Monday, February 12, 2007

The Stern Review on Traffic Jams :: Undercover Economist

I’ll admit, the Stern Review on Traffic Jams doesn’t sound like the sort of thing to keep you awake at night. Traffic jams are less dramatic than catastrophic climate change, just as being mugged is less dramatic than being shot.

I realise it seems ridiculous to compare traffic jams to climate change, but I am not sure why. If climate change ever begins to have the same impact on our lives that congestion does today, it will be a dark day indeed. Think about the delays; the uncertainties; think about the lengths big-city dwellers have to go to in an effort to avoid traffic. Then think about how severely the climate would need to change before it had the same effect on your daily routine.

The new “happiness economists”, who are almost as fashionable as those who study climate change, have concluded that the way most people feel during their commute is the worst they feel all day. It would be worth a lot to escape that feeling. Of course, it would be worth a lot if we could do something about climate change too.
I am just puzzled as to why an environmental problem that we fear will eventually become serious gets so much more attention than an environmental problem that we know for sure is serious right now.

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