(Un)common sense on climate change policy


When so much which is said, written and done in the name of climate change mitigation is tinged with a zealotry which insists that drastic action must be taken, despite the improbability of it happening, it is particularly refreshing to see a remarkably sensible new report from the University of Oxford and LSE.

How to Get Climate Change Back on Course clearly and concisely demolishes the myth that the Kyoto protocol and any successor which might possibly emerge from the Copenhagen conference later this year will have the claimed effect on emissions. It also highlights the ludicrously ambitious targets of the UK Climate Change Act, which would require a sustained rate of decarbonisation over twice that ever seen. That Kyoto places binding obligations on Annex 1 countries and the Climate Change Act targets are legally enforceable is meaningless: no sactions can force compliance.

The authors of the report all subscribe to the view that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change. These are not sceptics. However, they are realists, capable of independent thought and recognising that the current hypothesis may turn out to be false. They propose a policy which is lower cost, efficient and - most importantly - directly addresses the key issue of carbon intensity: a low, ring-fenced carbon tax to fund innovation policies. This is based on the simple truth that clean energy will only begin to dominate when it is cheaper to supply at the point of use than conventional sources. Such a carbon tax may turn out to be unnecessary, but it certainly beats the unholy mess of emissions control. This report should be required reading for all politicians.

For more detail, see the latest Scientific Alliance newsletter.