“The depressing reality about climate change is that we could solve the problem, at manageable cost, but are failing to do so.”
So the Financial Times Editorial Board concluded on 26th December. “This failure is due to a mixture of blindness and self-deception. The blindness comes from those, such as US president Donald Trump, who deny the reality of climate change. The self-deception comes from those who accept the reality, but only pretend to solve it.”
Being diplomatic, the Board does not elaborate on those who are guilty of self deception and pretence. Let me offer a few examples for them.
I view this as rather more than a self-imposed academic exercise. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke for many when he said, at the annual climate summit earlier this month, that those who do not wish to accelerate the decarbonisation goal of the Paris Agreement – knowing what climate scientists tell us of the dangers – are guilty of “immoral” and “suicidal” behaviour. Those with the most to lose, the young, spoke with anguished voices at that summit of a clear and present danger to the civilisation they hope to live in. Among the oldsters who see the stakes no differently, David Attenborough was an interesting new voice.
Anyone who has dipped into my compilations of the history will appreciate that I do not consider myself short of choice when it comes to those who are pretending when it comes to climate action. Let me limit myself to the pages of the FT this year, in the interests of brevity.
An op-ed yesterday is a good place to start. In it, Lord John Browne, former BP CEO and ongoing grandee of oil, tells his colleagues that they must do much, much better. Top of his list, they should finally get serious about carbon capture and storage (CCS), so that hydrocarbons can still be burned off into the future. If solar and wind can bring their costs down so spectacularly, Lord Browne argues, then surely CCS practitioners can do the same.
But how? CCS has been on the policy table almost since the climate drama began. True, it is a demonstrably feasible option. True, not many projects have been attempted by the oil industry in all these years. But enough have surely been completed to know that the costs of industrial-scale CCS, of the kind that would be needed to cut global emissions deeply, would be far higher than the many cheaper or soon-to-be-cheaper alternatives to burning fossil fuels in the first place. And of course, CCS is not relevant to the main use of oil: transport.
Tellingly, Lord Browne did not mention investment in clean-energy alternatives to fossil fuels in his article. Quick consideration of where he has deployed capital for others since leaving BP, and the way he has chosen to invest his undoubted brilliance in business, tells us all we need to know. Entering 2015 he was chair of Caudrilla, the front-runner in efforts to frack the UK for oil and gas. He left that paragon of low-carbon virtue to chair L1 Energy, an oil and gas investment vehicle deploying more than $20 billion for controversial Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.
Read more: Jeremy Leggett