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Climate change debate: too nice to be real

Posted by Richard D North in Global Warming / Green / Money on 3 December 2008

Why we posted this: The great and the good talk about climate change as though everyone really, really cared. They don’t. And the laggards are not being wholly unreasonable. 

The original stories:
Hot Debate
Financial Times Climate Change series
3 December 2008

Summary of the stories:
The FT has been running a magazine series (available online) on the science, politics and business of climate change. It mostly re-iterates the “Something Urgent Must Be Done” school of analysis.

In one very interesting panel debate (“The Hot Debate”, in print and in audio), the more sceptical voice of David Henderson was heard. He argues that the effects of climate change and the costs and effectiveness of doing anything about it are much less known than is often supposed. It follows, he says, that we need to be careful of incuring too much cost to “solve” the problem. But that was not the tone of many of the stories in the series.

livingissues comment:
Nearly all mainstream voices now insist they care about climate change and accept that urgent action is needed to deal with it. Fans of action sometimes say it will not be very expensive to deal with it and that government investment in low energy technology could be an ideal boost in a recession. Lord Stern is famously in this position (as you can see from the FT’s survey). 

It is worth noting that some very vocal radical and environmentalist critics say that the scale of action will have to be enormous or it may be completely useless. (George Monbiot is in this position.)

Politically, this is the real crunch. There is no sign that the voters of the rich or poor worlds will tolerate much dent in their economic prospects to deal with this problem. It is very unclear that the timid policy they will tolerate will make much difference to the problem. So we may well not avoid the “tipping points” the “alarmist” “catastrophists” may be quite right in identifying. 

None of this sort of analysis emerged in the worthy FT series. 

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