lots of skiing.

Snow cannons, piste bashers, lift maintenance. Skiing is very polluting. Besides, you have to (usually) drive quite a bit to get to the mountain.

It's also extremely expensive.


It seems all what you are mentioning have a very minor impact on CO2 emission, it only measure to 2% of emission from ski stations. From : https://www.maxisciences.com/co2/climat-les-stations-de-ski-...

On this site of different French ski station it claims a 19g to 350g of CO2 per day per user for snow cannons, piste bashers, lift maintenance. It is less than how much CO2 a human breath (1kg) per day. http://www.n-py.com/sites/n-py/files/commons/Valeurs-C02-15-...

The majority of CO2 emission is transportation : 57% and 27% for housing. You can personally easily reduce the CO2 emission to go to the ski station using TGV train, if we take the example of the French OP, and then buses to climb to the station. For the housing it would be the same as if you were at home.


Ah I see, I live in an area where man made snow does is not a thing I didn’t consider that stuff, cheers.


The mountain meadows used for skiing are kind of a mess during the summer.

I'm Swiss, and going to ski basically means to be pulled up by a lift and slide back down. The entire concept of it is laughably unproductive, resulting at most in sunburns, sports injuries and further pollution from drunk people at après ski parties. It's preposterous hedonism.


What form of entertainment or sport can you not reduce like this? You could say something in the same vein about jogging, watching TV, cycling, organized sports, etc.

I'm American and going swimming basically means to go nowhere for as long as the exercise lasts. The entire concept of it is laughably unproductive, resulting in at most sunburns, sports injuries, and further pollution from chemicals used to clean the pools. It's preposterous hedonism.


Such a pool, assuming you're not the only person using it, is usually a rather well-used patch of land, as opposed to the space needed for an entire skiing resort, considering outdoor pools are also used seasonally. And even if you are the only person using it, you likely still have much more bang per square meter with a pool. I haven't heard of a pool that is as extensive as a skiing resort, stretching through often tens of kilometers of otherwise undisturbed nature.

But yeah, I'll admit it, I don't really believe my feet will decide the vote on where to draw the line here, though, therefore I have to try make skiing look as bad as I possibly can.


this may be a location thing - most people do not have skiable mountains close by so for most people going skiing requires travelling by plane


Also curious, why do you think eating organic helps the environment? Bonus if you have data


Organic food is way worse for environment, it’s way less efficient and requires a lot more resources to create


I also very much dislike the argument that it's the "corporations". The "corporations" are polluting this much because people buy and demand cheap consumer goods. These things need to be appropriately priced. Non-seasonal fruits, cars, consumer electronics, clothes shipped across half the world, air travel. Aside from cars, things that people can live without. They should be priced as a luxury. (Carbon tax maybe?)

But if you began pricing these things appropriately, you'd probably see a very bad reaction. Which is why you have a good point.


Fight the groupthink. Many, many believe we aren't allowed to take a technological viewpoint to climate problem solving because "technology got us into this situation". Plus, they claim a "moral risk": that technological solutions will allow people to continue to lead their big lifestyles.

But believe me: you don't want to be on the side of the argument that claims individual virtue is the only way to save the world.

Luckily, it's not! There are lots of technological solutions to pursue once we want them.

One of my favourites is using jet engines on the back of container ships to loft salt water spray into the air where it seeds/brightens low marine layer clouds. Super cheap, very high impact.

https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/07/25/could-spraying-pa...

Then we can go back to trying to promote biodiversity, like real environmentalists. Save the rainforest!


Oh, and to be clear -- living in cities without cars, eating minimal amounts of high-quality meat, reducing waste, maximizing renewables, dumping coal -- these all have benefits to the self and society WITHOUT the virtue of co2 reduction. We don't need to fight human nature or overcome impossible odds to mitigate runaway climate change. It's just slow work and it's actually happening! A lot to be proud of.

But if the permafrost starts melting, spiking methane, we'd better take the technological approaches available!


Right now there is a fuckton of capital searching for a return. If we went hog wild on nuclear power by reducing regulations and imposed a slowly ramping-up revenue neutral carbon dioxide tax, people might go for it. Especially if you let the tax be negative and people get paid to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester it some way. Oil companies have a lot of knowledge, land, and boreholes and already pump CO2 underground to increase oil production in some fields. You might have a lot of different types of people who could get behind such a plan.

I'm hoping a radical centrist can win the US presidency in 2020 and get some such deal done with Congress. The USA needs to lead and then we would have a chance to help/arm twist China, India, and the rest of the world to follow suit.


> The only "solution" to climate change, if you can call it that, is through technology and adaptation...

I agree - Innovation. Clean energy has been around for ages but owned little of the market. Now that it's getting cheaper and competing with dirty methods on a cost bases it's an easy option - for rich countries, countries desperate to ascend from poverty and everyone in-between.

In a way, if you care about the environment, the best you may be to able to do is invest in green innovation and tech yourself.


> ... to help pay for some the policies

Not quite. https://twitter.com/anatolium/status/1077225708659847168


It won't be an extinction event, it will be a gradual decline where the global poor suffer and die by the millions. "People will need to move" is not a realistic solution for massive amounts of people; they will starve, and drown.

It's not happening because your friends fly to Burning Man, it's happening because global corporations are seeking profit above all else. Climate change cannot be combatted while capitalism is tolerated; we would need a global state that dictates what industries are allowed to do. So in that sense, you're right. It's never going to happen. Enjoy your life and don't have kids.


You're kind of talking around the parent comment's point. Global corporations don't make that profit in a vacuum, they do it by selling people things they want. Barring huge technological progress, our current way of life has to change to sufficiently lower climate emissions. Regardless of what kind of government system controls industries, for carbon emissions to be sufficiently low, a lot of our current luxuries must become too expensive for most people. The scale of production/consumption itself is part of the problem.


Simply untrue. Solar panels are cheap. We do some unsustainable things, for sure, but the idea that everyone has a choice between killing the Earth or living in medieval times and hoeing the mud like some Monty Python peasant is just the rankest sort of bullshit.

We do unsustainable things largely because the monetary incentives are to do so. We could easily have advanced, sustainable lifestyles.


Yes, there are some low hanging fruits. My country (USA) is the worst offender. But if you do the math, we can't afford to consume the same amounts we do now with fully sustainable tech. Not yet. I didn't mean to imply we have to swing cats into creeks and dig in the mud with sticks. But we will have to do things like pay more for meat, imported goods, electricity, and gasoline. We still can have them, but they would be more expensive, sometimes a lot more (such as airline travel). There's no way around this. We could have the rich subsidize the cost of these things for the poorer, but regardless, emissions-producing goods will need to be consumed less for emissions to decrease. How could it be any other way?

Emissions from the creation a given good/service can be reduced in 2 ways:

1. Reducing the consumption of said good.

2. Making the good sustainable.

Case 1 means either rationing a good or raising its price. Case 2 means raising the cost of production. In both cases, it costs more to consume the same amount.


True but your average joe has far less control over that infrastructure than the corporations profiting from it. When you have to drive to get to work because oil companies leverage their power to make public rail impossible, are you really making a choice to consume that product? I resent the idea that average people just getting by are expected to upend their life, while to expect a corporation to moderate their behavior is apparently absurd.


I do think it's absurd to expect them to moderate their behavior without regulation. If it made their products more expensive to do so (which it would), they'll just lose market share to some other less scrupulous corporation selling the same thing for cheaper.

A corporation's literal only job is to seek profits above all else. In the US, that's a legal requirement (Edit: I was very wrong about this). That doesn't make a corporation some subversive evil entity, more like an algorithm that finds solutions optimized for one variable. They do what they do because it's what makes them the most money. And remember, they have to operate this way (Edit: I was wrong about legal requirements on this).

