What’s holding back domestic climate change action?

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee last night hosted a fascinating discussion on how best we approach the fiendish problem of climate change.

The first speaker, Lord Broers, ex-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, concluded with the recommendation that the Government needs to spend more time talking to those with the skills to develop a new low-carbon infrastructure. He argued that the Government is relying upon the private sector to help it meet its extremely ambitious climate targets, but has not actually properly discussed with engineers and the like whether these targets are possible to achieve, or how they will be met. Consultation is essential if we are to achieve a low-carbon transition.

The second speaker, Professor Paul Ekins of UCL, meanwhile concluded that neither technology nor cost is ultimately the constraining factor on climate change mitigation, but rather ‘politics’, i.e. that the public at large is very attached to its high-consumption lifestyle patterns, and that this will not be easy for any politician to properly address.

The discussion afterwards covered a wide range of topics, though perhaps the most interesting was the idea of preparing for the problem of ‘variability against the trend’. That is, we should be aware of the possibility that the coming decade may witness stable, or even decreasing, temperatures before warming recommences, and that this may present a fundamental challenge to climate action. A strategy for such variation should be prepared, or otherwise there is a risk of our climate position being totally wrong-footed by increasing public scepticism.