Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Thought of the Day

Even if a deal is somehow struck at Copenhagen, it will involve promised reductions of CO2 emissions that seem literally incredible. The rich countries that belong to the Group of Eight, including the US, say they want to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 – which will mean a massive transfer to cleaner sources of energy. As Oliver Morton, the science writer, points out – “Building two terawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050 – enough to supply 10 per cent of the total carbon-free energy that’s needed – means building a large nuclear power station every week; the current worldwide rate is about five a year. A single terawatt of wind – 5 per cent of the overall requirement – requires about 4m large turbines.”

Nicholas Stern, a professor of economics, has issued an influential report arguing that the transition to a low-carbon economy is affordable and compatible with continued economic growth. Leading western politicians say that they believe this and talk airily of the “green jobs” of the future. But there is little sign that they are prepared to back their arguments with deliberate efforts to raise the cost of fossil fuels or to make the necessary investments in alternative energy. All the politicians involved in the global climate change negotiations know that a country that moves unilaterally risks severely damaging its economy, at least in the short-term – without affecting the global problem.

Gideon Rachman


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