So we can change the problem space by making it more expensive to behave in certain ways. Aka, regulation/emissions taxes.


> A corporation's literal only job is to seek profits above all else.

That isn't even approximately true as a blanket statement (labor unions and political parties in the US are, in fact, usually corporations), and, a perusal of actual corporate charters will show that it's not literally true even in specific cases.

> In the US, that's a legal requirement... people face fines or worse if they don't.

No, it's not, though that's a popular myth around the fiduciary dutied of corporate officers. [0]

[0] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fiduciary-responsibi...


> In the US, that's a legal requirement... people face fines or worse if they don't.

Please don’t spread misinformation. That’s not what fiduciary duty actually means. There are plenty of corporations that fund charity efforts without their execs landing in jail. “Profit above all else” is not enshrined in law.


> more like an algorithm that finds solutions optimized for one variable.

Right, exactly, which is why I took issue with capitalism in my original post. Companies are acting completely rationally under our current economic system, and it's literally destroying the ground from under our feet.


Is it just me, or are attacks on "capitalism" really annoying? I feel like it is a straw man army that does nothing but socially signal. Capitalism doesn't function without regulation and neither is capitalism anathema to socialism or even communism (e.g., China). So, attacks on capitalism are vague and counterproductive. What are you saying -- that you want to eliminate markets? That you want to outlaw the profit motive? Inane.


I don't feel that articles like that contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. Sure it's fun to point out that politicians are all hypocrits, but it doesn't help anybody at all.

There are two possibilities:

a) Private Jets are an important source of pollution. Then we should complain about private jets all the time, not just when we want to smear the people who use them to travel to climate talks.

b) Or private Jets are not really that much of an issue on a global scale, and we should focus on whatever is actually discussed at Davos, rather than complain about how people get there.

The article makes no effort to quantify, or put into relation, the actual impact of people travelling with private jets, so I really don't see what it brings to the table, except triggering a bit of outrage here and there.


> The article makes no effort to quantify, or put into relation, the actual impact…

THIS. So many people claim to care about improving things, but then put exactly zero effort into identifying how to best go about that improvement. As a result, they end up focusing entirely on superficial things, which inevitably comes down to asking people to make arbitrary sacrifices or endure meaningless pain in order to "demonstrate" that they care.

The most annoying example in recent memory was the drought in California, during which I was actually chastised by multiple people for… flushing the toilet.

It turns out that the universe is governed by physical laws, and those who care the most about effecting change in the universe will therefore take the time to do the analysis and the math to find out how they can do so effectively. Everyone else is just playing holier-than-thou, or engaging in the millennia-old game of finding some reason to demonize people who are are richer than them.

At some point you have to ask yourself whether you care about appearances or results.


it's not pointless argument. a bunch of important people are getting together to talk about possible solutions for climate change. such solutions will probably involve significant sacrifices in our standard of living. the fact that they took pretty much the most wasteful means of travel should suggest something about who they expect to make these sacrifices.

spoiler: it's not them.


Most wasteful?

The majority of bizjet trips are between airports that don't have direct service. So alternative travel would involve connections with multiple take-offs, which are much more polluting than sitting at cruising altitude.


> multiple take-offs, which are much more polluting than sitting at cruising altitude.

I highly doubt that non-direct flights on airliners pollute more per passenger than a direct flight on a small jet that isn't necessarily full.


This sounds like a variation of the "individual actions are too insignificant to matter" excuse for personal irresponsibility.

All the small categories of climate sins can be trivialized when considered one by one, but they make up the whole.


Sometimes they might make up an insignificant part of the whole. Which means you will inconvenience millions for small gains, when pressuring a single farmer to save x% of the water might produce the same net effect. Numbers matter.


We can't focus only on low hanging fruit with easy big wins, there has to be big changes for everyone with a western style co2 footprint.


