Beyond destroying our politics and corroding public trust in science, climate change denial also threatens the future of a habitable planet and a viable global economy. As a growing body of research has revealed, the maintenance of a “fossil fuels forever” mentality has real implications for the future of global food production, biodiversity, social functioning and geopolitical security. Leading economies around the world have recognised that the decarbonisation of energy and transport systems are key to the future prosperity of human civilisation.
The dramatic fall in the cost of renewable energies and commitment to large-scale investment in solar and wind energy highlight a pathway away from coal, oil and gas. But government leadership is badly needed to take the threat of climate change seriously and ramp up the scale of economic transformation on a par with the political and economic mobilisation we have applied to other existential threats in the past.
As the actual IPCC reports (specifically, the SRES) point out, and as every economist who has turned their attentions to the subject insists, all we have ever needed to do is make non-fossil fuels cheap and we’re done. True, the economists have been saying we should aid this process by sticking a tax of the social costs of carbon on the fossil side but that’s a matter of efficiency in reaching the goal, not the goal itself.
If, for example, solar is cheaper than coal then we’re done. Simply because people will naturally install solar off into the future, not coal.
And we are told, repeatedly, that solar is now cheaper than coal. Thus we’re done in active measures. We can just sit back and allow the market to carry the weight for us. True, if solar isn’t cheaper then the market won’t, but then that means that all those people telling us it is cheaper are being economical with the actualite, doesn’t it?
In the US and Australia, we must shift away from a culture of politically motivated climate change denialism to an acceptance of the truly existential threat now facing humanity.
But this is the point. Given the advances that have been made in non-fossil electricity generation we don’t face an existential crisis. We have already shifted from A1FI to something more like A1T, or from RCP 8.5 to 4.5 or even 2.6.
This is, of course, only true if what we’re being told about renewables is true. But if it is then we’re pretty much done here.