Firstly, this whole saga does seem like a classic example of ClimateballTM. Write an article that suggests that those with whom you disagree are selfish Toffs (?) who are taking the low moral ground and who don’t care about the poor. Then complain when someone writes a response that might be regarded as somewhat insulting (some might disagree). Manage to get a response posted on your critic’s site and get your critic to apologise. Be magnanimous so that it appears that you’re taking the moral high ground. Avoid apologising about the insulting tone in your original article, and avoid having to actually address any of the criticisms of your original article. End up with everyone focusing on the somewhat insulting critique. Clever or devious?
I did, however, have some actual thoughts about Matt Ridley’s views. I don’t expect Matt Ridley to actually respond and I certainly don’t think he’s obliged to. That, however, doesn’t mean that I can’t express them.
- One of Matt Ridley’s arguments appears to be that the extreme high emission pathway (RCP8.5) is virtually impossible, therefore we shouldn’t consider it. This may be true, but it’s not clear that it’s actually impossible. Also, if we were to follow such an emission pathway, even Matt Ridley’s preferred climate sensitivity estimates suggest that we will probably have substantial warming by 2100 (more than 3oC relative to pre-industrial times). Is Matt Ridley, therefore, willing to make an even stronger statement? If this pathway is almost impossible and if it were to lead to subtantial warming by 2100 were we to follow it, does Matt Ridley think we should avoid it even if it does become possible. If not, why not?
- Another of Matt Ridley’s arguments is that the newest and best (his own constructs) climate sensitivity estimates suggest that if we follow the RCP6.0 emission pathway, warming will not be severe by 2100 (i.e., just less than 2oC relative to pre-industrial times). Is Matt Ridley at least willing to acknowledge that even his preferred estimates suggest that we can’t rule out substantial warming (more than 3oC relative to pre-industrial times) with high confidence? If not, why not? If he does accept this, does he still think that the RCP6.0 pathway is one we should consider following, despite the potential of severe warming? If so, why?
- Another of Matt Ridley’s arguments appears to be that we would expect people to be much wealthier, in real terms, in the future than they are today. Therefore they would be more able to adapt. However, for this to be the case we would expect that there would need to be substantially more energy generation in the future than now (maybe 3 – 4 times more in 2100, than today). Apparently – according to Matt Ridley – RCP8.5 is impossible and – as I understand it – RCP6.0 could not provide this level of energy unless we’ve become incredibly efficient, or a reasonable fraction is generated by alternatives to fossil fuels. If a reasonable fraction is from alternatives, and if RCP6.0 could still lead to substantial warming by 2100, why not simply aim to have a bigger fraction from alternatives? If they can provide 20%, why not 40%? If they can provide 40%, why not 60%? Does Matt Ridley disagree with this and, if not, how would he propose achieving this?
So, those are some thoughts I had. I’ll add that I’m not an expert on the details of the RCP pathways, so if I’ve got something wrong, feel free to point it out. I mainly perceive them as possible future forcing pathways, rather than real representations of possible future economic pathways. They do, however, bracket the likely range of forcing pathways, and so do give us an indication of how our possible policy decisions may influence future warming.
I will also add that I do find Matt Ridley’s suggestion those concerned about climate change are unconcerned about the poor, rather irritating/insulting. Our policy makers are responsible – and us, collectively, for electing them – for the decisions that they make and they often make, in my view, rather stupid ones. Blaming this on those who think they should make a decision, rather than on the policy makers for making a stupid one, just seems a little simplistic. Additionally, it is quite possible to be concerned about more than one thing at the same time, and to potentially address more than one issue at any one time. There are many, myself included, who think that we can introduce policies that will address both climate change, and poverty (and many other things). They’re not mutually exclusive. Although I’ve seen many argue that we should address poverty before addressing climate change, I’ve yet to see anyone argue the reverse.