Though I agree with your quantitative impact approach, there is also a “do as I say not as I do” attitude at stake that I find hard to swallow.


It's very funny laughing at them but the alternative for most people would likely have been not attending because they wouldn't be bothered to make the trip by other means (I know I probably wouldn't unless I had a direct flight). I very much doubt the environmental impact that a return private jet flight is greater than whatever these people might implement towards helping the environment.

Effectively anything other than biking or hiking there would be enough grounds for pointing and screaming "HYPOCRITES!".


Anything these über-wealthy people decide to enact will (with 100% certainty) be designed to let them continue their lavish lifestyles, while the ordinary people (you and me) get to bear the burden and make sacrifices for The Greater Good.

And then they'll congratulate themselves for being so visionary and good.


Until the elites change, why should we?


Because you want your to avoid your grandchildren starving to death in a famine or being killed in the water wars of 2075?


Northern latitudes will be less affected.


Hundreds of millions in the southern latitudes will (understandably) move north.


Oh, in that case don't worry about it.


This is such a beautiful example. We all want change, but giving up modern conveniences is so hard. We might mock the people and their private planes but I don’t doubt someone would mock me for my cars, central air conditioning, etc.


I thought to myself: "Someone who cared could probably have got a train from most of Europe to Davos!"

Then I thought about the sort of people that go to these things, and how long the train takes. They're oh so terribly important (sarcasm), that they simply cannot afford the time lost by traveling in anything other than a jet.

And that I think is the problem - from the Davos-attendee right down to you and I with our cars + central heating/air-con: we all want things to improve, but we also all value (consciously or otherwise) our own comfort/time/convenience more

"Well OF COURSE most people should take the train to Davos. Absolutely! Its the climate friendly choice! I had to take a jet though because I am very busy."


Or if they were stuck with us, they'd work on better options being made available on the train.


I think the problem is security. Here in Switzerland, there's demos in various cities and also of course at Davos. If you would put them in trains, it would be harder to do it safely.

(of course, why they even need so much security is another thing)


At some point, they'll have to be escorted by the military wherever they go, as more and more people will get angry at their unwillingness to fight (if not their contribution to) the ecological collapse.

I hope it isn't too late to escape this vicious cycle.


That this level of security is needed to protect the wealthy elites from the masses really should make you think about how absurd the concentration of wealth and power is.


Many companies bought a security and business continuity review and as a result the CEO must fly personal jet.


They must? But who decided, exactly? Should they really be in charge if their decisions are bad for everyone? Shouldn't the people have the last word on such matter -- in a democracy at least?


Such a review is usually bought from an independent consulting company. Of course it is BS, yet nobody can do anything.


Exactly this! There was a good TED talk by Hans Rosling saying, basically, people in developing economies want washing machines (just like you).

That is why I suspect the only solutions to climate change are:

* Develop an energy source which has a lower-cost and equal practicality to carbon-emitting sources, or

* Find a way to mitigate the effects of carbon emissions.

Otherwise, conservation in rich countries is just going to be replaced by consumption of the now cheaper oil/coal in developing ones.

I don't think it is realistic to ask people with far fewer conveniences (washing machines) to abandon their hopes of a better life by conserving (if people won't give up private jets, can you really expect much poorer people to give up more necessary conveniences?)


It’s not just hard, it’s also pointless unless we all do it together. If these people had refrained from making the trip, it would have no real impact on climate change. It’s a collective action problem.


That's defeatist. Small changes are not the only things that matter but saying "everything or nothing" is not helpful. The collective change that's needed to effect change begins with individual steps, like not taking a private plane when commercial will do.


Or even better- not flying at all and attending the conference virtually. Climate conferences and talks so frequently are held in resort towns- it should not be a getaway. Reserve some conference rooms and have everyone dial in! We have the technology.


boom dis rite here


I’m not saying “everything or nothing.” I’m saying that we need to work together to make large changes. Getting governments to phase out coal faster is useful even though it’s far from the “everything” of getting rid of all fossil fuel use. Getting a few rich people to fly less is, on the other hand, not useful.


