There is a danger that we are becoming bored of being lectured about climate change. We witness new weather patterns such as the gales and torrential rain that battered Britain this winter. We digest the images of melting glaciers, and read – with increasing numbness – the predictions about the rise in global temperatures. And it is not surprising if there is an overpowering urge to change the channel. That explains why the dissidents on this issue, however marginal scientifically, find a ready audience.
So it is commendable that the latest instalment of the lecture comes in a tidy form – a mere 33 pages – and that, although its message is as apocalyptic as ever, it identifies snippets of encouraging news that may shake us from our fatalistic slumbers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Summary for Policymakers insists on the seriousness of the situation: greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade were the highest in human history: without further action the impact of higher temperatures on agriculture, wildlife and human civilisation will be “devastating”.
But the report also points out that past exhortations have not been in vain. Last year renewables accounted for more than half the new electricity generation added around the world. As the renewables industry grows it is becoming more and more competitive with fossil-based power generation. To avoid disastrous temperature rises, we will have to treble investment in renewables in the next 35 years: a tall order, but not impossible, given the political will. And the additional benefits, such as clean air and energy security, are lost on no one.