Unless we act now, not some time distant but now, these consequences, disastrous as they are, will be irreversible. So there is nothing more serious, more urgent or more demanding of leadership.Tony Blair, 30 October 2006
a bit impractical actually...Tony Blair, two months later,
responding to the suggestion that he should show
leadership by not flying to Barbados for holidays.
What we should do depends in part on our motivation. Recall that on
page 5 we discussed three motivations for getting off fossil fuels: the end
of cheap fossil fuels; security of supply; and climate change. Let’s assume
first that we have the climate-change motivation – that we want to reduce
carbon emissions radically. (Anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change
can skip this section and rejoin the rest of us on page 223.)
We are not on track to a zero-carbon future. Long-term investment is
not happening. Carbon sequestration companies are not thriving, even
though the advice from climate experts and economic experts alike is that
sucking carbon dioxide from thin air will very probably be necessary to
avoid dangerous climate change. Carbon is not even being captured at
any coal power stations (except for one tiny prototype in Germany).
The principal problem is that carbon pollution is not priced correctly.
And there is no confidence that it’s going to be priced correctly in the
future. When I say “correctly,” I mean that the price of emitting carbon
dioxide should be big enough such that every running coal power station
has carbon capture technology fitted to it.
Solving climate change is a complex topic, but in a single crude brush-
stroke, here is the solution: the price of carbon dioxide must be such that
people stop burning coal without capture. Most of the solution is captured in
this one brush-stroke because, in the long term, coal is the big fossil fuel.
(Trying to reduce emissions from oil and gas is of secondary importance
because supplies of both oil and gas are expected to decline over the next
So what do politicians need to do? They need to ensure that all coal
power stations have carbon capture fitted. The first step towards this goal
is for government to finance a large-scale demonstration project to sort out
the technology for carbon capture and storage; second, politicians need to