I can’t think of a single case in human history where indiduals acting alone made a real difference in widespread issues like climate change. So suggesting it starts with individual steps seems wildly inaccurate.


Someone has to go first. If not you, then who? Everything starts with someone going first.

And your actions do have an effect: by providing an example to others, making it more likely they too will participate; and economic, by reducing the income generated from the activity.


1/1,000,000,000 has no meaningful impact on any of those.

Silent Spring was written by a Rachel Carson and had real impact. However, her personal lifestyle was irrelevant.

PS: As to someone going first, that is not an issue when say a state adds a sales tax. In such cases the first person to pay the tax is a sign that it's already in place.


So I take it you don't believe in voting? Voting is nearly as worthless.

No one said your singular vote (with your wallet) would change everything. But just like voting you help push things in the right direction. And you can, with additional effort, influence more people to vote the same way as you.


Voting magnifies the impact of the individual. Consider the impact on the climate of 40,000 people completely eliminating their CO2 emissions. The difference would be impossible to measure, even if it was the top 40,000 emitters on the planet. Maybe you'd push back the time to hit 2 degrees of warming by a day or something.

Now consider the impact of the right 40,000 people voting differently in the 2016 US Presidential elections. All sorts of things would look very different, including action being taken to fight climate change.

One person can make a difference, by influencing others. But you have to be smart about it. You can't just decide to fly less, and then declare that you're making a difference because one person can make a difference.


Who? The government. Sign a treaty, pass a law, impose loads and loads of CO2 taxes. Impose sanctions on countries that won't fall in line.


On the contrary, big things are always started by individuals. I can't think of a single case where all nations have 'agreed' and magically solved some global issue.


First thing that comes to mind is Nazis. Imagine some American guy gearing up and landing in France all by himself instead of trying to get his government to intervene.


I think the point is somebody, somewhere, started the ball rolling with the various governments. Everyone in the government didn’t all wake up one morning and simultaneously decide to oppose the Nazis.


Somebody has to get it started, but they have to get something useful started. Trying to convince your government to fight the Nazis by writing editorials or calling members of Congress is useful. Trying to convince them by going to France to single-handedly fight the Wehrmacht is not useful.

Rich people flying less won't do anything to convince governments to fight climate change, so what's the point?


Sadly this isn't true. The changes required to make any significant difference would likely involve the end of capitalism as we know it, and thus they will never happen until a catastrophe occurs. You're living in a dreamworld if you think even something like the Paris accord is anywhere close. And climate change is just one small way in which we are ruining the world. Imagine what things will be like with 10 billion! Yet population control is taboo because fee fees. It's liberalism gone suicidal.


Someone has to set the example. Preferably someone influential.


Setting an example is neither necessary nor sufficient to solve the problem.


This is a silly and pointless conversation. The cost to the environment for 1500 jets once compared to the political improvements that could result is a drop in the bucket.


When those "political improvements" inevitably end up being a further continuation of the unsustainable capitalism status quo, I would rather they not try to improve anything.


I guess you don't live near sea-level, then.


I do in fact live in a city on the coast, the highest point in the entire urban area is ~35m above sea level.

So I am extremely conscious of what the effects of climate change will mean for me, and for anyone living similarly close to the sea and at sea-level.

Which is exactly why I don't think it matters what a bunch of stupendously wealthy capitalists can come up with. We need widespread systematic change, and it needs to come from the people, not the so-called elite. As has been shown before, the ideas and initiatives of the elite are very often explicitly harmful to the general population.


You realize that these are elected officials meeting in Davos right? As in, as literally as can be, "the people".


Meeting with Titans of industry and other high-end capitalists. It's an old boys club, patting each other on the back, doing favors.


So you want policy makers to not understand what they're making policy on?


I want them to listen to the whole people, not just the elite.


