New York Post

Pain Without Payoff

How not to fight climate change


FOR three decades, climate campaigner­s have fought to make fossil fuels so expensive that people would have to abandon them. Their dream is becoming reality: Energy prices are spiraling out of control and will soon get even worse. Yet we are no closer to solving climate change.

Energy costs increased 26% across industrial­ized economies last year and will rise globally by another 50% this year. While Western government­s are blaming Russia’s war on Ukraine, prices were already rising because of climate policies designed to choke fossil-fuel investment.

Since the 2015 Paris agreement was inked, the world’s 1,200 biggest energy corporatio­ns have slashed capital investment in oil and gas by more than two-thirds. Huge price rises are the inevitable result of forcing more energy out of an increasing­ly starved system.

The climate-policy approach of trying to push consumers and businesses away from fossil fuels with price spikes is causing pain with little climate payoff, for two reasons.

First, solar and wind are still only capable of meeting a fraction of global electricit­y needs. Even with huge subsidies and political support, solar and wind delivered just 9% of global electricit­y in 2020. Heating, transport and vital industrial processes account for much more energy use than electricit­y.

This means solar and wind deliver just 1.8% of global energy supply. And electricit­y is the easiest of these components to decarboniz­e: We haven’t yet made meaningful progress greening the remaining four-fifths of global energy.

Second, even in the rich parts of the world it’s clear few people are willing to pay the phenomenal price of achieving net-zero carbon emissions. Soaring prices are hiking energy poverty in industrial­ized economies, and prices are set to climb even further.

Germany’s on track to spend more than a half-trillion on climate policies by 2025 yet has only managed to reduce fossil-fuel dependency from 84% in 2000 to 77% today. McKinsey estimates getting to zero carbon will cost Europe 5.3% of its GDP in low-emission assets every year — for Germany, more than $200 billion annually. That’s more than Germany spends annually on education and police, courts and prisons combined.

Western leaders can’t continue to push expensive policies without a backlash. As energy prices soar, risks grow of resentment and strife, like France saw with the “yellow vest” protest movement.

For the poorest billions, rising energy prices are even more serious because they block the pathway out of poverty and make fertilizer unaffordab­le for farmers, imperiling food production. The welloff might be able to withstand the pain of climate policies, but emerging economies like India or low-income countries in Africa can’t afford to sacrifice poverty eradicatio­n and economic developmen­t to tackle climate change.

Globally, the inability of green energy to compete means the world is on track to remain fossil-fuel dependent. Analyzing all current and promised climate policies, the Internatio­nal Energy Agency finds fossil fuels will still provide twothirds of global energy use by 2050, only a modest drop from 79% today.

And green energy’s failings are why carbon emissions are still increasing. Last year saw the highest global emissions ever. This year is likely to be higher again. Climate policy is broken. By forcing up the price of fossil fuels, policymake­rs put the cart in front of the horse. Instead, we need to make green energy cheaper and more effective.

Humanity has relied on innovation to fix other challenges. We didn’t solve air pollution by forcing everyone to stop driving but by inventing catalytic converters that drasticall­y lowers pollution. We didn’t slash hunger by telling everyone to eat less but through the Green Revolution that enabled farmers to produce more food.

Yet innovation in green energy has been neglected for three decades. In 1980, the rich world spent more than 8 cents of every $100 of GDP on low-carbon technologi­es. As climate policies focused on making fossil fuels more expensive, green research spending halved to fewer than 4 cents of every $100.

Copenhagen Consensus researcher­s, including three Nobel economists, have shown the most effective climate policy possible is to increase green research-and-developmen­t spending fivefold to $100 billion per year. This would still be much less than the $755 billion the world spent just last year on oftenineff­ective green technology.

We need to look for breakthrou­ghs across all areas of energy technology, from cheaper solar and wind with massive and very cheap storage to CO2 extraction, fusion, second-generation biofuels and many other potential solutions.

The best example of game-changing climate innovation: the 10-year, $10 billion public investment in shale gas President George W. Bush launched, which led to energy companies embracing the technology. Gas emits about half the CO2; this was a major reason America saw the single-biggest emission reduction in the past decade.

We will not solve climate change by making fossil energy unaffordab­le but by innovating down the price of green technologi­es so everyone will be able to switch.

Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book is “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.”

 ?? ?? Pain at the pump: Gas prices in California reached astronomic­al levels Thursday while the national average was a record $5.09 a gallon.
Pain at the pump: Gas prices in California reached astronomic­al levels Thursday while the national average was a record $5.09 a gallon.

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