It may just be my bubble, but I seem to be encountering quite a lot of criticism of things like deadlines, net zero and carbon budgets from people who – as far as I can tell – support aggressive climate action. I have to admit to not fully understanding the arguments being made, but I think it has to do with these science-based targets not really telling us how to meet these goals. The idea, I think, is that we should be focussing on the socio-political (or socio-economic) barriers that have really been hampering efforts to address these environmental problems.
I certainly agree with the basic idea that science-based targets don’t tell us how to achieve these goals. I also largely agree that there are many barriers to making effective progress. What I haven’t understood, despite asking a number of times, is how focussing more on dealing with these socio-political, or socio-economic, barriers avoids turning this into ideological battle that potentially also undermines the ability to deal with climate change, and other environmental problems.
A reasonably common claim in the climate debate is that many who profess to be concerned about climate change are really just using this as a way of promoting their preferred socio-political ideologies. So, if we move away from highlighting science-based targets, to focus more on the socio-political barriers to action, how do we do so in a way that doesn’t lead some to simply say “told you so“?
Similarly, if we focus more on these socio-political barriers, this would seem to also run the risk of validating Lomborg-like arguments that suggests that the main way to deal with climate change is simply to make everyone richer and, hence, more resilient. In other words, if dealing with socio-economic inequality is seen as a key step to addressing climate change, why are Lomborg-like arguments not entirely valid options?
As I said, I may well misunderstand the criticisms of these science-based targets, and I may not have expressed my concerns as clearly as I could have. However, I do think that one advantage of the science-based targets is that they’re under-pinned by pretty robust evidence. If we largely dismiss these science-based targets, and we focus instead on dealing with the socio-economic barriers that are seen to be hampering action, how do you distinguish between solutions that have the potential to also deal with climate change, and other environmental problems, and those that do not?