First, if anyone needed reminding that environmental issues are economic issues, two of today’s news reports underline that fact. Researchers are worried that salinity is going to have large impacts on Australia’s premier wine region, the Barossa Valley, and a report of large-scale coral deaths from warming waters in the Caribbean reminds us that this is what could lie in store for the Great Barrier Reef. Besides their natural value, these two areas represent two of Australia's biggest and most profitable exports (agriculture and tourism).
Secondly, I talk quite a bit on this site about the power of markets and I often make the assumption that if governments re-jig incentives (eg, try and make consumers or businesses face the full economic costs of their decisions) markets will respond and come up with solutions (renewable energy, more energy-efficient products, etc) – governments don’t need to engineer the solutions themselves. But incentives work with or against existing consumer preferences and these I think drives markets much more powerfully. What’s made hybrid cars much more popular and 4-wheel-drives (SUVs) less popular over the last few years is not really increased taxes or oil prices (see this post from the Environmental Economics Blog): it’s that they’re seen as green and cool. So we can try to change institutions but changing popular perceptions is more important.
Where I’m going with this is I see it as an incredibly positive step that – from what I can see people (and businesses) are taking personal responsibility for the global warming issue and doing what they can to help in small ways. There seem to be a variety of personal emissions offsets businesses where you can offset your personal or business’s contributions to greenhouse emissions by buying ‘credits’ from a business that they will use to invest in renewable energy or carbon sink projects. In this vein, Kate from the Veggie Friendly Blog reports that she recently attended a ‘carbon neutral wedding’! The demand from consumers for greenhouse-friendly products will really move markets for renewables in the coming years I think.