Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 21:22 | SYDNEY
Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 21:22 | SYDNEY

Doco trailer: Surviving Progress


Sam Roggeveen


19 April 2012 11:38

The trailer for this Martin Scorsese-produced documentary (based on Ronald Wright's book, A Short History of Progress) puts me in mind of Roger Pielke's iron law of climate policy:

When policies on emissions reductions collide with policies focused on economic growth, economic growth will win out every time. Climate policies should flow with the current of public opinion rather than against it, and efforts to sell the public on policies that will create short-term economic discomfort cannot succeed if that discomfort is perceived to be too great. Calls for asceticism and sacrifice are a nonstarter.

The “iron law” thus presents a boundary condition on policy design that is every bit as limiting as is the second law of thermodynamics, and it holds everywhere around the world, in rich and poor countries alike. It says that even if people are willing to bear some costs to reduce emissions (and experience shows that they are), they are willing to go only so far. 

(NB: Pielke also gave a talk at the Lowy Institute recently on the intersection of science and policy.)