by John Kane-Berman
About ten days ago The Economist reported that a combination of Covid-19 and lockdowns could drive up to 420 million people into absolute poverty. Lockdowns, it declared, were “blunt instruments” that could cause “immense harm”. Among the poor were more than 800 million people who lacked electricity – “hence all that burning of traditional biomass”, including wood, peat, and dung.
These concerns did not stop the paper from proclaiming that “the world’s energy system must be transformed completely” over the next 30 to 50 years so that at least 90% of the energy currently derived from fossil fuels will come from renewables, nuclear, and fossil-fuel plants that bury their waste.
The world would then have a “good chance of keeping global warming, measured against the temperature pre-coal, well below 2 degrees Celsius”. Keeping it down is necessary because “the harm from climate change will be slower that the pandemic but more massive and longer-lasting”. Very handily, The Economist is planning a conference in October on “the threat from climate change”.
“Decarbonisation” – “as urgent as ever” – will have to be driven by governments. The purpose is to “change behaviour” by “making it expensive to use fossil fuels”. Carbon prices and carbon taxes will have to go up and be kept up. This will induce carbon companies to “invest in alternatives that are not yet competitive”.