What about the recession?

Another area of active debate at the moment is the extent to which we should be respondong to climate change whilst in the depths of a recession. The views seem to range from “Not at all, we can’t afford it” to “We must, it will create millions of jobs, take us out of recession and save the world in the process.”

Putting the hyperbole to one side, it is better to do some solid analysis of the issue and move forward on that basis. With thanks to my colleague Martin Haigh in the Shell scenario team, let me share some thoughts from the environmental perspective.

For starters, we have assumed that the economic downturn results in emissions that are constant from 2010 to 2020, but with little or no action undertaken in terms of mitigation. Then the Shell Blueprints scenario (the low CO2 scenario) pathway carries on,  but one decade later than in the scenario itself. The result is an increase in emissions of 214 Gt CO2e over the century.

This then means that if we don’t act during this recession and delay action on climate change for a business cycle of a decade, then we might expect an extra 30 ppm CO2e by 2100, and an extra 0.25°C on the long run temperature rise. Given that we are nearly at 450 CO2e already and aspire to no more than 500 ppm CO2e (i.e. ~ 450 ppm CO2), 30 ppm is very significant.

At least from an environmental point of view, delay is simply not an option.

I am not going to wade into the economic arguements of jobs and public spending etc. because there are certainly plenty of people that know far more about this than me. I will instead refer you to an excellent publication by some people that can comment on this aspect, namely McKinsey and Co. They have just released a short report entitled Climate change and the economy – Myths versus Realities.

I hope that you come to the same conclusion that I do – continuing to act to reduce emissions is both environmentally necessary and economically the right thing to do.