"Few politicians stand up and spell out that climate change is all about coal, economic growth and population growth. It is as if the three new coal power plants being opened every week in China and India don't matter, as long as we open a few wind farms in Europe and install some insulation in our houses. It would be unkind to call it a `windmills-and-draught-excluder strategy', but there is a painful grain of truth in this characterization." ---pp. 234-235
Dieter Helm is a professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford. The good professor is alarmed at the clear lack of progress that has been made in addressing the issue of global climate change since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997. There are a whole host of reasons for this and certainly the energy landscape around the world has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years. Meanwhile the intense ideological battle continues between those who claim that climate change does not matter at all and others who insist that Armageddon is just around the corner. It is clear to Professor Helm that the current approach simply is not working and that a shift in strategy is now in order. Furthermore, time continues to be of the essence. His new book "The Carbon Crunch: How We're Getting Climate Change Wrong and How to Fix It" is a clarion call for good people on all sides of the political spectrum to rethink this highly radioactive issue. In "The Carbon Crunch" Helm redefines this issue while offering a number of common-sense solutions for reducing carbon emissions around the world. It was a joy to read a serious book on this topic devoid of all the usual ideological posturing. A great deal of what Helm has to say made eminent sense to me.
Make no mistake about it.....the technological issues surrounding climate change are extremely complex and the political environment continues to be an obstacle to meaningful progress. What we have learned over the past 20 years is that while renewables like wind, solar and biomass have considerable potential they are not going to solve our energy problems in the short run. Emerging economies like China and India are experiencing exponential growth rates. These so-called "economic miracles" are being fueled by an abundance of cheap labor and domestic coal supplies. The widespread use of "dirty" coal in these nations is wreaking havoc with our environment and largely offsetting the reduction of carbon production in places like Europe and the United States. The way that Helm sees it coal is the villain in this story and efforts must be made to replace coal-fired power plants with natural gas. Vast new supplies of natural gas have been discovered all over the world in the past decade and offer us an opportunity to buy some time until more progress has been made on the renewable energy front. Helm also believes that there is a possibility that a new generation of nuclear reactors could also play a significant role in reducing our carbon emissions over the next few decades. The bottom line is that we are going to have to find creative ways to reduce our carbon consumption and Helm makes no attempt to sugar-coat the issue. Sacrifices are going to be required to make it happen.
In the closing chapters of "The Carbon Crunch" Dieter Helms presents a series of thoughtful and reasonable proposals to move forward. He explains in considerable detail why in his opinion a carbon tax is the preferable approach. His logic is quite simple really--if you do not have to pay for the consequences of your carbon footprint it is unlikely that you will try to limit the damage you are causing. Helm realizes that this is going to be an extremely hard sell in these difficult economic times but firmly believes it is necessary to prevent further damage to our environment. I like to think that I have an open mind on environmental issues. I disagree with conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh who proclaim there is no problem at all and have great disdain for "progressive" ideologues who have an agenda and try to ram rules and regulations down our throat. I commend Dieter Helm for presenting his ideas in a reasonable and scholarly manner. Over the years I have read a number of books on the issue of climate change and for my money "The Carbon Crunch: How We're Getting Climate Change Wrong and How to Fix It" is easily the best of the bunch. Very highly recommended!
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