What lessons can be learned about the adoption of HDTV for getting society to adopt climate change.
Watching Edward O. Wilson be interviewed by Bill Moyers from P.B.S. made me remember an interesting contrast of two issues which are affecting New Zealand: the adoption of HDTV and climate change. They of course are entirely unrelated in everything bar one aspect: they both involve getting society to pay money to change.
Freeview, New Zealand’s free to air digital broadcaster, can be connected to via a set top box currently costing NZD$300. People then have to purchase an HDTV to view any difference in signal, otherwise the money for the set top box is essentially wasted. There is no choice in this matter as the analogue signal will be switched off in around 6-10 years. This decision has not being voted for, rather it is being foisted upon the New Zealand public by forces beyond our control.
Climate change also is being thrust upon us – the facts of climate change are there and something needs to be done. The only difference is in the level of what we need to do. Digital television has some very clear answers: purchase set top box and HDTV, do not adjust your lifestyle. Climate change not only has no clear answers but many vested interests against it in both business and public apathy.
Climate change resides in the realm of externalities, that economic term which means effects of trade which cannot be quantified and so aren’t factored into the cost of a good or service. This fact alone means that economics and thus the free market cannot successfully resolve matters of the environment. State intervention has to be the prime organiser of our society in most matters of the environment, just as it has been in HDTV. Currently the New Zealand government’s effort to resolve the digital television problem puts its effort to resolving our contribution to climate change to shame.