This isn’t just Larry Elliott making this mistake it’s a general one across the left. The idea that the way to get everyone signed up to doing something about climate change is to gee them up with the heralding dawn of social justice. The point being that the specific form of social justice that is being promoted here is opposed by a majority of the population. That’s why it never has taken power in an election in this country. Thus this logic is entirely the wrong way around:
Putting economies on an environmental war footing is going to be tougher, because unlike in the late 1930s the danger is harder to see and takes longer to materialise. There are no invading armies massing on the border to concentrate minds, and that means governments need to embrace ideas – such as the Green New Deal – that can help shift the dial. The secret to securing popular support is to marry two ideas – environmentalism and social justice.
The concept of social justice being used there is something between turning into Sweden and making all Grandpa Jezz’s prejudices into the law. Neither of which is a position that has ever gained majority support in the UK. So why would allying this with climate change increase the chances of us doing something about climate change?
Try it the other way around though. Say that we actually listened to Nordhaus, Stern, the IPCC’s economic bit and all that. What we should actually do is the carbon tax, brought in over some decades. We’ll pay a little more tax on this over here, a little less on that over there. The net cost to society will be pretty much zero over time – actually, that’s the entire point, to make sure that the net cost over time is zero – and we’ll be letting the normal capital cycle take the strain.
Of the two positions which is more likely to gain general societal support to do something about climate change?
What’s really happening here is that those who desire that social justice think that climate change will provide the justification for it. The sadness being that this very insistence is what makes it less likely that we will avoid boiling Flipper in the steam from that last remaining ice floe.