Air conditioning, at least, is a natural to pair with large grid connected photovoltaic setups. The times of the day when you'll have the heaviest AC compressor motor/fan motor load in watts is also when the sun is up.

Look an hourly demand curve chart for a central air conditioned house in Sacramento in mid summer, vs watt-hours produced during the same hours of the same day by a rooftop 10kW size pv system.


Sounds like you dont live in Florida. :)


Meaning that even when the Sun is no longer shining, the dewpoint is so high that what might have been a comfortable temperature with a breeze is actually felt as oppressively hot and will cause all sorts of fun mold growing in the home.

In the Southeast, AC is also about dehumidifying the air.


> The times of the day when you'll have the heaviest AC compressor motor/fan motor load in watts is also when the sun is up.

Not quite true, actually. Shifted by few hours.


Also: "Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions" https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-compa...

Individual behavior obviously matters but it's a drop in the bucket compared to corporate polluters.


Aren't the customers of those companies also culpable?


YES.

I really dislike the insinuation that all those companies could voluntarily change their behavior and stay in business. There's no incentive for them to eat the cost of that negative externality, and their competition would immediately come along and take their customers by offering the same products at a cheaper price. We are the ones buying the cheap crap. It's cheap, we want it, so we buy it. Those companies might be enabling us, but if they didn't provide it, another one would step in.

This is why regulation is so important vs. pure advocacy and technology solutions. Consumers are buying things without paying for the harm that product inflicts on the environment.


Absolutely. The reality is, if people actually cared, they could do a lot by not consuming as much. But they do not and we have to act appropriately.


We need systemic change because there’s demand for what these companies are producing. For example there can be subsidies, or at least an end to oil subsidies!


Are there oil subsidies? I thought there was a Federal tax on gas...the opposite of subsidies?


Depending on what you consider a direct subsidy, the US subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $5-15 billion per year. There was a study that came out claiming that around half of US oil production is only profitable because of these subsidies.


Do you have a link to that study?



I would consider the trillions spent on the Iraq Wars a substantial oil subsidy.


> There appears to be a trend towards larger aircraft, with expensive heavy jets the aircraft of choice

> This is partly due to the long distances travelled, he said, “but also possibly due to business rivals not wanting to be seen to be outdone by one another”

I don't think we can expect anything substantive coming of a meeting like this.

Has anything ever?


One part of his statement is fact ( long ranges necessitate large aircraft ) and the other is conjecture.

There was only one 747 in attendance, from UAE. Then some Boeing BBJs, one Tu-204 and and then lots of Falcons / Gulfstreams / Globals.

If image was important then BBJs would have been the minimum.


If they really cared, the most environmentally friendly way to hold Davos would be over video conference


If only we had some way of communicating across long distances...


ah, yes, carrier pigeon!


The World Economic Forum in Davos is not just about Climate. In fact most of the topics discussed are not.

It is not clear from this article that most of the attendees are even pretending to be concerned with global warming.

So, while this is certainly tragic, the act is not as hypocritical, nor as obviously ironic, as The Guardian would like us to think.


I guess we're going to do this every year now.

Like last year: if the politicians gathered at this conference agree and do anything - literally anything at all - to combat climate change that they wouldn't have done otherwise, the effect of their plane flights will be dwarfed by whatever thing, no matter how tiny, they agreed to do.

"Leaders working on world hunger problem ate lunch, exacerbating problem"

"Leaders working on global clean water drank three pitchers of water"

"President says we need to reduce CO2 emissions, but attended Boy Scout Jamboree where marshmallows were toasted"

All of this is "I am very intelligent" territory. https://thenib.com/mister-gotcha


> "Leaders working on world hunger problem ate lunch, exacerbating problem"

> "Leaders working on global clean water drank three pitchers of water"

In both of those scenarios, the goal is to make it possible so everybody can do those things. The leaders working on world hunger, want everybody to be able to eat lunch like them. The leaders working on global clean water want everybody to be able to drink 3 pitchers of water without having to worry if they will get sick.

