Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Doughnut economics

The ideas of Doughnut economics are pretty woolly but it seems to be catching on in Greenie circles so I want to note a few things about it. I reproduce below some excerpts from a very sesquipedalian article about it to give us the idea of it.

Although its proponents are very vague about it, Doughnut economics can in fact be summarized very simply: prioritize the environment over money. In other words, do things in a way that is better for the environment rather than in ways that are most economically efficient.

Despite its promotion as a "radical new economic theory" it is in fact a very old feel-good idea, and what it has led to -- as set out below -- shows the lack of understanding of the world that it embodies: When we do things in the most economically efficient way, it is not money we are prioritizing, it is human work and effort. Money is just a marker. It tells us how much effort is required to produce a good or service. The are imperfections in the system but that is basically it. Study economics if you want the detail.

So we see the stupidity of some of the actions that are praised below. Instead of buying new computers, they employ people to fix up old ones -- which is very labour-intensive. And in the end you still have an old and limited computer. In terms of human effort the refurbished computer is in fact very expensive. A lot of valuable human effort has been used to produce an inferior product. If we did everything that way, we would have a much reduced availability of goods and services.

The doughnut economy adds up to a waste of human labour and effort. How is that humane or wise? If the environment really needs saving, there are surely better ways about it

In April 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19, Amsterdam’s city government announced it would recover from the crisis, and avoid future ones, by embracing the theory of “doughnut economics.” Laid out by British economist Kate Raworth in a 2017 book, the theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into what Raworth calls the “sweet spot” between the “social foundation,” where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the “environmental ceiling.” By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that’s the doughnut.

In 1990, Raworth, now 50, arrived at Oxford University to study economics. She quickly became frustrated by the content of the lectures, she recalls over Zoom from her home office in Oxford, where she now teaches. She was learning about ideas from decades and sometimes centuries ago: supply and demand, efficiency, rationality and economic growth as the ultimate goal. “The concepts of the 20th century emerged from an era in which humanity saw itself as separated from the web of life,” Raworth says. In this worldview, she adds, environmental issues are relegated to what economists call “externalities.” “It’s just an ultimate absurdity that in the 21st century, when we know we are witnessing the death of the living world unless we utterly transform the way we live, that death of the living world is called ‘an environmental externality.’” Almost two decades after she left university, as the world was reeling from the 2008 financial crash, Raworth struck upon an alternative to the economics she had been taught. She had gone to work in the charity sector and in 2010, sitting in the openplan office of the anti poverty nonprofit Oxfam in Oxford, she came across a diagram. A group of scientists studying the conditions that make life on earth possible had identified nine “planetary boundaries” that would threaten humans’ ability to survive if crossed, like the acidification of the oceans. Inside these boundaries, a circle colored in green showed the safe place for humans.

But if there’s an ecological overshoot for the planet, she thought, there’s also the opposite: shortfalls creating deprivation for humanity. “Kids not in school, not getting decent health care, people facing famine in the Sahel,” she says. “And so I drew a circle within their circle, and it looked like a doughnut.”

Raworth published her theory of the doughnut as a paper in 2012 and later as a 2017 book, which has since been translated into 20 languages. The theory doesn’t lay out specific policies or goals for countries. It requires stakeholders to decide what benchmarks would bring them inside the doughnut— emission limits, for example, or an end to homelessness. The process of setting those benchmarks is the first step to becoming a doughnut economy, she says.

Raworth argues that the goal of getting “into the doughnut” should replace governments’ and economists’ pursuit of never- ending GDP growth. Not only is the primacy of GDP overinflated when we now have many other data sets to measure economic and social well- being, she says, but also, endless growth powered by natural resources and fossil fuels will inevitably push the earth beyond its limits. “When we think in terms of health, and we think of something that tries to grow endlessly within our bodies, we recognize that immediately: that would be a cancer.”

The doughnut can seem abstract, and it has attracted criticism. Some conservatives say the doughnut model can’t compete with capitalism’s proven ability to lift millions out of poverty. Some critics on the left say the doughnut’s apolitical nature means it will fail to tackle ideology and political structures that prevent climate action.

