Guest essay by Eric Worrall
It would all be so simple if engineers just got on with it and solved the problems.
Science can succeed on climate change where politics fails
And if someone makes money from finding a solution, who cares?
For the past 20 years the orthodox response to the threat of climate change has been focused on the search for a global agreement to reduce emissions. Such an approach is entirely logical and rational. Climate change is a global risk and so everyone should be involved in the response. The only problem is that the approach has failed. The Paris conference in 2015 brought people together and collected a range of loose promises from almost every country in the world. Those promises in aggregate were inadequate, and some have already been forgotten as regimes have changed, not least in the US. Many countries are taking action to mitigate climate change, but these actions don’t add up to an answer. Potential global solutions such as a universal carbon tax remain off the agenda.
What is the alternative? The best hope for limiting emissions comes from the application of science to the energy market. That means finding sources of energy that can be made available to all the world’s citizens, at a price they can afford, enabling them to switch away from the carbon-intensive fuels such as coal that are the main source of the problem. If politics cannot solve climate change, perhaps science and economics can do better.
Some years ago a group of scientists launched the Global Apollo Programme to Combat Climate Change at the London School of Economics — a concept designed in the belief that science could produce answers to a clear challenge just as happened in the 1960s space programme in the US. This initiative needs to be made global. It should begin with an open-minded approach and a willingness to fund work which offers the prospect of practical answers.
Politics may have failed, but rationality has not. If one approach does not work, the logic is to try another.
Trying to apply logic to green claims can be entertaining, as long as you don’t take their claims too seriously.
For example, greens claim renewable prices are falling rapidly, that renewables are already cheaper than coal – so why is government intervention needed? Why not just wait a few years for prices to fall to the point that the economic case for switching to renewables is utterly overwhelming? Why is that green “Apollo Project” still considered so necessary?
Greens claim Climate Change is an existential threat – so are so many greens anti-nuclear? We could replace most dispatchable coal and gas with dispatchable nuclear power in less than a decade, cut global CO2 emissions in half with minimal economic disruption, by copying the 1970s French Nuclear Programme.
Greens claim the threat of dangerous anthropogenic climate change is settled science – so why do greens put up such a fight when other scientists ask to see their data?
And of course, my new personal favourite – we can switch to renewables, when engineers solve the problems.
Nothing about the mainstream green position on climate change and renewable energy makes sense.