which it is possible for us to, collectively, get this right

One of my complaints about the way that climate change is discussed is that people all too rarely add together the different things that are claimed.

My example today is that insistence that renewables – specifically solar – is now cheaper than other forms of energy generation. Well, OK, let us accept that as being true. This means that climate change is now solved.

But at the same time as this is claimed, that solar is now by price the preference, we are also told that the rich nations must send $100 billion a year to the poor to deal with climate change.

How can both be true, that we’ve made the technological and economic breakthrough that beats climate change, and yet also vast amounts of money are needed?

They cannot both be true, and so people are not considering the implication of the one statement on the other. This also works the other way around of course – if vast sums are still needed then it cannot be true that renewables are cheaper.

To the climate change problem itself: There’s much talk about how everything must be done right now and so on. This is not, scientifically, so. It’s a political demand, not a real world one.

There are some decades to go in which it is possible for us to, collectively, get this right.

For the predictions of ever rising emissions are just that, and the damage comes from the rises in the future. If we divert the world economy from rising emissions in future decades then we have indeed solved climate change.

So, we’ve agreed that solar is now cheaper over its operating lifetime than coal, or nuclear, or even natural gas. Excellent. That means that any new installations will be of solar. If that’s the cheapest option, why would people decide upon something more expensive by choice?

This is even more true for poorer and developing countries.

For the power systems of the future are still to be built. One of the things about a place being poor is that it doesn’t already have an installed energy structure – that’s sort of a definition, places without energy are poor, poor places don’t have energy systems.

So those poor and developing places don’t need subsidy to install renewables at all. They’re already the cheapest option for the new power systems that will be installed in the process of development, aren’t they?

It is true that renewables put more of the cost upfront. The capital cost is higher while the running costs are lower – they’re like nuclear in that sense. But capital markets are well developed and there’s no great difficulty in borrowing to build something that shows a positive return.

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So, if all of this is true and renewables, especially solar, are cheaper, and financing can be found for renewables, then what is the need for the flow of money from rich to poor countries to deal with climate change?

One answer is that renewables aren’t in fact cheaper and therefore the money must flow. Which could even be true.

Another answer is that it’s the rich countries that have caused climate change by their economic development therefore they owe money to the poor.

As a piece of logic this does stand when we think about damages. If we can point to the Ganges delta flooding because of rising sea levels – instead of the normal movement of a river delta – then OK, that’s logical as a request at least.

But the claim usually goes that bit further. That poor countries have to change their ways because of climate change and those rich countries responsible should have to pay for that.

But there’s another way to look at this too, which is that what was necessary to beat climate change was to make renewables cheaper.

Because then people will preferentially install renewables and so climate change will be beaten.

Which is exactly what the rich countries have been doing in recent decades: subsidising both the research into and production of renewables, both of which have brought the price dow

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