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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: union bosses mobilise to try to prevent a Labour government

John Rentoul
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine