Green bubbles

How are we to understand Labor’s loss of ground on environmental policy manifest in declining public support for its Emmissions Trading Scheme.¬† Public opinion about environmental questions is complex. There is a broad sentiment in favour of wilderness preservation, contrary to some myths it doesn’t vary much by social background or educational level. This diffuse sentiment explains the steady expansion of national parks and other protected areas. However those whose livelihood is dependent on resource exploitation will be strongly motivated to oppose wilderness preservation. When governments make decisions on this issue intense opposition from a small group can outweigh weak support from a larger group in the short or even medium term, it is standard example long ago identified by Mancur Olson. Mostly this accounts for governments going against public opinion on wilderness preservation. In the long-run however public opinion will win out even in Tasmania. Beyond wilderness preservation alone there is a diffuse concern about the environment which can at times be mobilised. The problem is that often this takes the form of ‘doomsday environemntalism’, examples include the 1970s resource depletion panic and the advocacy of Zero Population Growth (memorably expressed in films such as Soylent Green ), these are ‘green bubbles’.¬† For a time greenhouse mitigation policy benefited by being understood in these terms. But these moods ebb and public anxiety can be displaced onto other targets, notice how some conservatives have taken up arguments about the dangers of overpopulation which they link to an anti-immigration agenda. A mood of panic and alarm may actually discourage rational policy, an Emissions Trading Scheme which aims to use the market to drive technological change to take account of the real costs of carbon consumption is boring and dull compared¬† to visions of apocalypse but also the gimmickry of Tony Abbott. There’s a broader lesson about public policy, good policy does not result from governments simply implementing public demands, people know what they want but not how to achieve it.

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  1. [...] via email. Learn More! …click on the image for the Library-Old Town Hall page. See statement …Green bubbles Geoff RobinsonFebruary 17th, 2010 | Tags: Emissions Trading Scheme, environmentalism, ETS, Tony Abbott | Category: [...]

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