The Climate-Change Climate in the U.K.

A quick visit to the U.K. confirms that environmental and global-warming concerns are, on the surface at least, acutely more pronounced here than in the U.S. Reminders and nudges seem to be everywhere, many of them seemingly intended to make you feel guilty for every breath you draw and every bite you swallow. A bottle of Belu water arrives at the table: “All Profits to Clean Water Projects,” it says. “The U.K.’s First Carbon-Neutral Bottled Water.”

A Times article by Ben Webster reports on a £6 million governmental ad campaign arguing that “Man is causing global warming and endangering life on Earth”:

Ministers sanctioned the campaign because of concern that scepticism about climate change was making it harder to introduce carbon-reducing policies such as higher energy bills.

The advertisement attempts to make adults feel guilty about their legacy to their children. It features a father telling his daughter a bedtime story of “a very very strange” world with “horrible consequences” for today’s children.

The little girl has an angel’s face; the bedtime story includes weeping bunnies, rising seas, drowning doggies, and evil, energy-consuming grownups.

Most interesting, to me at least, was this bit of the article:

When asked how they would react if they knew climate change were going to have a serious effect on their children’s lives, 74 percent [of British adults surveyed] said that they would be willing to change their lifestyle. Fifteen percent said that they would not make any changes.

That’s encouraging, yes? Three of four adults “would be willing to change their lifestyle.”

But I’d advise you to ignore this survey completely. As we write at some length in SuperFreakonomics, such declarations of good intentions, which come at a personal cost with little in the way of immediate benefit, are the emptiest of promises.

Interestingly, my visit to London occurred on the same day the Sunday Times ran a longish extract (not yet online) of SuperFreakonomics; its headline: “Why Everything You Think You Know About Global Warming Is Wrong.”

That said, the incessant environmental nudging worked on me, at least for the first meal I took here. Instead of a breakfast including every form of meat known to man (as if often the case here), I took the Vegetarian English Breakfast, with a “sausage” made of spinach and ricotta (yum), vegetarian black pudding (like chomping a dry sponge), and a few slices of soy bacon (tasted quite nice, although it looked like a surgical glove). I believe the eggs actually came from chickens, though I cannot be certain.


Jake

"When asked how they would react if they knew climate change were going to have a serious effect on their children's lives, 74 percent [of British adults surveyed] said that they would be willing to change their lifestyle. Fifteen percent said that they would not make any changes.

Good grief. That's akin to asking someone if they would change their eating habits if they knew that it would extend their life by 30 years. Of course people would be willing to change if they knew for certain their actions would have a serious effect on their children's lives.

The point of this is that no one knows for certain what, if any, effect "climate change" or "global warming" or whatever it's called this year will have on anyone, or even if humans can have any effect on the climate at all. It's a ridiculous question to begin with.

Ian Draper

I have like so many seen this commercial and how the child reacts should make us all realise it is not us adults that will suffer but the children`s children and while we act as adults like children then their lives will be blighted by effects that we so called adults have wreaked on this earth.

The question is when do we learn that what ever we do affects someone else. The Buddhists are well known to have said if you throw a pebble in a pond one day it will become a wave, well mankind has dropped too many boulders into too many ponds and now we have tsunamis, what is next before we learn ?

Diego

Big scale and long term political decisions will prevent catastrophic climate change, not the token acts of self punishment the British have been performing. some will stop holidaying overseas to save plane fuel, and then collectively allow subsidies for inefficient crops and so much other waste. Not to mention Greenpeace´s unending campaign against the one clean and viable energy source: atomic.

Thomas B.

"The Buddhists are well known to have said if you throw a pebble in a pond one day it will become a wave, "

I cannot duplicate these findings.

Holme

What really worries me is the NGO and government supported fear mongering that is used to indoctrinate and scare children. It is starting to look more and more like the religions of the past: If you don't behave you will go to hell.
I honestly think this is bordering abuse.

Conor Neill

It is a great shame that the essence of Global Warming debate is not the facts but so much emotional heart wringing and credibility bashing of the other side's view. I think there are some sensible things to do whatever the reason for (or existance of) global warming - save energy, recycle... it is a pity we don't just focus on the tools we can give people to change lifestyle and not spend all the money on emotional blackmail.

Eric M. Jones

--2, Ian Draper:

"The Buddhists are well known to have said if you throw a pebble in a pond one day it will become a wave...."

No they didn't. This is not a Buddhist concept at all. Perhaps you mean that throwing a pebble into a pond has consequences. Some come sooner, some come later, but actions always have consequences.

