In February 14, 2010 distinguished climate scientists, economists and policy
experts came together to discuss how to tackle global warming. This week,
the London School of Economics and Oxford University are publishing their
conclusions. They are worth considering.
The group was brought together by Gwyn Prins, a well – regarded expert in security policy and international relations who heads London School of Economics’ Mackinder Programme for the study of Long Wave Events.
The group’s report, The Hartwell Paper, outlines a new direction for
climate policy after the collapse of last year’s attempts to negotiate
a global climate deal.
The group points out that it makes no sense to compare climate change to other environmental challenges that we have faced and solved. Climate change is much more complicated, involving open, complex and imperfectly – understood systems. Unlike, say, acid rain or smog, it is not a conventional environmental’ problem.
Reducing global population is implausible, and deliberately reducing the size of the global economy would result in increased hardship for billions. The Hartwell Paper, then, sets out to develop a strategy that identifies a number of ways of pulling the levers of energy efficiency and carbon intensity.
The Hartwell group proposes that we adopt three basic climate – related goals: ensuring secure, affordable energy supplies for everyone – which means developing alternatives to fossil fuels – ensuring that economic development doesn’t wreak environmental havoc – which means not just reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but also cutting indoor pollution from burning biomass, reducing ozone, and protecting tropical forests – and making sure that we are prepared to cope with whatever climate changes may occur, man – made or natural – which means recognizing, at last, the importance of adapting to climate change.
Achieving these goals will obviously require heavy lifting. The Hartwell group correctly notes that in order to be successful, our approach to climate policy should offer obvious advantages – ‘rapid and demonstrable payback’ – appeal to a wide variety of people and produce measurable results.
At the same time, the group adds, we must recognize that we won’t make any real progress in cutting carbon dioxide emissions until we can provide developing economies with affordable alternatives to the fossil fuels on which they currently depend.”
They suggest partially funding the required research and development with a “slowly rising but initially low carbon tax” that would avoid undermining economic growth.