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id21 viewpoint: The balance of resources for mitigating climate change

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Author:
Alex Morrell
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Climate change is forcing societies to work together to find ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to acceptable levels. More critically, the current focus on climate change highlights how resource scarcity and the unequal allocation of resources are linked to the success (or failure) of international development.To date, society has treated the mitigation of climate
change (taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) as an isolated
problem. There has been little debate about the costs to society of allocating
resources to climate change mitigation rather than other investment
opportunities.
For example, many mitigation activities involve adopting
more ‘carbon free’ technologies, so societies can sustain their existing
imbalanced levels of consumption. Sustaining existing imbalances in consumption
may not be the best use of resources for successful international development.
Successful international development occurs in a society
that allocates both tangible (physical assets) and intangible (emotional
empathy, spirituality, intellectual enlightenment) resources optimally. To
achieve this, it is necessary that resources are produced and consumed in a balanced
way. The consumption of too much or too little of any resource will prevent individuals
from realising their full potential. This leads to a form of resource poverty and
unsuccessful development.
For successful international development, it is therefore necessary
to aim for a balanced allocation of resources. However,
imbalances in resource allocation, including for mitigating climate change, are
symptomatic of current economic and political systems.
 Attempting to solve
this resource allocation problem through economic systems is difficult. Many
societies and markets attribute higher value to tangible resources, to the
extent that insufficient attention is given to intangible resource development.
This results in lower welfare – societies that lack
tangible assets have a surplus of intangible resources, and societies with deficient
intangible assets have tangible resource surpluses.
So, if current economic and political systems prevent
successful international development, should they be reformed? No. These systems
merely facilitate the allocation of resources. It is the values that underpin
these systems that decide the extent to which inequalities continue. Therefore,
it is vital that all consumers understand that by purchasing any item, they are
creating a demand that either increases or reduces imbalances.
In modern society, the economy is the most effective medium
through which individuals can reassert moral, spiritual and intellectual values,
as well as satisfying their basic needs. So, when it comes to allocating
resources for mitigating climate change, it is essential to question who
benefits and how. At present, collective decision-making by all economic actors
are perpetuating these imbalances. The costs of this, not just for those
deprived of basic tangible resources, are increasingly difficult to accept.