The black (particularly though not exclusively American) experience today plus the historic problems of slavery have parallels in the climate change and carbon tax government level debates (as well as on patent harmonisation).
Historically, many practices around slavery which would be illegal today, helped build the wealth and legacy of many countries, and many families in those countries.
Native people round the world (US, Canada, Australia to name a few) have also argued, and some times with partial success, for restitution for acts which would be considered genocide today but were more complex at the time.
We can see from Truth and Reconciliation processes (wiki here) that many do take the view that you can not blame the children for acts of their parents, grand parents and beyond. Even some, one can see would not blame the footsoldier for obeying acts of the general or government.
The parallel with climate is that developed world (Level 4 countries in Rosling classification) have produced most of the carbon pollution for the last 200 years (and this pollution stays around for 50 to 100 years+) and level 1/2/3 countries have not. And now when a country such as India, China etc. want to grow there’s a sense that it is unfair for them to not be able to use the same fossil fuel resources as eg the US has done historically.
It’s thought of as climbing up the ladder and kicking it away. And Level 4 countries did similar with patents and copyright (I briefly discuss this with Japan and patents in this blog on high drug pricing, also note the US did not grant copyright to foreign works for most of the 1800s and then from limited nations from 1891)
Countries compete, and countries (like companies) seldom wish to give up accumulated advantages.
Markets can also be seen to struggle with the very long term, the systemic, and shared goods, and the “tragedy of the commons”.
At least with respect to carbon – how I see it – is it will take a multi-pronged solution. Countries such as the US need to bend to lower carbon use, either through regulation or through carbon taxes (or both), and countries like China need to bend so they do not reach US levels of carbon intensity.
I have no answer to the problem of historic carbon pollution. I do not see it as feasible for a country like the US to admit and restitute for actions in the past even if there might be some consensus around the matter – which there is not - (this is a country that can not agree that healthcare is a basic human right, and which has strong split votes on a number of matters which are mostly settled in other level 4 countries (eg abortion, gun control), and Trump and his policies, have 40 to 45% support in the US which is a significant amount).
It will then need a broad range of both demand and supply side solutions: battery storage, renewables, grid storage, more recycling, coal phase out, electric cars, more cycling, more innovation in products and materials, to name but a few.
Humans will still want to build, travel and fly.
Humans will want to grow.
Humans will still want their children to have and experience things that their parents and grand parents have not.
In this respect, it is disappointing to see that investment in renewable technologies has fallen in 2017, and coal phase out is potentially stalling. It is most likely a blip in the trend, but still unwelcome. See the latest International Energy Agency report
This would also suggest the so-called green finance initiatives are only having moderate impact (if any, some might argue).
I take heart (looking at Rosling again) that so many metrics globally have improved, eg life expectancy. And historically, human ingenuity has invented its way out of problems, some tricky problems too (eg Polio).
But, there is a part of me that wishes we spent more time and effort inventing for these problems than we did in, say, coffee pod machines (where we've created a packaging recycling problem with a coffee solution which was arguably unneeded) or even teeth straightening technology.
Still, I think remaining hopeful is more productive than feeling helpless.
The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog. Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism. Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).
My Op-Ed in the Financial Times (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.
Some popular posts: the commencement address; by Nassim Taleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher), Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.
How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.
A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.