The Committee On Climate Change is the panel of experts that is supposed to give impartial advice, based on the very best science, to the politicians. The problem is that they don’t appear to understand the underlying science being discussed. They can’t do if they set, as they are expected to this week, a target for Britain to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. For everything we know about the science of what to do about climate change says don’t set emissions targets, set an emissions cost instead.
This is not just what nearly every economist who has studied the point insists, it is also the result of the British government’s Stern Review, as well as the basis of the work of last year’s Economics Nobel winner William Nordhaus. And yes, the science that matters when it comes to doing something about climate change is indeed economics.
This is nothing to do with whether climate change is happening, or whether we’re causing it. It’s about what we do assuming the IPCC is correct.
Our basic goal on climate change, as with all economic questions, is maximising utility for human beings over time. We want people now and in the future to be as rich and happy as it is possible for them to be. This means balancing that future against this present. When it comes to climate change, we’ve been enjoying a bit too much of the fun of fossil fuels now at the future’s expense. What is needed is rebalancing.