Green Big Brother? Why the backlash against environmentalism has grown.

What is behind the opposition to environmental initiatives and the push toward greener living?

By , Guest blogger

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    This file photo shows a box of biodegradable garbage bags. Kahn argues that those who see climate change as a hoax and government intervention as intrusive on the matter actively oppose the green market.
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"Down the road, this data will be used against you."  Or so says one opponent of mandated installation of smart meters into homes.   This quote comes from this article  spelling out Tea Party opposition to "green initiatives" seeking to reduce our carbon footprint.  If you view climate change as a hoax and government intervention as intrusive on individual liberty then I can certainly see that such individuals could be bothered by such new "green mandates".

But, I think there is a deeper issue here related to property rights and theory of the second best.  Do individuals have the property rights to continue to produce their current level of greenhouse gas emissions?  Put simply, if you live in the suburbs and drive to work and air condition your large house and if you like to barbecue big steak dinners, you are unintentionally producing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.  This is even more likely to be the case if your electricity is generated by coal fired power plants.  

In a first best world, we would collectively introduce a carbon tax and you would face higher prices for gasoline, and electricity and you would adjust your behavior responding to these incentives.   We have chosen not to introduce such a tax so we have introduced a large number of piecemeal strategies for trying to nudge households to have a smaller carbon footprint.  These include residential electricity report cards (such as the product that Opower produces), land use controls that encourage people to live a new urbanist life closer to public transit and living in multi-family housing.

Recommended: Election 101: Where the GOP candidates stand on energy and the environment

The introduction of Smart Meters is a first step in providing households with the information about how much electricity they are consuming each hour of the day.  Households are more likely to make "good choices"  if they have information about the consequences of their actions such as leaving on the lights or not turning off computers at the end of the night.

The NY Times article explains that Tea Party activists are "connecting the dots" and seeing an international entity (the UN) as the mastermind behind trying to sabotage how Americans act to try to make us "more French".   There is some truth to this claim that to reduce GHG emissions we need there to be global convergence to a lower level of emissions and this will require lifestyle change or tremendous innovation in energy efficiency.

I think it would be a very promising field for sociologists to study the backlash against the environmental movement.   Would Tea Party folks really be miserable living a new urbanist lifestyle?  Do they reject the required low carbon lifestyle's components or do they simply feel anger at being lectured to by liberals?"Down the road, this data will be used against you."  Or so says one opponent of mandated installation of smart meters into homes.   This quote comes from this article  spelling out Tea Party opposition to "green initiatives" seeking to reduce our carbon footprint.  If you view climate change as a hoax and government intervention as intrusive on individual liberty then I can certainly see that such individuals could be bothered by such new "green mandates".

But, I think there is a deeper issue here related to property rights and theory of the second best.  Do individuals have the property rights to continue to produce their current level of greenhouse gas emissions?  Put simply, if you live in the suburbs and drive to work and air condition your large house and if you like to barbecue big steak dinners, you are unintentionally producing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.  This is even more likely to be the case if your electricity is generated by coal fired power plants.  

In a first best world, we would collectively introduce a carbon tax and you would face higher prices for gasoline, and electricity and you would adjust your behavior responding to these incentives.   We have chosen not to introduce such a tax so we have introduced a large number of piecemeal strategies for trying to nudge households to have a smaller carbon footprint.  These include residential electricity report cards (such as the product that Opower produces), land use controls that encourage people to live a new urbanist life closer to public transit and living in multi-family housing.

The introduction of Smart Meters is a first step in providing households with the information about how much electricity they are consuming each hour of the day.  Households are more likely to make "good choices"  if they have information about the consequences of their actions such as leaving on the lights or not turning off computers at the end of the night.

The NY Times article explains that Tea Party activists are "connecting the dots" and seeing an international entity (the UN) as the mastermind behind trying to sabotage how Americans act to try to make us "more French".   There is some truth to this claim that to reduce GHG emissions we need there to be global convergence to a lower level of emissions and this will require lifestyle change or tremendous innovation in energy efficiency.

I think it would be a very promising field for sociologists to study the backlash against the environmental movement.   Would Tea Party folks really be miserable living a new urbanist lifestyle?  Do they reject the required low carbon lifestyle's components or do they simply feel anger at being lectured to by liberals?

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