Changing on climate change

A cloud bigger than a man’s hand…

I wanted to blog about my conversion to ‘warmism’… instead I find I’m warming to fracking.  (Yay, fracking!)

I always thought of myself as a climate change sceptic.  Mostly because of the company I didn’t want to keep.   I agreed (and still agree) with friends like James Delingpole*that a heap of unsavoury people – bossy-boots, lefty extremists and millenarian weirdos –  use climate change as a Trojan Horse for their misanthropic agendas.

That said… I’ve come around on climate change and global warming.  It’s not improbable that human activity has an impact on the climate.   We shape the environment in lots of other ways, so why not the climate.   And, while I am dubious about the motives of some of the warmists, I am not dubious about all of them.   I don’t think (almost) all the scientists in the world have formed a giant conspiracy to get us to install cavity wall insulation.

I guess I am morphing into a kind of warmist.  If scientists tell me we’re warming up the planet I am inclined to believe them.

But I also expect scientists to sort out climate change before it causes huge and demonstrable inconvenience or expense.  I don’t think we need to strike some kind of deal with the gods or flagellate ourselves or go without the comforts of modern life because of some creepy post-colonial / decadent sense of guilt.

Science can and will sort this out.   I’m looking forward to the hydrogen economy and, one day, fusion.  But until these things happen, we need practical ways to keep the lights on which don’t accelerate warming or hand over more power and influence to the bully-states of Eurasia and the Middle East.

These practical answers are exactly what’s on offer from The Carbon Crunch by Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy, University of Oxford (see review by Fred Pearce in this week’s New Scientist).  Instead of wishful thinking, Helm looks at the cold hard economics of energy supply, and reaches conclusions that many greens may find surprising and even unwelcome.

Helm believes Europe should join the United States in the dash for shale gas. He argues that coal burning is the chief culprit in warming (coal produces twice as much CO2 as natural gas to generate the same amount of electricity) so we should focus on natural gas as a “bridging technology” until we discover something better.

Fracking has gained bogeyman status among many greens.  Certainly, it is not without its minuses.  The process to extract shale gas has led to some well-documented localised pollution.  But at the same time, Helm states that fracked natural gas allowed the United States cut its CO2 emissions in 2011 by 1.7 per cent (while Europe’s continued to grow).  And, after decades of dependence on oil imports, America looks to be on the road to energy independence within two decades.

It’s clear that fracking is not a consequence-free option.  It’s at best a temporary solution.  But, at least, there is a choice to be made.  In The Carbon Crunch Helm has presented that choice in clear and calm terms.

* See Watermelons by James Delingpole. Which you will either love or hate.

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