Cities offer a good opportunity to prove that the doughnut can actually work in practice. In 2019, C40, a network of 97 cities focused on climate action, asked Raworth to create reports on three of its members— Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Portland— showing how far they were from living inside the doughnut. Inspired by the process, Amsterdam decided to run with it. The city drew up a “circular strategy” combining the doughnut’s goals with the principles of a “circular economy,” which reduces, reuses and recycles materials across consumer goods, building materials and food. Policies aim to protect the environment and natural resources, reduce social exclusion and guarantee good living standards for all.

The new, doughnut-shaped world Amsterdam wants to build is coming into view on the southeastern side of the city. Rising almost 15 ft. out of placid waters of Lake IJssel lies the city’s latest flagship construction project, Strandeiland (Beach Island). Part of IJburg, an archipelago of six new islands built by city contractors, Beach Island was reclaimed from the waters with sand carried by boats run on low­ emission fuel. The foundations were laid using processes that don’t hurt local wildlife or expose future residents to sea­level rise. Its future neighborhood is designed to produce zero emissions and to prioritize social housing and access to nature. Beach Island embodies Amsterdam’s new priority: balance, says project manager Alfons Oude Ophuis. “Twenty years ago, everything in the city was focused on production of houses as quickly as possible. It’s still important, but now we take more time to do the right thing.”

The city has introduced standards for sustainability and circular use of materials for contractors in all city­owned buildings. Anyone wanting to build on Beach Island, for example, will need to provide a “materials passport” for their buildings, so whenever they are taken down, the city can reuse the parts.

On the mainland, the pandemic has inspired projects guided by the doughnut’s ethos. When the Netherlands went into lockdown in March, the city realized that thousands of residents didn’t have access to computers that would become increasingly necessary to socialize and take part in society. Rather than buy new devices—which would have been expensive and eventually contribute to the rising problem of e­waste—the city arranged collections of old and broken laptops from residents who could spare them, hired a frm to refurbish them and distributed 3,500 of them to those in need. “It’s a small thing, but to me it’s pure doughnut,” says van Doorninck.

The local government is also pushing the private sector to do its part, starting with the thriving but ecologically harmful fashion industry. Amsterdam claims to have the highest concentration of denim brands in the world, and that the average resident owns fve pairs of jeans. But denim is one of the most resource­ intensive fabrics in the world, with each pair of jeans requiring thousands of gallons of water and the use of polluting chemicals.

In October, textile suppliers, jeans brands and other links in the denim supply chain signed the “Denim Deal,” agreeing to work together to produce 3 billion garments that include 20% recycled materials by 2023—no small feat given the treatments the fabric undergoes and the mix of materials incorporated into a pair of jeans. The city will organize collections of old denim from Amsterdam residents and eventually create a shared repair shop for the brands, where people can get their jeans fxed rather than throwing them away. “Without that government support and the pressure on the industry, it will not change. Most companies need a push,” says Hans Bon of denim supplier Wieland Textiles.

Doughnut economics may be on the rise in Amsterdam, a relatively wealthy city with a famously liberal outlook, in a democratic country with a robust state. But advocates of the theory face a tough road to effectively replace capitalism. In Nanaimo, Canada, a city councillor who opposed the adoption of the model in December called it “a very left-wing philosophy which basically says that business is bad, growth is bad, development’s bad.”

In fact, the doughnut model doesn’t proscribe all economic growth or development. In her book, Raworth acknowledges that for low- and middleincome countries to climb above the doughnut’s social foundation, “significant GDP growth is very much needed.” But that economic growth needs to be viewed as a means to reach social goals within ecological limits, she says, and not as an indicator of success in itself, or a goal for rich countries. In a doughnut world, the economy would sometimes be growing and sometimes shrinking.

Still, some economists are skeptical of the idealism. In his 2018 review of Raworth’s book, Branko Milanovic, a scholar at CUNY’s Stone Center on Socio -Economic Inequality, says for the doughnut to take off, humans would need to “magically” become “indifferent to how well we do compared to others, and not really care about wealth and income.”


