Ninth, nobody is following Britain’s example. China has announced that its use of fossil fuels will not even peak till 2030. China has more coal-fired power now under development than the entire coal power capacity of the United States. It will use coal to make the turbines and cars and batteries we use, laughing all the way to the bank. The world still generates 93% of its energy from CO2-emitting combustion (coal, oil, gas and wood) and just 1.4% from wind and solar.
Tenth, while climate change is a real issue and must be tackled, Extinction Rebellion is simply wrong about the urgency. If it’s extinction they worry about, let’s tackle invasive alien species, responsible for most extinctions. By contrast, there is no confirmed extinction of a species due to climate change. Nor has global warming resulted in more or fiercer storms or droughts. The extremists’ claims otherwise simply ignore the scientific evidence. Emissions have so far increased crop yields and made all ecosystems greener.
Yes, we need to address the issue, but we would be better off funding research to bring down the cost of carbon capture, nuclear power and fusion. Nuclear is the one form of carbon-free energy that can generate reliable power from a tiny footprint of land. The reason nuclear electricity costs so much today is because we have made innovation in nuclear design all but impossible by devising a byzantine regulatory process of immense cost. Let’s reform that. Small, modular molten-salt reactors are an innovation within reach, unlike electric planes.
My fear is that we will carry out Boris’s promised 10-point plan, cripple our economy, ruin our seascapes and landscapes, and then half way through the 2030s along will come cheap, small, safe fusion reactors. The offshore wind industry, by then so stuffed with subsidies they can afford to lobby politicians and journalists even more than they do to today, will suck their teeth and say: “no, no, no – ignore the fusion crowd. We’re on the brink of solving the reliability issue, and don’t worry, the cost will come down eventually. Promise!”
Boris, this is not the way to the promised land, especially when the government is borrowing £300 billion because of covid. High-cost electricity will prevent the United Kingdom making a success of Brexit. It will bankrupt us in the short run, make us less competitive in the long run and not cut emissions much anyway.
Matt Ridley is the author of How Innovation Works (Harper Collins).