Michael McCarthy: Stern rips up the last excuse for doing nothing

Share
Related Topics

Journalists were bizarrely banned from asking questions at the launch of the Stern Review yesterday, so the question several reporters wanted to ask Tony Blair, who was presiding, was never put: "What message do you think this sends to George Bush?"

For a whacking great message there certainly is, even if the Prime Minister was excused from being asked to spell it out himself. In 2001 President Bush took the United States out of the Kyoto protocol, the ground-breaking climate change treaty, on the premise that its requirement to cut US greenhouse gas emissions would damage the American economy. The Stern Review tells him bluntly: not cutting your emissions will eventually damage your economy a hell of a lot more.

This is not a Greenpeace campaigner talking, remember, not someone who might be suspected of harbouring a secret socialist agenda. This is a former chief economist of one of global capitalism's most revered institutions, the World Bank. And what Sir Nicholas Stern has done with his report on the economics of climate change is remarkable: he has ripped up the last excuse for inaction.

The scientific case to fight climate change has long been overwhelming, the moral case even more so. The last rational place where an opponent of acting to tackle global warming might take refuge has been the economic argument. No longer. If you oppose action now, you are simply burying your head in the sand.

Stern's loudly trumpeted conclusion that the cost of not acting will be five to 20 times the cost of dealing with the problem marks a genuine political turning point. It suddenly delivers a new orthodoxy. One wouldn't want to exaggerate, but it does feel like one of those moments that are truly historic, when the balance of affairs tips in a decisive way - like the day in November 1942 when the Russians surrounded the Germans at Stalingrad. Things are suddenly different.

That's not to say that the Americans, or indeed, the Chinese and the Indians, soon to take over from the US as the biggest CO2 emitters, will follow right away the course Sir Nicholas spells out. Stalingrad didn't end the Second World War.

But afterwards, things had changed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project