Chasing Rainbows: How the Green Agenda Defeats its Aims by Tim Worstall

March 19, 2011 10:46 AM

Tim Worstall has been very busy recently.  As well as maintaining his long running and superb blog, he has written a paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs about some of the myths at the heart of the UKUncut campaign's attempt to convince people spending cuts aren't necessary.  And that follows shortly on the heels of the book I've just finished reading, Chasing Rainbows: How the Green Agenda Defeats its Aims.

The book is well worth reading.  It isn't about the science of climate change but instead sets out why, in a number of ways, the ideological preoccupations of the environmentalist movement cause them to adopt self-defeating policies.  Some examples are very relevant to TaxPayers' Alliance research.

He looks at how attempts to encourage recycling aren't informed by a proper understanding of the time that people have to spend sorting their waste.  Neither the British Government nor the European Union even know how much time it is taking to meet their requirements.   That means they don't properly appreciate the cost in terms of reduced leisure time, making millions lives slightly more pressured and stressful.  It is a good explanation of why that sorting process has become so complicated as we showed in our report on the number of bins households across the country are given to sort their waste into.  That additional sorting in the home might seem like its saves money if you ignore the value of the time people spend doing the sorting.

He also looks at green taxes and makes the point we have in a number of studies: green taxes can be too high if they exceed the social cost of the emissions produced by activities like motoring and flying.  I think he is a bit too kind on the taxes.  He acknowledges but doesn't quite describe the seriousness of the problems in setting the ideal carbon tax that many economists would like to see.  And the social cost estimate he uses from Stern was never really intended as a tool for policymaking.  When DEFRA translated the Stern Review's findings into a tool for policy appraisal they came to a substantially lower number (the "Shadow Price").  There is more detail on all that in our most recent report on green taxes and regulations.

Well worth reading.Tim Worstall has been very busy recently.  As well as maintaining his long running and superb blog, he has written a paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs about some of the myths at the heart of the UKUncut campaign's attempt to convince people spending cuts aren't necessary.  And that follows shortly on the heels of the book I've just finished reading, Chasing Rainbows: How the Green Agenda Defeats its Aims.

The book is well worth reading.  It isn't about the science of climate change but instead sets out why, in a number of ways, the ideological preoccupations of the environmentalist movement cause them to adopt self-defeating policies.  Some examples are very relevant to TaxPayers' Alliance research.

He looks at how attempts to encourage recycling aren't informed by a proper understanding of the time that people have to spend sorting their waste.  Neither the British Government nor the European Union even know how much time it is taking to meet their requirements.   That means they don't properly appreciate the cost in terms of reduced leisure time, making millions lives slightly more pressured and stressful.  It is a good explanation of why that sorting process has become so complicated as we showed in our report on the number of bins households across the country are given to sort their waste into.  That additional sorting in the home might seem like its saves money if you ignore the value of the time people spend doing the sorting.

He also looks at green taxes and makes the point we have in a number of studies: green taxes can be too high if they exceed the social cost of the emissions produced by activities like motoring and flying.  I think he is a bit too kind on the taxes.  He acknowledges but doesn't quite describe the seriousness of the problems in setting the ideal carbon tax that many economists would like to see.  And the social cost estimate he uses from Stern was never really intended as a tool for policymaking.  When DEFRA translated the Stern Review's findings into a tool for policy appraisal they came to a substantially lower number (the "Shadow Price").  There is more detail on all that in our most recent report on green taxes and regulations.

Well worth reading.

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