To tackle global climate change it is far more important that fast-growing developing countries do more than any well-intentioned steps in the Netherlands. “In fact, European emissions don’t matter,” says British climate scientist Nic Lewis.
“What really matters is: what happens in developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria”, says Lewis, who gave a presentation at De Groene Rekenkamer Foundation this week in Amsterdam. According to him, it is much more important that developing countries quickly become richer and how rising CO2 emissions that this entails can be limited.
“We have a lot of knowledge and expertise in Europe. We can spend our money better than investing billions in subsidies and other climate policies that have virtually no effect on global emissions.”
Lewis would prefer to see investments in the development of clean nuclear energy or techniques to get CO2 out of the air and shut down coal-fired plants. “That could then be rolled out over the rest of the world.”
The sense of urgency that politicians and environmental organizations are promoting is unnecessary, says Lewis. Like the UN’s climate panel, the scientist assumes that global warming since 1850 is largely due to human CO2 emissions. Yet he is more optimistic than the IPCC. Based on his own research [and that of others] he concludes that the climate is much less sensitive to greenhouse gases than models predict.
“If you look at the observations since 1850, the global temperature has been rising less quickly than expected.” While the IPCC models estimate around 3 degrees of warming as a result of the doubling of CO2, Lewis actually sees only an increase of around 1.7 degrees Celsius. Climate modellers are not happy with Lewis’ criticism. “They attach less importance to what the global temperature has actually been doing.”
Lewis has a reassuring message: “It suggests that we have more time to achieve the political goal of limiting warming to two degrees. Our emissions do not have to go to virtually zero by 2050.” That is the thinking in Brussels, The Hague and the UN climate agreement.
Politicians who continue to argue for haste suffer from a Messiah complex. “They care more about their own virtue at the expense of the population.” Realism about climate change will only return to the public debate once it is clear what the actual costs are, Lewis expects. “So far, governments have tried to hide those costs. But the population is not that crazy and the penny is starting to drop.”