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10:10’s imploding campaign

October 2nd, 2010 Posted in Opinion by

I’m not a huge fan of the 10:10 campaign at the best of times, a green movement to get individuals and organisations to commit to cutting their carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010, smacking as it does of a sort of naive optimism about the power of targets, coupled with an undertone of collectivised bullying. Their latest, now withdrawn, campaign “No Pressure“, written by Richard Curtis, however goes beyond parody:

The content involves four mini-skits of authority figures discussing their commitment, or lack of, to the goals of the campaign, concluding with those not participating, including children, being graphically blown up by pressing a red button, thereby reducing carbon emissions the hard way… geddit? All the humour of Hamas mixed with the advertising genius of Strand cigarettes.

It’s as though the creative team got together and tried to work out the most extreme parody possibly of the environmental movement, and make it into a clever joke. In doing so though they appear to have made a video for 10:10’s opponents rather than the movement itself.

The main problem is that in extremis the anti-carbon movement does across as a rather unnerving cult. There is an Armageddon narrative, a sense of futility that it is already too late, baffling measurement systems that tend to rule all human activity sinful, required rituals, shared acts of adherence, the trading of indulgences, a hierarchy of saints and priests promoting it all, and an attitude to non-believers that ranges from pity to hatred. Further with depopulation as a perfectly logical way to reduce emissions, associating the 10:10 campaign by implication with highly coercive population control ideologies, or rare acts of eco-terrorism is surely unwise?

Green liberalism I like to feel is more pragmatic and market-based. The balance of evidence appears to suggest global warming is a real if hard to quantify risk, and even if the Day After Tomorrow is nothing more than bad movie, a world of clean air seems generally desirable for a host of other reasons as well. Of all the things fossil fuels can be used for burning them is perhaps the least interesting.

Further, and crucially, the solution to carbon emissions will eventually be technological not ideological. Most personal efforts to show willing will in the long-run make no meaningful difference. What will drive change is invention, which in turn will be driven by economic growth and the price of carbon. Similarly population growth is best limited through prosperity, when children are expensive, people have fewer children.

Other efforts to speed up the process of change through regulation, targets, prohibition, incentives, nudges and so on  are not ineffective, if they were there would be no debate, but of questionable efficiency, and don’t tend to buck the market in the long-run.

Spanish and German solar incentives for example did stimulate domestic industry, but did not prevent most manufacturing migrating to China, or in the Spanish case an ugly boom and bust with a terrible bang for their carbon buck. Prohibition of incandescent light-bulbs though clearly stops people buying these bulbs and has encouraged alternatives. It is less clear there that waiting for a global carbon price to incentivise such change would have been effective.

And there are a huge number of other debates from energy efficiency to methods of generation and transport. 10:10 though is a footnote in this. It is largely a gathering point for the already committed and their lobbying activities encourage empty promises rather than sustainable change. If they used their network and goodwill to raise money for scientific research, and seed capital for green entrepreneurs rather than dodgy videos and hectoring they might do more good.

10 Responses to “10:10’s imploding campaign”

  1. Geoffrey Payne Says:

    Lets start on a positive note. Andy Mayer at least accepts the science which identifies the human contribution to global warming to be significant and dangerous. This marks him out from other contributors on LV and most libertarians.
    So what should be done about it? Well this article is long on critique and short on solutions. It is hard to detect whether Andy thinks that there is much of a problem at all and whether it really matters than much if anything gets done.
    The problem of course is that the typical libertarian solution to a problem is to do nothing, let the market work it out instead. Not surprising then that it is far easier for a libertarian to conclude that global warming is not happening, or if it is that “scientists will find a solution”, always timed before the problem gets out of control, apparently. Whatever the truth, leave it to the market.
    I don’t actually know any “Green” libertarians in the environmental movement. Even in the Green Liberal Democrats, not one to my knowledge is a libertarian. This is in contrast to the civil liberties movement where there are many.
    The reality is that global warming is a market failure. The US is the country that contributes most to global warming, despite, or rather because free market ideology is dominant.
    One of the consequences of global warming, according to scientists, is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. So although during our lifetime we may experience a “once in a thousand year” event, these kind of events are happening more frequently than before. So Andy complains about the “coercion” tactics of the environmental movement, but compare that to the consequences of not taking action. The extreme weather in Russia and Pakistan, if not Armageddon, must at least seemed like it to those concerned. And to remind you, the frequency of these events will go up. The environmental movement has a difficult judgement to make in warning people about the consequences of global warning. Shock tactics often don’t work so it looks like the right decision for the 10:10 campaign to withdraw their campaign. The problem is that if no one is making a fuss, then people remain complacent. Maybe psychologically we are incapable of adapting to what we have done.
    However in emergencies we do use coercion. If you have a child and you see it run into a busy road, you reach out and stop it, even if you are a libertarian.
    If the environmental movement is ineffectual, then the solution ought to be to make it more effectual. My sense from Andy’s article is that he has no interest in doing this, and that really he doesn’t care anyway.


