The Sun & The Star: Green Carrot Compromise

UPDATE: Malaysian PM thinks the same way I do! Badawi: Use Carrot Instead of Stick For Carbon Emissions! 

Once again, much thanks to my dad who alerted me to the publication of my letter early in the morning… In TWO newspapers! On the same day!

Yes, both The Star and The Sun printed my letter, originally entitled Global Warming and the Economy – the Green Carrot Compromise (to catch the eye of the editor in charge).

Then again, I sent out the e-mail letter to NST and Malaysiakini as well, on a Friday afternoon, so it’s a bit less amazingly coincidental.

But still… My letter in two papers simultaneously, yay! And two days later… NST carries my letter as well!

The Sun’s version is as usual a more complete rendition of my original letter – it’s is even 3 words longer than what I sent! And it’s under EXTRA!: Comments & Analysis instead of the usual Speak Up! section.

They even mentioned me as a ‘scientist’ (they must remember my earlier letter to The Sun) with a blog called Buuuuurrrrning Hot! Thus, I shall put The Sun’s version first so you’ll read it, if not both of the letters.

Click on the images to view the full size with non-blurry words. Or just click on the site link if you prefer that to enlarging each image in turn.


From The Sun 11 June 2007:


GreenCarrotsKeepCool1 GreenCarrotsKeepCool2 GreenCarrotsKeepCool3

Green carrots can keep us all cool
Scott Thong Yu Yuen

Proponents and sceptics of anthropogenic global warming theory are constantly at odds. Each side rejects the other’s arguments, logic, demands and recommendations as misguided, myopic or worse. And each side constantly accuses the other of ignorance, political bias, unscientific conclusions and hidden agendas.


One only has to look at the clash of the titans where the Europe Union on one side is pushing for reduced carbon emissions, while the US on the other side is pushing for reduced expectations. China and India, two of the fastest industrialising nations, want to remain exempt from restrictions for a long time more. And the IPCC calls this a “global consensus on global warming”?


What I cannot fathom is the sheer hard-headedness of both sides. Neither side seems willing to compromise, or even stop to consider the other side’s logic – it’s all or nothing in this round of cards.


The Kyoto crowd led by the EU wants drastic measures to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while industry led by the USA refuses to willingly put its head on the economic chopping block. In the end, each party goes its own way – but it’s still not quite agreeing to disagree. After all, global issues affect all of us, no matter which side of the planet we are on.


So keeping in mind this failure to see eye-to-eye, I have this suggestion to make: Why not find and agree on a compromise that partially satisfies both sides of the argument?


I dub this plan the “Green Carrot Compromise” – a clutch of solutions that relies on the use of carrots (economic incentives) instead of sticks (carbon limits and taxes) to achieve both environmental and economic requirements.


Instead of forcing “green” energy on to industries and consumers, why not stop the endless arguments over whether solar, wind, nuclear or bio-fuel power is the best way forward … And actually set up more of these alternative energy sources?


Stop bickering, start building, and soon enough alternative energy will be able to compete with conventional fossil fuels. If green power becomes as cheap, stable and plentiful as conventional power, industry will much more easily be persuaded to make the switch.


Instead of forcing high fines on drivers who enter congested city roads at peak hours, why not first upgrade the public transport systems to be up to standard? Many commuters are forced to either pay the peak hour fine, or endure hours of unpunctual and uncomfortable public transportation.


When the purchase price of low-emission hybrid vehicles becomes comparable to standard vehicles, more and more drivers will choose hybrids without hard nudging. And as showroom prices fall and gas prices rise, hybrids will make firm economic sense, as well as environmental sense.


The overall result of the Green Carrot Compromise will be a partial-win situation for both sides of the global warming debate. CO2 and other emissions will be reduced, and the industrial nations will not lose huge percentages of their GDP in the meantime. Neither side will get the whole cake and eat it, but it’s better than one side getting nothing at all.


One foreseeable drawback is that it will take time to set up enough alternative energy production to meaningfully reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Carbon emissions will still exist as green energy slowly expands.


