Further policy discussions, translated into normal language:

Him: “That issue is mainly being raised by NGOs.”
Translation: “Bunch of hippies. We don’t give a shit what they think.”

Me: “The same issue has been raised by Wall-Mart. They’re not an NGO. The same issue has also been raised by JP Morgan, who called it one of the major sources of corporate risk for this century. They’re also not an NGO.”
Translation: “You’re so my bitch right now.”

9 thoughts on “Further policy discussions, translated into normal language:”

    1. It was about the water footprint of food.

      It was the usual situation of industry claiming that the push on this issue is due to NGOs and pressure groups, and that consumers don’t know or care, so why bother? And the answer being a) because scientists are not going to stop pointing to the evidence about the issue and b) coz because if consumers do suddenly start to care, then it’s going to take the industry five years to do the research to come up with substantial answers. Thus retailers like Wall-Mart don’t want to be caught between a rock and a hard place, the rock being consumer concern that’s come from nowhere in six months, and the hard place being industry who can’t reply to the concerns coz they haven’t done the research.

      I do have some sympathy here, this may never become a global issue to the extent that climate change is, and doing the research is going to cost industry some money, but ffs, this research is like fire insurance. Your house probably isn’t going to burn down, but the impact is high enough that a reasonable insurance premium is justified.

      1. The insurance metaphor is useful.

        For people opposed to spending money to prevent global warming, I often use the analogy of “if there’s a 5% chance that terrorists will detonate a nuclear bomb in Manhattan in the next 20 years, how much would you spend to prevent that from happening?”

        1. Just be careful about asking that question around actuaries, you’ll probably get an answer that starts: “Well, it depends upon the value of Manhattan, replacement cost NPV minus net depreciation by a fixed-declining balance method…” and continues on for several hours…

          1. Heh… it’s funny. Actuaries are finance people, and finance people like accuracy and certainty. But assessing this sort of thing with any degree f accuracy is so difficult that a rough estimate is probably just as good as a very thoroughly thought out one.

            Playing rough with numbers, I’d say there’d be about a $2 trillion loss from the nuking of Manhattan. So gambling-wise (with the odds I mentioned earlier), it’s worth spending up to $100 billion on antiterrorism measures for Manhattan alone over 20 years to break even.

            So now we look at some of the really big issues that could arise from potential catastrophic global warming, loss of water supply etc. It’s likely worth getting the world to spend several trillion over the next 20 years to stop it.

          2. There’s at least three different kinds of costs from climate change. There’s the direct costs of carbon taxes and other changes to market prices. There’s insurable costs from extreme events like typhoons or droughts. And then there’s non-market, non-insurable costs (like if a permanent drought removes your region’s ability to grow food.)

            We’re mostly arguing about the first kind, some people are arguing about the second kind. Sadly, it’s the third kind that should dominate the debate, coz, say, 8 degrees warming is heading towards civilisation ending effects. And I’d say a 1% chance of civilisation ending rather trumps the cost of anything else.

            (I’m cribbing here from the Nordhaus/Weitzman debate on the fat tail of climate probabilities. Here’s a good article on the debate, though I’m not sure I agree with their conclusion.)

      2. I’ve been hearing more and more people saying things about water scarcity being one of the most major issues facing the world – I think it was first mentioned to me back in ’02 or ’03 in conversation with someone from Mumbai, and it’s got more frequent since.

        I fail to see how anyone could ignore it. And if they want to, maybe they should go talk to some people from those big countries where it doesn’t rain as regularly. Like Australia, India or South Africa.

        1. Coz perceptions of what sustanability means for products vary across the world. In Singapore (and many Asian countries), sustainability is seen as the same as environmentally friendly, i.e. products with recyclable packaging or minimal packaging. In the US, sustainability has a strong link to product quality and small-scale, hand-made manufacturing. In the UK, sustainability has a big focus on greenhouse gas emissions. Water’s not really up there yet as a global issue.

          Yes, lots of people are aware of the issue at a ill-defined level. Are they yet concerned enough that it will change whether they buy NZ lamb or European lamb? Will they shift from Sudanese cotton to NZ wool? Right now, probably not, and not for a while, but I’m saying we need to be ready when they do.

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