[It’s not] acceptable to make children the symbolic leaders of a movement and then morally blackmail the rest of us into not challenging anything they say or do, precisely because they are so young. You can’t have it both ways: you can’t say we must listen to the children, and at the same time forbid critical analysis of exactly what they are saying. For example, are we supposed to simply accept it as true when the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg tells us that, unless we reduce our carbon emissions by at least half over the next 10 years, we’re probably on a path to civilisational destruction? On the contrary, the bigger and more extravagant the claim, the more it should be questioned. In fact, we have an absolute duty to do so. We must find ways of uncoupling our prosperity from fossil fuels, but it won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to take decades, and it will be tremendously expensive. But let’s first pause and ask whether the apocalyptic warnings of impending doom are even true. When we read dire headlines, they are usually drawn from the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But when you look a bit more closely at the UN body’s predictions, you find all sorts of caveats, assumptions and levels of probability that don’t justify a lot of the subsequent alarmist reporting. If we apply the precautionary principle, and assume the worst is likely to come true and so take really drastic action of the type demanded by the eco-radicals. The problem with this approach is that it would lead to a massive economic contraction. There is absolutely no way the world can replace more than half of the power provided by fossil fuels with renewable energy over the next decade. It is going to take far longer than that. Two ways forward come to mind. One is to buy nuclear energy from the likes of Britain and France via underwater cables, because nuclear power does not produce direct carbon emissions. Another is to increase the carbon tax, which the government proposes, but to do so faster. Currently it is €20 a ton. A €10 increase appears to be on the cards in the coming budget. Ministers should double it, and go from there, but provide an offset via income tax cuts and increases in fuel allowances for those on low incomes.
Times 29th Sept 2019 read more »