But isn’t it still preferable to start these compromise efforts now, than to remain stagnant while debating over policy for years? If the setting up of green power sources is steadily continued, green energy might eventually replace fossil fuel power completely – if new technologies such as clean fusion don’t become practical first.


When environmentally friendly electricity and low-emission vehicles become more economically sensible, then industry and the public will shift over to the green without any shoving by policy-makers. And as oil and gas prices rise, green technology might even end up cheaper than conventional technology.


Global warming proponents might be right, and the world really is headed towards an environmental catastrophe because of greenhouse gases released by human activity. Or the sceptics could be right, and efforts like Kyoto Protocol will only serve to cripple the economy, while achieving nothing against an imaginary threat.


But by adopting a Green Carrot Compromise, we can hedge our bets while moving perceptibly forward. We’ll get both the greens – a healthy and clean environment, and greenbacks in our bank accounts.


After all, out in the real world, no party ever gets everything that it wants. That is the basis of power sharing and diplomacy. I think it’s high time that the pundits and policymakers stopped “butting their loggerheads” – the rest of us are the ones getting the headache.


The writer is a scientist with a blog Buuuuurrrrning Hot. Comments:

Updated: 04:18PM Mon, 11 Jun 2007
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From The Star 11 June 2007:





BIG UPDATE 12 June 2007: One day after my letters are published, Malaysian PM Badawi says almost the same thing!

3 Responses to “The Sun & The Star: Green Carrot Compromise”

  1. arul Says:

    okeh… 🙂

  2. mich Says:

    Hi Scott:
    Very sensible article there. Have you thought of how Malaysian or Malaysia government can do their part in cutting CO2 emission, based on current energy/fossil fuel dependency… would be interested to know 🙂

  3. Scott Thong Says:

    Hi michelle! Nice to see you drop by.

    Well, in my opinion, I’m not very convinced yet of the risks and negative effects posed by CO2 emissions. See these links for some about that:

    And in my not-so-well informed opinion, Malaysia’s vast palm oil industry is rightly being tapped for its biodiesel potential. The West can’t complain that it’s not safe to east when it’s our cars doing the consuming! But already, soy growers are lobbying to make palm oil biofuel non-tax exempt. We shall see how it turns out. If China starts buying our palm oil biofuel, we’re made!

    I think that’s a good thing. For environmental as well as economical and socio-political reasons, the we rely on fossil fuels, the better. The impact it would have on global warming is less strong ( and anyway does not concern me as much).

    Biofuels still require a lot of energy to fertilize, harvest and process. At least the carbon dioxide released by burning biofuels was captured from the atmosphere by the plants in the first place, so no net release takes place.

    I would love to own an affordable hybrid car. Hybrids switch to electricity when idling or at low speeds. Think of the fuel use, noise and air pollution reductions if all those conventional gasoline cars stuck in KL jams were replaced by hybrids and electrics! The idea of regenerative braking also appeals to my sense of adding up small gains.

    Malaysia may be a tropical country with bright sunshine all year round, but that does not mean that solar power is viable by default. The extensive cloud cover and frequent rains make sunshine less continuous than one might expect in some area. Cloudless desert would be more suitable for solar farms.

    Malaysia already has hydroelectric energy. However, our infamous contract awarding process and work quality efficiency may hamper yet another mega-project. Something to keep in mind when considering any of the alternative energy projects.

    For nuclear power, well, IKIM had an opinion piece in The Star lately expressing concerns over the political and security impact in the region from Thailand’s plan to start a commercial reactor.

    I’m not so well informed about the potential of wind, wave and geothermal power in Malaysia. I’ll have to do more research, or someone point me to a suitable site. I can’t be the only Malaysian blogger who covers global warming and alternative energy, right?

    As for placing restrictions on carbon emissions, I think it’s unneccesary and counter-productive. And Badawi would agree with me. In the long run, I would place my bet and investment on improving existing technologies developing wholly new ones…

    Say, clean fusion that runs on plentiful boron-11 and does not produce radioactivity, which could solve all the world’s energy needs. Heck, at a mere USD 200 million, if I controlled a mega-corporation I’d seriously look into funding and patenting the technology.

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