The green year

The last number below is the most striking: Only a 1.09 degree temperature rise in over a century. It's the average you have to look at if you want to make any general statement and it is tiny. No one knows if the warming will continue but anything that gradual will be adapted to just as easily as we have done so far. Weather events come and go but it is the overall stance of human civilization that counts in the end and that has never been better

49.6°C: the record temperature in Lytton, in British Columbia, Canada, on June 29th—hotter than the average for a summer’s day in Dubai. A wildfire promptly burned the village to the ground, making Lytton the tragic poster child of an unprecedented heatwave that affected the entire Pacific Northwest and sent a region better versed in fog scrambling to open cooling centres. Climate modellers declared the heatwave so unusual that it challenged their understanding of the physics of heatwaves, and concluded that it would not have taken place without human greenhouse-gas emissions. The heatwave was by no means the only extreme weather event of the year. Among others, devastating floods in northern Europe also showed that rich countries are not immune to the blunt end of climate impacts.

90%: the proportion of global GDP now covered by a net-zero emissions target, corresponding to 88% of emissions and 85% of global population. Net-zero targets have become all the rage. They should be both celebrated and taken with a fistful of salt. The “net” is key: countries, cities, regions and companies promise to eliminate the bulk of their emissions while leaving themselves room to offset what they can not disappear. Strictly speaking, by the middle of the century these offsets will need to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and tuck them away somewhere for all of eternity, or near enough. There are broadly two ways of doing this: through photosynthesis (in which case the plants must be jealously protected) or technology, which leads neatly on to:

1,200: the estimated tonnes of carbon dioxide that have been extracted from the atmosphere by Orca, the world’s largest carbon-sucking machine, since it was switched on in early September. Orca was built to remove 4,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. The gas is fizzed into water and pumped into Iceland’s volcanic bedrock where it crystallises. Climate models suggest billions of tonnes of CO2-removal will be necessary in the second half of the century to meet the Paris targets. What is less clear is who will pay.

4.9% (+/-0.8): the projected growth in emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2021, relative to 2020. After a 5.4% drop in 2019, caused by global lockdowns, emissions rebounded.

45%: the emissions cut required of Shell by a Dutch court. In a landmark ruling, a judge said the oil giant’s activities violated its “unwritten standard of care” under Dutch law and asked that it reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. This was the first time the duty-of-care argument was applied to a private company. It is also notable that the judge’s ruling made Shell responsible for both its own emissions and those of its suppliers. Shell has appealed the decision.

3: the number of “green” members elected to Exxon’s board at a shareholder meeting in late May. For the higher-ups at the oil company, the bête noire of climate activists, this was apparently a bitter pill to swallow.

€88.88: the price of putting a tonne of CO2 in the atmosphere in Europe on December 8th. This marked the first time that the elusive $100-a-tonne mark, which many believe is needed to incentivise net-zero pledges, was reached. It was a fleeting landmark. As December rolled on, prices dropped slightly.

611%: roughly the increase in European gas prices in 2021. The end of the year was marked by a staggering global energy crunch, with Europe (including Britain) particularly badly hit. The leap in prices revealed that the world remains poorly prepared for a transition to an energy system that is primarily powered by renewable sources.

17bn-20bn: the gap, in tonnes of CO2, between the emissions reductions that are built into COP26 climate pledges for the next decade (relative to 2010 levels) and the reductions needed to give the world a good chance of avoiding more than 1.5°C of global warming. This discrepancy highlights the shortcomings of global climate negotiations. Put bluntly: the primary goal of governments headed to COP26 was to find ways of slashing emissions enough by 2030, to put the Paris goals within reach, and on that front they (mostly) failed. The Glasgow Climate Pact requires them to try again, harder, by COP27 in November 2022.

2.4°C: the amount of warming above pre-industrial temperatures that is projected for 2021 if governments deliver on all the promises they made at COP26.

1.09°C: the global mean temperature for 2021, relative to the 1850-1900 average, based on data from January to September.

Email from "The Economist" of December 27TH 2021. climateissue@economist.com


Tesla owner blows up Model S instead of footing $22,600 repair bill

Warranty periods are usually pretty cleverly chosen. They are just short of the expected life of the item. I once bought an air-conditioner with a warranty of 5 years. I thought that was pretty good. It died after 5 years and six months

When faced with a repair bill that costs half of what you paid for your car, do you go through with the expensive repair, bring it to the junkyard, or sell it for parts? Finnish Tesla owner Tuomas Katainen decided to do something a little more extreme — but arguably a lot more satisfying — when faced with such a situation: he watched his car go up in flames, as noted in a report from Gizmodo.

