Gaah! You regular readers will know that I’m not a climate change denier or denialist. I take the IPCC projections to be pretty much what they say they are, the current state of the scientific art (yes, I know there are problems being uncovered with it but everyone’s got to start somewhere on this matter).
When you start reading some of the scientists actually involved, William Connelly, James Annan for example, you actually get told that while this is a problem, it’s neither an immediate one nor a catastrophic one. No, really, you do. Then you get the politicians leaping aboard the bandwagon:
Nicholas Stern — the author of the Government’s Stern Report on the economic effects of climate change, and former chief economist at the World Bank — said we have a one in two chance of destroying civilization within the life-span of people already born, unless drastic action is taken to slow CO2 emissions.
“If we let go, if we carry on with business as usual, there is a 50pc chance that global temperatures will be 5 degrees centigrade higher by the end of century than it was in pre-industrial times. The last time that happened, the world was a swamp and there were alligators up to the North Pole,” he said.
Where on earth does he get that from? A 50/50 chance of 5oC? Certainly not from the IPCC reports which refuse point blank to offer such probabilities.
One possibility is that he’s reading only the A2 family (the one his own major report was based upon) and ignoring the fact that all four families are regarded as equally possible….and all are also "business as usual". None of them take account of any mitigation efforts at all: they specifically state that this is so too.
Anthony Giddens — a Professor at the London School of Economics, and Tony Blair’s “Third Way” guru — said the leading nations would have to relearn the forgotten art of long-term planning. “Leaving this to the market is not a possible solution. There is no technology even close to solving this crisis. All it can do is to nibble away”. ie, mass rationing of energy.
M’Lord Gidddens is simply projecting his own fantasies here. No one is suggesting that markets unaided and unadorned deal well with externalities. Everyone is singing from the same page here….where the arguments start is whether intervention to include such in market prices will be worse than the original disease or whether they’ll be a useful thing to do. There are also arguments about discount rates (how differently should we value the future as against the present?) which affect how much such intervention there should be if there is to be any.
But it’s only those with a love of "planning" for other reasons who think that such "planning" is either desirable or necessary. Whether we talk of cap and trade or of carbon taxes, we’re all talking about interventions in markets and then letting markets run with said changes, rather than the more direct planning that M’Lord dribbles over.
Here I agree with Ambrose Evans-P
My own view is that technology and human creativity will come up trumps in the end — perhaps sooner that we suspect — but that is idle speculation.
Bjorn Lomborg was castigated a little less than a decade ago for saying roughly this. He noted that solar PV was getting cheaper faster than other forms of energy generation and that sometime around 2025, 2030, it would be cheap enough that we would use it preferentially to fossil fuels. Jeremy Leggett is on record as saying that this will happen in the next 5-10 years (while bizarrely, calling for more subsidy of something he stoutly insists is going to happen anyway).
My own view, which I present for what very little it’s worth, is that yes, two decades ago something really did need to be done. And two decades ago we started to do things. Billions upon billions have gone into research into hydrogen, fuel cells, carbon capture schemes, solar PV and all the rest. And research and engineering all take time to come to fruition, and I think that this coming decade will see many such things indeed doing so.
We’ve already got people building factories to make thin film solar cells, simply printed on an aluminium backing, cells that they insist will be price competitive with coal (for distributed generation, not for central).
I agree this is rather Panglossian, but what we needed to do we already have. Modest and rising carbon taxes will help to encourage the switch to the new technologies, certainly, and as long as they’re revenue neutral I don’t see much of a problem with them.
But given what the scientists tell us (rather than the politicians) it’s not an immediate nor catastrophic problem, so nor need the solution be.