Benjamin Seghers

It's a shame that there exists a preponderance of evidence to support the theory of anthropogenic global warming that is being completely ignored by the septics (intentionally spelled as such) and even being attacked through disinformation campaigns. The septics, unfortunately for them, have very little scientific evidence to support their specious hypotheses. Instead, they rely on emotional arguments based on fear mongering. There are various reasons for this, one of which include protecting archaic and inefficient industries that would undoubtedly crumble with the advancement of more efficient technologies. Alas, the story of global warming is the story of the largest externality in human history. Speaking of "efficiency of markets" is not even possible so long as we allow anthropogenic global warming to continue unabated.

Jon

I guess I expected better from Levitt and Dubner:

http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/12/superfreakonomics-errors-levitt-caldeira-myhrvold/

Jonathan Katz

Man is very likely the cause of global warming, but it is NOT endangering life on Earth. More likely, warming will be good for us by lengthening growing seasons. Climate has always fluctuated widely (consider ice ages and warm interglacials). Anthropogenic warming just gives this another push. The Earth has been through this naturally many times; it doesn't need "saving".

Ian Kemmish

You don't say where your vegetarian breakfast came from - if you'd been here two years ago then "food miles" would have been big in the press. You may not yet have cause to feel good about yourself for choosing that breakfast!

There is an interesting effect at play in the UK, along the lines of the law of diminishing returns: many of us have been living frugally for years (if we grew up in the 60s and 70s, some of us never lost the habit), so the advertising you mention is preaching to an audience which by now is either already converted or unconvertible. Hence the occasionally extreme images.

By the way - your conclusion that I, who sold my business some time ago, and my friends, who contract for overseas businesses, all fit the profile of suicide bombers' financial dealings, that somewhat put me off buying your book!

Owen

Don't worry the pudding always taste like a sponge.

Francis Tucker Manns

Remember the lesson of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. The assumption that there is or ever will be man-made climate change (remember the Orwellian global warming?) is the big dead elephant in the room. I think all the politicians on the bandwagon need to be replaced by public servants who can objectively evaluate scientific and technical data. The backlash will be swift.

bruce

Even if you believe in human caused climate change, how do we know the world will be worse for our children? It might be much better....

Dan Lufkin

Yes, global climate changed in the distant past, but the rate of change we observe today is much greater than it was then. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere today is greater than it has ever been in the past 65,000 years. Just based on unequivocal laboratory measurements of infra-red absorption by CO2, a lot of extra energy is being added to the atmosphere.

In essence, we're performing a giant experiment on the atmosphere with ourselves right there in the test tube. Skeptics say that they want 100% certainty in the predictions before we call off the experiment. In science, 100% certainty comes only in mathematical proofs (and even there we have the Gödel problem). Don't you think that it would be better if we tried out the experiment on white rats first?

MeToo

"What really worries me is the NGO and government supported fear mongering that is used to indoctrinate and scare children. It is starting to look more and more like the religions of the past: If you don't behave you will go to hell.
I honestly think this is bordering abuse."

Exactly. Why do these alarmists and fear-mongers prey on children? Just like all abusers, because the children are at their mercy. Children are not supposed to have adult worries and feel responsible for adults matters. This is the same pattern often seen in children from alcoholic families, where one child becomes super-responsible for managing a family, Then, later in adult life, is always depressed, or is always a "co-dependent" person in relationships, and cannot enjoy life. This is how we are raising our children on a societal level now, by govt mandated curricula.

rel

Even if global warming were the result of natural climate cycles rather than human activities (which I doubt), it's still a good idea to stop drilling holes in the bottom of the lifeboat, lest we push things past a tipping point.

Fiodor Utkin

Even if you believe in human caused climate change, how do we know the world will be worse for our children? It might be much better….' by bruce at 9.38am
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I'm absolutely shocked by what some people here think.. Have you ever seen the levels of waste people have produced! In fact population is growing and our planet has never experienced such a density.. people are consumers nowadays! We produce, use and throw it away! Why? Because clever people are making profit out of us! Where do you think this waste is going after it's been taken out from your doorstep? It's burnt even if it's recycled, it's going into rivers and back to your house! People struggle to filter water from chemicals ..
It is defenitely caused by humans, you can see the climate becoming much less stable than it used to be and it's not going to make our world better for sure

Mark

Concensus scientific belief in a theory does not make it fact. There once was a concensus scientific belief the world was flat. Let the other theories be heard. They contain just as much fact as any other....none. It is a belief in data and how it obtained and interpreted. One can aslo start with a belief and then make the data fit it. All ideas should be welcomed and openly discussed as valid potential ideas.

Brooks

What is wrong with you humans? Global warming and climate change are no longer the point. Why is self-regulation and cleaning up after yourselves such a big deal?? Skeptics and anti-legislation types seem to be as psychologically immature as CHILDREN (maybe this is the point of the ads). The planet is the space in which you live, regardless of climate change, you should clean up after yourselves. Please stop whining about having to pick up after yourself and waste less. You sound like CHILDREN. Please evolve, please advance, sometime soon, PLEASE.