I’ve always been envious of John Holbo’s discovery of the two-step of terrific triviality, a manoeuvre we’d all seen, but never properly identified. I’d like to solicit names for a manoeuvre I run into all the time in debates over climate policy which goes along the following lines
A: The planet is doomed unless we abandon industrial civilization/adopt my WWII-scale emergency program
B (me): On the contrary,we could cut emissions by 50 per cent quickly and with minimal effects on living standards.1
A: What about cars, methane from ag production, air travel etc?
B: (me) We could cut vehicle emissions in half just by switching to the most fuel-efficient cars now on the market, methane by eating chicken instead of beef, air travel by videoconferencing and taking one long holiday in place of two short ones. The same for most other sources of emissions.2
A: That’s absurd. No one would ever stand for that.
So, does anyone have a name for this manoeuvre, or, alternatively, a defense of this kind of argumentation
Actually, we need a 90 per cent reduction by 2050. That would be a bit harder, but once you accept the idea that we could greatly reduce emissions without harming living standards, we’re down to arguing about parameter values in economic models. All economic models yield the conclusion that we could decarbonize the economy over 40 years while still improving living standards greatly. ↩
I’ll leave aside the question of whether it’s better to bring this about using prices (eg a carbon tax) or direct controls. My preferred answer is a bit of both, but either will work for the purposes of this example. ↩