Net Zero or Good Enough?

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

“… recent surges in energy prices could complicate the achievement of temperature goals …” – The more expensive fossil fuel energy is, the less likely people are to invest in renewables?

Public Perceptions of Climate Mitigation Policies: Evidence from Cross-Country Surveys

Prepared by Era Dabla-Norris, Thomas Helbling, Salma Khalid, Hibah Khan, Giacomo Magistretti, Alexandre Sollaci, and Krishna Srinivasan

ABSTRACT: Building public support for climate mitigation is a key prerequisite to making meaningful strides toward implementing climate mitigation policies and achieving decarbonization. Using nationally representative individual-level surveys for 28 countries, this note sheds light on the individual characteristics and beliefs associated with climate risk perceptions and preferences for climate policies. Preexisting beliefs regarding policy efficacy, costs and benefits, and progressivity are important drivers of support for carbon pricing. Public acceptability of carbon pricing increases if revenues are used to address distibributional concern or to subsidize green infrastructure and low-carbon technologies. Information experiments highlight the importance of improving support for policies with salient information on policy efficacy and co-benefits. The surveys suggest that securing cooperation among countries could induce greater political support for climate action.

Closing climate ambitions and policy gaps: Limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2oC above preindustrial levels requires cutting global emissions by one-quarter to one-half over the next decade (Black and others 2021). About 135 countries, representing more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, have committed to achieving net zero by mid-century. But the world is not yet on track to “keep 1.5 alive,” and recent surges in energy prices could complicate the achievement of temperature goals. 1 Even with sufficiently ambitious pledges, wide-ranging policies are needed to implement the emissions cuts. Closing climate ambitions and policy gaps therefore remains an urgent global priority to prevent disastrous outcomes for people and economies (Georgieva 2021).

Public perceptions and support for climate policies: Public support for climate policies is essential to reach net zero. A range of recent global surveys, including the one analyzed in this note, show that most people surveyed consider climate change a serious problem (Dabla-Norris and others, forthcoming(a); Leiserowitz and others 2021, Figure 1). This realization could, in principle, present a clear and compelling call for decision-makers to step up their ambitions. However, people’s recognition of the situation does not always translate into broad-based support for climate policies. Some of the economically most efficient climate policies, such as a comprehensive pricing of carbon emissions, often face political resistance. 2 As such, understanding attitudes toward climate change, which factors shape public support for climate policies across different countries, and which groups tend to hold different views is critical to help formulate effective policy responses. 

What we find: The share of people who think that climate change will affect their lives tends to be higher in emerging market economies, many of which are more vulnerable to climate change. However, respondents frequently conflate environmental protection with climate change, and up to 50 percent of respondents in some countries have neutral or no opinions about the need for policy action. Three key policy views are major predictors of whether people support carbon pricing: perceived effectiveness in reducing emissions, perceived distributional fairness, and perceived co-benefits (better air quality, improved health outcomes, and jobs), albeit with differences across countries. Highlighting the costs of carbon pricing policies tends to reduce support, while acceptability increases as policy benefits are made more salient. Policy incidence also impacts support for climate policies, pointing to a significant role for recycling carbon revenues to address distributional concerns. The surveys also indicate a strong sense of collective action across countries. In contrast to their government’s stated positions, a sizable share of respondents in emerging market economies think that all countries should pay to address climate change and that burden sharing should be based on current rather than historical emissions. 

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I suspect the current cycle of leftist politicians pushing Net Zero is waning. Across the world, it is politicians who have wrecked their economies in pursuit of Net Zero who appear to be in trouble with voters.

Consider the USA and Australia. I strongly suspect people’s acceptance of expensive energy and gasoline in Australia and the USA is wearing thin. People still have a way to go before their belief in the net zero fantasy collapses, but the election of a Republican Congress is an interesting development, even if it wasn’t the red wave many were expecting. The next election cycle will be interesting.

In Britain, the British Conservatives are heading for a catastrophic defeat in the next election, unless they can bring down energy bills. Given fracking is still banned, and given British politicians are making no serious moves to increase domestic energy production, the British Government’s only hope for a swift turnaround is if cheap Russian gas starts flowing again. I believe this explains their enthusiasm for arming Ukraine, and their consideration of providing weapons which could lead to escalation. I believe Britain hopes their support for Ukraine will trigger a rapid collapse of the Putin regime, and a flood of cheap gas from a desperate and broken Russian economy, in time for the next British election. In December last year, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff General Magowan admitted serving British soldiers had been deployed on covert missions inside UkraineI believe the British Conservatives would rather risk WW3, risk directly confrontations between serving British soldiers and Russian forces in Ukraine, than change course on their Net Zero insanity.

As for poor countries, I’m glad the IMF admitted that many respondents who said climate change is affecting them actually mean pollution is affecting them – “… respondents frequently conflate environmental protection with climate change …”. Pollution is a horrible problem in countries like China, and other places with weak oversight of industrial activity.

Given many people in poor countries apparently misunderstood the question, it seems likely support for expensive carbon reduction policies across much of the world is actually pretty close to net zero.