There’s almost nothing controversial in his climate science. But then he goes off the rails:
So, what can we do? Before I can answer that, I need to throw away my lab coat. I have been writing as a scientist. In that role, I can tell you what will happen if we follow a particular economic and energy policy. Of course I have an opinion on what that policy should be, but I give it as a citizen and not as a scientist. We cannot control how the climate responds to the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean, but we can control how much extra there is. We need to go as far as we can in reducing carbon emissions, without bankrupting ourselves or impoverishing the developing world.
It’s a source of huge frustration to scientists that a rational discussion of how far that is has been drowned out by two contradictory tactics. One is to question facts we are certain about. The other is to insist that we have such a good understanding that we can plan as if only the most benign predictions will come true.
Science doesn’t bring only a warning: it can also offer solutions. We need to deploy today’s technology to make a start on reaching a low carbon future. However, huge advances are possible in the efficiency of solar cells, in storing intermittent energy, and in methods of capturing carbon from otherwise polluting power stations. A concerted campaign of investment in the scientists, engineers and companies who can deliver these improvements will give us the best chance of meeting the commitments needed at the negotiations.
I would feel ashamed to know that, in my lifetime, we set a course that might radically change the face of the planet. The past tells me that climate does change, and that when it does so, it is always disruptive. So my hope for the climate negotiations is that politicians will face the facts and have ambitious aspirations, backed by ambitious plans to meet them. That way we can avoid all kinds of hot air.
Because we already know what the economic answer is. Firstly, we want to know roughly what grand policy we should follow. From hte SRES it’s actually baked into everything that we assume about climate change.
We want a capitalist and globalised world. A1 in the terminology of the SRES.
Then, we want one that doesn’t use fossil fuels (so much). That is, we’d prefer A1T rather than A1FI. Excellent, so how do we get there? As the Stern Review, Richard Tol, John Quiggin, William Nordhaus and every other non-comatose economist who has studied the problem says, we need a carbon tax at the social cost of carbon.
At which point we’re done. Might be worth throwing a bit more money at interesting research ideas. Solar’s such a large industry that it can fund its own innovation these days, even if we might keep paying for the scientists in their labs. Something like iron fertilisation’s rather more of a public good so could usefully use tax money. But beside the carbon tax these are all near trivia.
Globalised capitalism with a carbon tax and the rest is details. That is the scientific consensus.