I’ve tried to stick to writing about the science that I think I understand and have tended to avoid (or at least tried to) things about which I’m less certain. I am, however, finding it confusing (frustrating?) to see comments by people (some of whom are credible academics) arguing that climate policy is actively preventing those who are poor from having access to cheap energy.
There are a number of reasons why I find this frustrating. One basic one is that we’ve had fossil fuel powered energy sources for well over a hundred years and yet we still have many who are living without access to this kind of energy. Why is it suddenly a big deal now? Why haven’t we been working for the last few decades to ensure that as many as possible have access to this cheap energy source? Maybe we have, but it’s not seemed very obvious to me. If anything, the cost of fossil fuels appears to be rising, so if we couldn’t provide it to the poor when it was cheaper, why are we suddenly going to be able to do so now.
Another frustration is that it is clear that climate policy is not aimed at preventing the poor from accessing cheap energy. It’s explicitly aimed at mitigating against the effects of global warming. It’s possible that this could have some negative side effects and we should certainly consider all implications of these policies, but to imply that they’re aimed at harming the poor is nonsense. And, to be fair, I’m not even suggesting that all climate policies are well thought out and optimal. Simply that suggesting that they will explicitly harm the poor is a very odd interpretation. Many are concerned about the implications of climate change in areas where poor people live and so, if anything, they are aiming to help those who will suffer if global warming continues to influence our climate.
I guess, the final thing I was going to say was in relation to cost. It does seem that the cost of fossil fuel based power systems is likely to rise (the cost of extraction likely to increase as we find fossil fuels in ever more inaccessible places) and the cost of alternatives is likely to drop (as technology improves how they perform and how much they cost to manufacture). If you really wanted to help people living in some remote village in Africa, wouldn’t it be better to provide some wind turbines and Solar panels rather than their government spending a fortune on a coal-fired power plant and all the associated infrastructure?
Now, to be honest, I’m not all that familiar will all the ins and outs of energy policy so am sure it’s more complicated than I’ve presented here. I just think that implying that climate policy is aimed (implicitly or explicitly) at harming the poor is disingenuous, and suggesting that alternatives sources are too expensive to be effective is unlikely to be true for long (even if it is true now).