Reporting on Climate Change

Nicholas Stern wrote a report a few years ago. Everyone praised it, not because it contained any illuminating insights or great original thinking; environmentalists have been making the points that Mr Stern raised in his report years earlier when Mr Stern was in charge of dishing out money to environmentally damaging projects at the World Bank, but because it was a report made by a member of the establishment about climate change. He was suitably rewarded and hailed as a wise man. That is fine by me; anyone who puts climate change into the minds of the establishment has done well.

However, the establishment having had climate change on its mind decided that it was better to keep in firmly on its mind rather than do anything to arrest, reverse or even defer the global warming that the planet is experiencing. I write today as tens of millions of people in Pakistan, Russia and South China  are having their lives and livelihoods threatened by climate change. Some are being killed, others made ill, homeless, and dispossessed of their possession as a result of climate change and this is just the start of the problem.

Mr Stern’s report became something to which governments paid lip service, rather than attention. It is a bit like being on a sinking ship which has a hole it in through which water is leaking; the steerage class passengers are beginning to drown but the first class passengers continue to dance, eat and socialise even though they have the means to plug the leak. “Events” in the shape of the recession, have overtaken the concerns that Mr Stern expression and many of the solutions to which he pointed.

Recently Mr Stern, who is an economist, told the United Nations advisory group in Berlin that it would cost $100 billion to control climate change. I have no idea of where he gets this figure – it is suitably round and suitably large, but it will certainly cost a great deal to control climate change. But costs and money have a habit of circulating, so with all expenses come some indirect benefits and disadvantages. Certainly large amounts of money must be raised before it can be spent, and the principle of the polluter paying has to be the basis of raising money to control climate change expenditure.

Having raised the money it is essential that should not be wasted on research into climate change – there is plenty of that happening right now and seems to be plenty of money for that. It should not be wasted on advisory bodies, talking shops, highly paid executives of quasi governmental organisations. Those organisations prefer to spend money on themselves rather than on actual measures.

The expenditure should be on actual measures, odd as it may seem because the way to control climate change is not through carbon offsets, carbon trading schemes, jolly holidays in Bali, Copenhagen and Cancun, or even on grandiose statements of intent but on stuff that replaces carbon dioxide emitting items like coal and gas burning power plants, household energy systems and vehicles and transportation, with stuff that does the job but draws upon clean renewable energy sources. Governments throughout the world have missed this point.

Climate change concerns have been for the time being set aside by the concerns over prosperity and the recession. The folk at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change messed up in their reports by exaggerating their predictions in some (admittedly very few) cases beyond the bounds of what was scientifically justified. As a result the climate change deniers have, by applying a variety of techniques under which they appear to be winning the argument while being wrong, dented public confidence in the science.

The science is robust and we are now beginning to see climate change in action in places like the Indus valley in Pakistan where millions are affected by unprecedented rainfall. Those people need help because through no fault of their own they suffer as a result of the activities of rich nations and nations desperately trying to become rich. In Pakistan the inhabitants of the regions affected by flooding have lived in those places for hundreds of generations. It is likely that many places will become, over the long term, permanently uninhabitable as a result of climate change.

These are not acts of God, or of nature, but the inadvertent manipulation of nature by the wealthiest of part humanity. Such are the events.

3 Responses

  1. Please don’t take offence but do you practice what you preach?

    I have a very committed environmentalist aquaintance, who refuses to water the lawn, has log fires, wears old clothes; yet has 2 brand new cars and recently flew the family to Norway on one of the 3 annual international holidays.

    Surely, a low carbon lifestyle has to be holistic or it is pointless. I was brought up a Catholic and knew pious people who found excuses to eat meat on Friday (usually health).

    I find the same behaviour with environmentalists.

    It is easy to excuse wasting energy and hard to stick to principles, especially when it is theoretically possible to plant some trees to cover the environmental cost of say flying.

    A low energy lifestyle means not going far abroad, walking, being cold, or hot, looking poor etc. Its not always pleasant living that life. More so when you have to!

    • I have a low carbon footprint and my major business has no carbon footprint and has helped avoid over the years many millions of tonnes of emissions. If you go into the detail I feel in good conscious I practice what I preach. I only go abroad to sell solar and I don’t plant trees, but then I don’t cut any down either.


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