  2. Andy Mayer Says:

    I identify three preferred solutions in the article, a market for carbon, scientific research, and green venture capital. I also note more interventionist methods are not ineffective, with the example of the prohibition of bulbs cited, but are to be treated with caution rather than first recourse.

    In that regard the green campaigns that inspire me most are the businesses like Better Place and those currently investigating deep geothermal.

    In respect of dominant ideology, the worst carbon emissions per head come from the Gulf States, not the US, and the greatest risks of growth from India and China. The issue is economic activity and as you note internalising the market failure more than political ideology


  3. Satanic Mills Says:

    May I suggest,with all due respect,to the 10-10 people
    and their liberal allies,go away,they are beginning to
    diturb some extremely unpleasant characters.

    If they like “playing” at blowing non conformers to
    smithereens,they should note ,the idea of destroyng
    your opponents by pressing buttons is not new, as most
    learned liberals will testify to.


  4. Jack Hughes Says:

    I’m glad they’ve made this video. I recommend everyone interested in Green Issues to watch it.

    The 10:10 organisation is at the heart of the green movement. It’s not a bunch of renegade extremists. It’s supported by Comic Relief, ActionAid, the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust. It’s funded with public money.

    They’ve got a specific role to get the message out. And what a message it is: Join the cult or we blow you up.

    My daughter’s school was going to get involved in 10:10. I’m going to show this video to the Governors and see if they still agree.


  5. Jack Hughes Says:

    @Andy,

    They’re going to red-button you anyway so why not come out and admit that the AGW thing is a load of bogus nonsense.


  6. Jack Hughes Says:

    Also note that their annual financial report is missing from their website.


  7. Jack Hughes Says:

    See the “making of the video” on this blog:

    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/10/splattergate-extra_02.html

    h/t to Richard North


  8. Tom Papworth Says:

    Okay, so people have already noticed the murder of the non-conformists. But have you also noticed the classism in the video?

    “That’s fantastic, Jemima… And who’s not? Tracey!”

    Oh, and Spurs blow up the foreigner.

    And the teacher assumes that the loft has to be insulated by the man of the house.

    I think this video says a lot about the mentality of the people behind the 10/10 movement!


  9. Tom Papworth Says:

    Geoffrey,

    Stop being a troll! Can you point to any posts on the Liberal Vision site that question the existence of anthropogenic climate change?

    “The US is the country that contributes most to global warming, despite, or rather because free market ideology is dominant.”

    In as much as free market ideology has made America the biggest economy in the world, that is true. Like so many egalitarians, the implication of what you are saying is that an impoverished command-economy like that of North Korea is far preferable to a wealthy, free market economy like the US.

    In fact, free markets countries get far more units of production for each tonne of carbon than non-free market countries, but they produce so much more that they still emit more carbon overall.

    “in emergencies we do use coercion. If you have a child and you see it run into a busy road, you reach out and stop it…”

    The analogy between the general public and children is classic. You couldn’t make it up!

    “The reality is that global warming is a market failure”

    Well, perhaps, but only because we have not internalised the price of carbon. A market-liberal solution would be to set a carbon price effectively through a carbon tax or a functioning cap-and-trade system. Sadly, efforts to achieve this have fallen foul of that far-more-common and far-more-damaging beast: Government failure. When the major energy producers are being given Carbon Permits which they can then use for free or sell on the market, it rather negates the effectiveness of the system.

    This has got to be one of your silliest comments to date!


  10. Tom Papworth Says:

    “Of all the things fossil fuels can be used for burning them is perhaps the least interesting”

    What about bathing in them?