Do You Remember the Stern Review?

Does anyone now remember Sir Nicholas Stern’s Review “the Economics of Climate Change” which made the headlines eight years ago? Mr Stern was respected economist who has worked for the World Bank and the UK Government, as well as holding professorships at pre-eminent universities. The Review comprised 575 pages and drew virtually all of the conclusions that most people who previously studied climate change issue have already reached and widely disseminated.

The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, commissioned the review. The Review was lauded by Prime Ministers, senior official, foreign government; they all said how important it was. In 575 pages of scientifically supported logical thinking Sir Nicholas destroyed the logic and the viability of the then government’s energy policy.

His argument was simple: climate change is almost certainly happening and it is almost certainly caused by human activity. Left unchecked with a “business as usual” policy would likely be catastrophic. We must implement policies to tax carbon or otherwise “price” it to discourage its production. If we act now we can afford to stabilise carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million but attempting to stabilise it at 450 ppm is probably  not affordable. Even if the scientists are all wrong about climate change the risk of them being right is so high that we must take action, on a prudent risk management basis.

The Stern Review was fundamentally right but there are parts of it on which I personally did not agree with – I have always doubted that carbon trading would be a helpful mechanism and I would go much further in compulsion than Mr Stern was prepared to go.

Eight years on no one seems to be bothered by the Stern Review; it does not influence the energy or environmental policies of the United Kingdom or indeed of any other nation. Meanwhile atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen to a monthly mean for August 2013 of 395.15 and the concentration increases month by month.

It would have saved more emissions if the money spent on the Stern Review was simply invested in solar water heating systems for the poor. I wrote back in 2006 that the government had talked the talk and wondered would they walk the walk. Eight years on the answer is obvious; as far as governments are concerned the issue of climate change is one for talking about, not one for acting on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: