Prospects for a Clean Revolution

This blog introduces the topic of a #CleanRevolution that I will be covering in a live Twitter Q&A at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning with Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group.

It is not yet widely understood by politicians, policy makers and the public alike that climate change will lead to a complete transformation of the human prospect. This is true whether climate policy succeeds or fails.

If it succeeds the transformation will take place over the next thirty years. If it fails, the transformation that is already underway will accelerate gradually and become dramatic in the thirty years after that.

The choice is whether events or people drive that transformation.

If people make the choice, then over the next thirty years the way energy is used will be transformed.

This will bring with it a wide range of co-benefits in terms both of economic efficiency and human well being. Food and water security will be maintained.

However, the pattern of economic winners and losers will also be disrupted.

If events drive the transformation then the global average temperature will rise inexorably and for all practical purposes, irreversibly.

Food and water security will be undermined and ever larger numbers of people will be displaced, exposed to conflict and disease and subject to deeper climate induced poverty.

One of the features of climate change is that we have an unusually clear analysis of the problem.

We know exactly what we need to do – to construct a carbon neutral global energy system by the middle of the century.

We know how to do it – all the technologies and engineering knowledge we need to get there in time are already available.

We know we can afford to do it – the International Energy Agency estimates that the net cost of doing so might add only a couple of trillion dollars to what we will be investing in energy anyway over the next twenty five years.

That is a few tens of billions of dollars a year – I used to think that was a lot of money until the bankers taught me otherwise.

What we do not know is how to put the technology and capital together. Doing that will require political will and political will is exactly what the economic crisis has revealed to be lacking.

About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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