Bill Gates has a new blog called The Gates Notes. One of the early posts is about climate change policy. It doesn't deal with the question of whether climate exists and is driven by human activity and doesn't deal with balancing reducing emissions against other objectives. But, it does highlight some of the key issues which those who are really convinced of the case for radical cuts need to think about.
He makes the really important point that if you focus on the 2020 or 2025 targets or the 2050 targets, then they might recommend very different responses. His post isn't long and is worth reading in its entirety but, for the sake of brevity, I'll reorder it a little here:
"Should society spend a lot of time trying to insulate houses and telling people to turn off lights or should it spend time on accelerating innovation?
If addressing climate change only requires us to get to the 2025 goal, then efficiency would be the key thing. [...] Because 2025 is too soon for innovation to be completed and widely deployed, behavior change still matters.
To make the 80% goal by 2050 we are going to have to reduce emissions from transportation and electrical production in participating countries down to zero. [...] If the goal is to get the transportation and electrical sectors down to zero emissions you clearly need innovation that leads to entirely new approaches to generating power. [...] [You] can never insulate your way to anything close to zero no matter what advocates of resource efficiency say. You can never reduce consumerism to anything close to zero. [...] Innovation in transportation and electricity will be the key factor.
I believe the key one to achieve is 80% by 2050."
Unfortunately, European climate change policy - with Britain an extreme example - is almost entirely focussed on the 2020 targets and trying to push existing technologies like wind power into use immediately, rather than thinking about what it really means if there is an imperative to cut emissions 80 per cent by 2050. Wind power and increased efficiency aren't going to get us to the kind of cut that has been enshrined in the 2050 target. That will mean either democratically untenable cuts in consumption or missing the targets as action focussed on the 2020 targets locks in high costs.
Current EU climate change policies are exceptionally expensive and will mean rapid rises in electricity prices in the years to come without really forming a credible strategy to achieve the objective of major cuts in emissions by 2050. Other countries outside the EU won't follow that lead. That means it shouldn't just be sceptics outraged at the expensive and inefficient combination of cap and trade and renewable energy subsidies that has been imposed on British consumers, those who take the possibility of catastrophic climate change most seriously should be as well. As we set out in the TaxPayers' Alliance report Ending the Green Rip-Off, we should reform policy to cut the cost to consumers and focus on putting Britain's scientists and engineers to work on innovations which might offer a more credible alternative to fossil fuel energy than the ones currently on offer.