Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Environmental damage and the rising price of flying

A British surveys reveals that people are more readily accepting the idea that the price of air travel will have to rise to better reflect environmental damage. Usually when prices rise, demand will fall. Will this affect long-haul destinations like South Africa, and particularly the Western Cape with its increased reliance on tourism for economic growth and development? 

Their is no direct answer, but it will make sense to start measuring and monitoring tourist behaviour and not only aggregate tourism number on arrivals and expenditure. For example, how sensitive are tourists to a rise in ticket prices? Does this affect both business and leisure travel? What options do tourists have to adapt to rising prices and which are they most likely to follow? 

From the annual British attitude survey as reported in the Guardian:

Voters are ready to accept a steep rise in air fares to reduce the environmental damage caused by flying, the annual British social attitudes survey reveals today.

Each year, they have asked a representative sample of more than 4,000 people whether they agree or disagree that "the price of a plane ticket should reflect the environmental damage that flying causes, even if it makes air travel much more expensive".

The proportion of those agreeing rose steadily from 36% in 2004 to 49% in the most recent survey, in 2007, while those disagreeing fell from 34% to 28%, with the rest undecided.

Analysts from the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR), which conducted the surveys, said: "We found remarkably low levels of opposition to the idea that ticket prices may have to rise in order to offset environmental damage. This remains the case among current flyers as well as non-flyers and holds across the political spectrum."

Picture: courtesy SA Tourism

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama: a welcome sensitivity to green and poor?

From the UNEP website an overview of Obama's promises on greenery (and poverty):

Here is a selection of the environment-related points from US President Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech on 20 January 2009

"Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

"We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

"With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet."

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds."

"And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

Read the full speech at

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Green Jobs

A recent study by the Institute for Energy Research in the US agues that subsidising "green jobs" may not be such a good idea after all:

Unfortunately, it is highly questionable whether a government campaign to spur “green jobs” 

would have net economic benefits.  Indeed, the distortionary impacts of government intrusion 

into energy markets could prematurely force business to abandon current production 

technologies for more expensive ones. Furthermore, there would likely be negative economic 

consequences from forcing higher-cost alternative energy sources upon the economy.  These 

factors would likely increase consumer energy costs and the costs of a wide array of energy- 

intensive goods, slow GDP growth and ironically may yield no net job gains. More likely, they 

would result in net job losses. 

For full report see here.

Happy Planet?

From the new economic foundation a new Happy Plant Index. If you look at the HPI map Africa does not really succeed in translating the consumption of natural resources into human well-being.

From the nef website:

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.

The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible. The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being (life-satisfaction), and that it is possible to produce high levels of well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) strips the view of the economy back to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what comes out (human lives of different length and happiness). The resulting Index of the 178 nations for which data is available, reveals that the world as a whole has a long way to go. In terms of delivering long and meaningful lives within the Earth’s environmental limits - all nations could do better. No country achieves an overall ‘high’ score on the Index, and no country does well on all three indicators.

H/T: RFF library blog

The benefit of being gloomy

It is that time of the year again when we tend to take stock and speculate on what the future will bring. With persistently bad news on many fronts one can expect a lot of us to be quite gloomy. In a world obsessed with happiness (see related blogpost on the philosophy of happiness), the first reaction is often to banish those dark moods out of our lives.

Sadness is not all bad argues the New Scientist in a recent editorial. Sadness may help us to learn from our mistakes, may help facilitate a need for deeper reflection and may even stimulate creativity.  As Terence Ketter, psychiatrist at Stanford University remarked in the article: 'The cost of happiness is complacency. Discontent can drive change'.

Feeling gloomy? Time for reflection and change.