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It’s Capitalism Wot Beat Climate Change

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Ambrose Evans Pritchard is entirely correct here in this insistence that we’re all so over climate change now:

Capitalist technology is already solving the climate crisis but Extinction Rebellion hasn’t noticed
The climate rebels are out of date: we have the technical means to solve the problem at no net economic cost

He’s a little excitable at the idea of no net economic cost. I’d say that’s not quite true, not as yet. But we’ve definitely put in place the activities which will lead to it being true. Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper – I’m told that perovskites are going to ratchet costs own another order of magnitude over time – and that’s all that was ever required. Get that cheap enough and everything else becomes feasible, even cheaper than fossil fuels. Because with really cheap solar you can go batteries, hydrogen, compressed air, all sortsa things.

The great catastrophe so feared by our new age Puritans has in a sense been averted already, if only they could see it. The free market is cracking the carbon challenge with a speed and efficiency that the environmental Left could never achieve.
We have the technical means to solve the problem at no net economic cost – indeed, the green switch can be levered into a net economic gain – and without any need to stop travel, live on beans, or to forgo our affluent lifestyle.

No net cost is a bit iffy which we’ll get to.

The net-zero switch is already happening very fast. The most elegant way to bring it forward even faster is to give markets the signal of a Pigou carbon price that ratchets up systematically, as proposed by the International Monetary Fund.

Well, actually as suggested by William Nordhaus, which we’ll get to about that iffiness of no net cost.

gaining support in the US Congress from both parties and a roster of Nobel economists of all stripes.

Well, yes, Bill there actually gaining his Nobel for suggesting it.

The no net cost though does depend upon exactly how we do this. If we go out and tear down everything we’ve already built then there will be massive costs. If, instead, we only replace stuff as it wears out and needs replacing anyway then clearly things are a lot cheaper. Which is the point of having the carbon tax rise over time – to make people replace with non-emitting when it is time to do so. Because that carbon tax might not bite much now but it will, sure as Hell, in a couple of decades. So, when you build now for the future build non-emittive.

All of this being why we’re getting so much screaming from XR and the like of course. For them the aim is to replace the economy. Being able to deal with climate change without replacing capitalism and industry isn’t the point at all. They want to kill capitalism and industry, the climate change is only the excuse. Give it a decade and we’ll all be able to see that the dealing with it is proceeding apace and no need to tear up the present society at all.

Thus the screaming about how we must do it now – the opportunity is disappearing before their very eyes.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. If, as Tim says, things are proceeding apace without a carbon tax why not allow things to progress as they are. No need for an unwieldy carbon tax which allows for an entire new regime of political corruption, confusion and self-dealing.

    • Technically Britain did.
      Burning wood was widely used for fuel but was eventually banned in London and the south because it was needed for the Navy. London only switched to burning coal because it was easily transported from places like Yorkshire using coastal barges. It was massively polluting and you couldn’t cook with it directly quite like you could with wood, but it was effectively mandated by the state.

  2. Perovskites are a nuclear fusion answer. They have a remarkable affinity for oxygen and water. To keep them operating requires hermetic sealing, which is an expensive proposition. Costs of solar will continue to decline as Si and III-V solar cells continue to get better, but a sudden order of magnitude cost reduction just isn’t happening.

  3. In some parts of the world the sun shines a lot more so solar electricity there is much much cheaper. As the cost of solar falls you can use that cheap electricity to make hydrogen then combine it with C02 from seawater in a Sabatier reaction to make “green” synthetic methane that costs about the same as the natural gas that comes out of the ground. Ship it to the UK in Liquified Natural Gas tankers and use it for everything we use gas for now, but with a zero carbon footprint. For a start you can use it in our gas turbine power stations to generate electricity cheaper than our local solar or wind can manage.

    • Having lived through the so-called oil crisis, I’d much rather not be dependent on energy from areas where solar is plentiful.

      Thus if we wish to do this, breeder reactors using the UK’s plentiful supplies of spent fuel and depleted uranium is obviously the way to go. But since I’m a climate sceptic, I’d say fracking is a simpler and cheaper way for the UK to get its energy.

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