A recent issue of Newsweek featured an essay by Charles, the Prince of Wales, on the need for a global mobilization of will to remove the risk of harmful global warming from our planet. Again, and with respect for Prince Charles’ goodwill and concern, I am struck by divergence of the high aspirations and passionate concern of climate activists from the specifics of just what to do. Will and high ideals cannot take the place in solving problems provided by 1) biology, physics and chemistry and 2) the means and mechanics of praxis – changing real conditions with real processes.
To some extent, Prince Charles agrees with me. His Sustainable Markets Initiative has authored the Terra Carta Roadmap for Nature which contains nearly 100 specific steps for remediation of climate change. He writes, “Together we are working to drive trillions of dollars in support of transition across ten of the most emitting and polluting industries, including industry, agriculture, transportation, health systems and fashion.”
My question is: if markets fail to do this, how can good intentions and money get the job done?
To support my skepticism, let me note the three avenues suggested by Prince Charles to work around market failure. First is to have industries set out “what it will take to make this transition and have strategies in place to speed up the process.” But what if no one wants to pay for the new technology or buy the new products? What if nobody sells the machines and processes which would reduce emissions or pollutants? Will just giving away money produce inventions of the right machines and processes? Who wants to give away money and not get some good in return?
Secondly, Prince Charles says private investors must finance transition efforts. As charity? At what level of risk? To whom should the money go?
Thirdly, the Prince says CEOs and institutional investors need clear market signals from governments – to give them confidence to invest in the long-term. Governments? The government will buy me an electric car and pay for a charging station in the garage of my condo? Fine, but I am not going to stay awake for it.
Then, in the same issue, Newsweek runs a story about nuclear energy. After years and years of idealist protest against nuclear power, now suddenly, when people realize that wind and solar will never provide enough electricity to power our civilization and that burning natural gas, as we do, contributes to CO2 emission, some kind of nuclear power is suddenly in vogue.
This article reveals how we can deal – actually and in fact – with global warming, one step at a time, starting with research, then building a pilot, then have innovators (2.5% of the people) buy and test out the pilot, followed by early adapters (13.5%), then early majority consumers (34%), then late majority users (3/4%) and finally, the laggards getting on board (16%).