The leaders at the climate conference are discussing policies that would encourage/mandate that fewer people took plan trips, and that private jets were more expensive to fly.


The end goal for fighting climate change is to have everything running on renewable energy so that we can all enjoy plane trips without screwing up the planet.


Let me know when leaders working on global hunger ban GMOs then set crops on fire. Because that's the closer example to 1500 private jets flying to around to meet about climate change.


> agree and do anything - literally anything at all - to combat climate change

In many cases, they really don't. Or they agree to worse things in "exchange" for positive things.

That's the irony.


Aren't ill-fitting analogies the original "I am very intelligent"?


Only posting because it seems some people have not spotted why this story resonated so much: it epitomises a certain view of Davos - the rich and famous, meeting to discuss problems they imagine themselves disproportionately able to address, seemingly oblivious to their own disproportionate role in causing the problems in the first place (surely it's beyond debate that anyone flying a private jet has a disproportionately large carbon footprint?).


This kind of finger pointing really misses the forest for the trees.

I know it's popular to hate on the global elite and jump all over their hypocrisy at any opportunity, but we need to take a long, hand look at ourselves for a minute. There are no headlines right now proclaiming outrage over the number of people flying private jets to go on fancy vacations, but tons of headlines about people flying jets to this climate talk. It's crazy and irrational for us to scream about people using private jets for events that are trying to help the world but then ignore all the selfish personal uses of private jets that are constantly happening for more frivolous reasons.

The outcome of talks like these is tremendously important if we want to address climate change; if allowing people to spend a little extra jet fuel will help encourage better attendance and ensure the attendees feel refreshed and sharp when they arrive, then that seems like an okay tradeoff to me. The extra CO2 being emitted here really is a tiny drop in the bucket.

EDIT: Judging by the silent downvotes, I guess people would rather just cling to their blind outrage than think critically about their own reactions to these things. Disappointing.


That's because the Climate Talks aren't about the climate. 1500 private jets flew to Davos so their passengers could ensure a good crisis doesn't "go to waste."


The solution should include a carbon tax or fee to make such behavior uneconomical. Could Switzerland impose a carbon fee upon landing a private aircraft at a Swiss airport?


Only the lower-class believe that "carbon taxes" are intended to stop global warming.

Everyone above that, certainly in the Davos Private Equity set, understand its just a chance to create a supranational currency using something other than income taxes/bonds as its credit/debit method.

Its silly to suggest Switzerland do something like that: Why make it more difficult for this to happen?


Why would Switzerland effectively offer a negative incentive towards people holding conferences there? Are you advocating that they should make attending climate conferences become more expensive and harder to attend?


No, I'm proposing that they encourage more eco-friendly alternatives that also make attending the conference cheaper such as telecommuting or using rail.


As if the cost of traveling to Davos was a problem for people who fly private jets...

Edit: the idea isn't to tax air travel to death, but to have a sufficient level of tax so that ordinary citizens can accept the environmental taxes that they must pay on polluting activities (some of which they can't avoid -- e.g commuting to work which is a necessity, contrary to fly private jets).


Well, since presumably the aircraft need to fly out, the simple thing would just be to tax fuel based on carbon emissions from burning it.


The people are ready, the conservatives don't recognize the problem.


Al Gore and Leonardo Di Caprio fly private jets all the time. Not sometimes, but always and very often. This is equivalent of Mahatma Gandhi driving among the people in the Rolls Royce to deliver his message!


1. No, it's not.

2. "Vintage Rolls Royce which seated Mahatma Gandhi and Queen of England fetches $705,300" http://luxurylaunches.com/transport/vintage_rolls_royce_whic...


Yes, it is. He was bare foot. Sure, he was seated in the RR with Queen, but that was a special circumstance, most likely part of politicking, and not his modus operandi. But for Al Gore and Leonardo, it’s their way of life.




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