Climate change is transforming Earth. By the end of this century, it will likely be 2◦C warmer than it is today — and it could turn out to be a lot worse. Warming will cause great miseries, especially in some specific poor countries. What can we do to help slow down global warming — to move the needle?
So far, most climate activism has been falling flat. Individual carbon-footprint activism has not and can not change the global climate. Neither does it matter what the worldwide social cost of carbon is or what the optimal level of a carbon tax should be — the subjects of much acrimonious debate — simply because there is no world government. Nor will international negotiations lead to major emission cuts. And even the painful economic sacrifices proposed by the United Nations could slow global warming by only 0.3–0.5◦C.
Moreover, expecting painful sacrifices is unrealistic. Reality denial afflicts activists and skeptics alike. The activists who imagine that important decision makers will accept significant local pain on behalf of broader global climate objectives are as deluded as the skeptics who claim humanity would not be better off with fewer fossil-fuel emissions. What matters is not what the world should do, but what its important decision-makers will do.
And just who these decision-makers are might surprise readers. The OECD is no longer important enough to be able to solve the world’s climate problem. Non-OECD countries will soon house more than four-fifths of the world’s population and emit more than three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gases. They will want to offer their people similar standards of living that we in the OECD are already enjoying. Guilt and good intent, emission reductions, belt-tightening, and development aid from OECD countries cannot solve our worldwide dilemma.
Not all is lost. The most important task now is the intelligent phasing out of fossil fuels. We should subsidize research in all aspects of clean energy, particularly storage. When it arrives, cheaper clean energy will rapidly displace fossil fuels all over the world — and thus move the needle.
Global Climate Change tells the unvarnished truth in the most accurate and objective manner possible. It holds no cows sacred. Whether truths are inconvenient or unwelcome is irrelevant. This book may well appeal to and offend readers of all stripes. We welcome the debate.
A potential book cover is here.
Teaching slides are here.
We have only one goal: to get the science as correct and fair as we possibly can. We have no horse in this race. We welcome all corrections. If something is incorrect, please point us (via email) to a specific passage in our draft that is incorrect and to the evidence why it is incorrect (or simply misleading). (We have zero interest in peddling climate denial or climate activism. Please do not email philosophical exceptions or emails about how dangerous it is to tell audiences about X, because doing so would harm a cause. We are not writing this book as activists, although we do view ourselves as environmentalists.)