Katainen handed his 2013 Tesla Model S over to Pommijätkät, a group of explosion experts on YouTube who loves to make things go “boom,” after he was quoted $22,600 for a battery replacement. “Well when I bought that Tesla, the first 1,500km [932 miles] were nice,” Katainen recounted. “Then, error codes hit.” After Katainen brought his Tesla to a mechanic, he found out that the only way to fix the car would be to replace the entire battery pack, which would cost him at least 20,000€, or around $22,600.

The group behind Pommijätkät strapped 66 pounds of dynamite to the car and parked it in an old quarry
I think anyone would be pretty frustrated at that point, considering that the base price for a new 2013 Tesla Model S started at $57,400, later increasing to $59,900 when the car first came out. Even a standard used model currently goes for around $30,000 at the lowest. That’s probably why Katainen picked up the Tesla from the shop and told the mechanic that he’s going to “explode the whole car away.”

For context, these cars come with an eight-year (or up to 150,000 miles) battery and drive unit warranty, but the warranties on older models are starting to expire, revealing the potential cost behind a full battery replacement. In September, Electrek reported on a Tesla owner in need of a battery replacement on a Model S that was no longer under warranty. As noted in the report, he was quoted $22,500 from Tesla, but ended up getting a repair for $5,000 from a third-party shop. Katainen’s quote was also from Tesla, and it’s unclear whether he had access to an alternative repair service.

Either way, the group behind Pommijätkät strapped 30kg (66 pounds) of dynamite to the car and parked it in an old quarry in Jaala, Finland. Even Elon Musk was there — well, at least in spirit. A crash test dummy outfitted with a helmet, thick winter jacket, and a picture of Musk’s face was dropped in by helicopter and then stuffed in the driver’s seat.

Katainen triggers the explosion from inside a nearby bunker, and Tesla erupts in a ball of fire, with what seems like thousands of pieces scattering throughout the snowy landscape. The group picks up whatever was left of the car, which amounts to just a pile of scraps. When asked whether he’s ever had this much fun behind the wheel of a Tesla, Katainen replies, “No, never enjoyed this much with Tesla!”


Plans in England for car chargers in all commercial car parks quietly rolled back

The government has quietly backtracked on proposals to require every shop, office or factory in England to install at least one electric car charger if they have a large car park, prompting criticism by environmental campaigners.

The original plan required every new and existing non-residential building with parking for 20 cars or more to install a charger. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has now revealed it will only require chargers be installed in new or refurbished commercial premises amid fears over the cost for businesses, according to a response to a consultation.

The move has prompted concern in the car industry and among experts that public charger access will lag behind demand, as sales of electric vehicles accelerate ahead of the 2035 ban on sales of new fossil-fuelled internal combustion engines. A quarter of new cars bought in the UK in November can be plugged in to recharge, according to industry data.

Greg Archer, the UK director of Transport & Environment, a campaign group, said: “Car parks are an ideal place for drivers of electric cars without driveways to charge. By failing to require commercial buildings with car parks to install a small number of charge points, the government has missed a simple opportunity to level up the charging available for less affluent drivers who park overnight on the road.

“It is inexplicable that a government committed to phasing out conventional cars has failed to follow through and implement its own proposals from more than two years ago, and instead say it needs longer to consider the options.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans last month for a charging point to be required for every new or refurbished residential building from next year amid great fanfare, saying the regulations were “world-leading”.

However, the decision to drop the requirement for existing non-residential buildings means the UK could fall behind the EU, which is introducing a rule for existing buildings to install cable routes for chargers after 2025.

The government could still introduce more ambitious requirements for existing car parks – such as mandating a minimum number of chargers per parking space. The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles is considering comments on a separate consultation that closed last month on the future of transport regulations.

The DfT’s consultation response said it wanted to find “a more tailored approach” for existing non-residential buildings. Despite worries over the financial costs, the cost of about £1,500 for installing a charger point can be recouped within a few years by charging users for electricity.

The DfT declined to share the identities of those who objected to the policy on cost grounds. The consultation responses showed the most common objection was a lack of ambition for the number of charging points for larger premises. Only a “small number of respondents raised concerns about who would pay”. The DfT said it would draft an alternative policy.

All the large UK supermarket chains, led by Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, have already started installing electric car chargers to try to lure shoppers – who can top up on energy while they shop.


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM )

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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