Despite commitments to renewable energy and two decades of international negotiations, global emissions continue to rise. Coal, the most damaging of all fossil fuels, has actually risen from 25% to almost 30% of world energy use. And while European countries have congratulated themselves on reducing emissions, they have increased their carbon imports from China and other developing nations, who continue to expand their coal use. As standards of living increase in developing countries, coal use can only increase as well—and global temperatures along with it.
In this hard-hitting book, Dieter Helm looks at how and why we have failed to tackle the issue of global warming and argues for a new, pragmatic rethinking of energy policy—from transitioning from coal to gas and eventually to electrification of transport, to carbon pricing and a focus on new technologies. Lucid, compelling and rigorously researched, this book will have a lasting impact on how we think about climate change.
Helm's credentials couldn't be more impressive and include service as special adviser to the European energy commissioner and as chair of the advisory group on the EU 2050 Energy Roadmap. The book's introduction could hardly be more saddening and frustrating. As Helm writes: "despite innumerable conferences, summits, proclamations, agreements and policy interventions, so far nothing much has been achieved, and indeed some of the interventions may have made things worse." Against this backdrop, which Helm details in accessible prose, he pragmatically concludes that fixing climate change requires that consumers be "willing to vote for politicians who will force them to pay" the costs of a transformed energy policy. Such candor is rare, and if that's the prerequisite to stave off potentially catastrophic global temperature increases, hope must triumph over experience. Helm superbly articulates why some of the alternate energy sources touted as solutions (such as wind power) aren't cost efficient, and how countries claim to have reduced harmful carbon emissions only by increasing carbon imports that don't add up to a net reduction. This intelligent though depressing tome should inform future debates.