Street lights on a desert highway

You would think that lights are unnecessary along remote desert highways. Vehicles have headlights after all, and in the desert there is not much wildlife on the road.

If being able to see the camel on the road at night prevents even one death, or even an accident, it might justify the expense. But there are surely higher priorities for spending that would save lives.

Not so for the company installing the lights. They say yes please.  And hey, we can even provide solar power systems to tackle the carbon issue. No problem Minister and think of the export earnings.

Unnecessary development is often a problem because it is hard to argue that there is such a thing as unnecessary commerce.

Economic activity must happen, deals struck, money exchanged, and made available through purchases, wages and profits to fuel more activity. It is a relentless system that works so long as we keep making and selling things.

The Australian government has just released new modeling on the impact of a $20 per tCO2e carbon price on economic growth to 2050. Minimal effect it says. This is good news for spruikers of action on climate change. But what about economic growth of around 3% per annum for the next 40 years.

If that growth is generated by building street lights where we don’t need them and selling vast volumes of white goods, cars and miscellaneous consumer items that we probably don’t need, any carbon price will have the effect of a drop in the proverbial ocean on protecting the environment.

Remember that action on climate change is on the agenda because we are concerned about how a warming world will support us all.

The real trick will be to find things that will fuel economic activity with development that we actually need.

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