Monthly Archives: March 2011

A climate of populism?

A little while back Andrew picked up on an FT piece warning that technocratic elites should take notice of the possibility of  a populist backlash. The current issue of Foreign Affairs (behind paywall) contains a couple of excellent analyses that drill further down into this theme, and carry some important implications for climate policy.

Walter Russell Mead places the American Tea Party  movement in historical context, and explores the challenges it poses to US policy makers trying to follow a liberal internationalist agenda. He identifies the Tea Partyers as latter-day “Jacksonian” populists, named after the original 19th C populist President Andrew Jackson (no, not that Jackson!). As Mead explains: Continue reading



Filed under China, Climate deniers, Populism, US

The limits to environmentalism 4

Welcome to the second of two posts discussing Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth (PWG), which has become a Bible of the environmentalist movement in the UK over the last year. In the previous post, I questioned the way Jackson focused on an end to growth in the rich world, which would not provide anything like a solution to the problems of breaching ecological limits and, on Jackson’s own numbers, is less important than questions about exactly how much growth the poor world will be possible and how we can accelerate the decoupling of growth from carbon emissions.

For me, this is probably the major problem with the no-growth argument. But I think there are also two others. Continue reading


Filed under Decoupling, Environmentalists, Growth, Innovation

The limits to environmentalism – Part 3

A year on from our controversial review of Growth isn’t Possible by the New Economics Foundation, we’re venturing back into the fray. As it comes out in paperback, here’s our take on one the most high-profile and influential environmentalist books of the last year – Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (henceforth PWG).

Very very briefly, PWG says that Continue reading


Filed under Decoupling, Environmentalists, Growth, Innovation

Ich bin ein Grün?

Over in Germany, politics is going nuclear. This year the coalition government led by centre-right Christian Democrat (CDU) Chancellor Merkel, in partnership with the right-wing FDP, is facing likely defeat in series of state elections. The government’s unpopularity is driven by several factors, including fallout from Wikileaks that showed senior FDP figures sharing sensitive information with the US government.

But climate and energy policy is also in the mix. Continue reading


Filed under Germany, Nuclear power

Beyond private petroleum?

I’ve just been to a presentation of BP’s Energy Outlook 2030. This was launched in January, but has only just reached us here in the South Downs. BP’s head of energy economics, Paul Appleby, got something of a rough ride from the assmbled, mainly student, audience, about BP shirking its responsibilities by not pressing politicians to do more on climate policy. The predictable defence is that BP takes the climate issue seriously, but is meeting its customers needs for fossil fuels, is accountable to its shareholders, can’t do things that means it will operate at a loss, and that ultimately governments have to make public policy.

I have some sympathy with this position – BP is a company and it’s doing what you’d expect a company to do. But it’s a position that implicitly raises an interesting deeper question. Continue reading


Filed under Uncategorized

And Back to the Black Stuff

The unexpected political turbulence in oil-producing Arab states has seen a 70s revival in discussions of an oil price shock . But Jeremy Warner at the Telegraph has done the ‘math’, as he puts it, on likely demand going forward and argues that an inexorable thirst for the black stuff  in Asia will effectively lock in a much higher oil price. Continue reading

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From little green book to big green vision

Several commentators on recent events in Libya have noted the hypocrisy with which British politicians happy to do arms deals with Gaddafi (and other dictators) in the past have suddenly turned their backs on their old friends and are calling for democracy.

Of course the deals (and ultimately the hypocrisy) are driven by oil. A key issue for a democratically elected Libyan government, if that comes about, is how it would handle oil revenues. Continue reading


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An Investment Bank With Green-Tinted Glasses

A number of the essays in Going for Growth, a new book edited by my colleague Will Straw, are well worth reading. Two in particular stand out as being of significance in the climate change debate.

One of us is highly likely to return soon to the issue of innovation and so we’ll set Stian Westlake’s contribution to one side for now. Gerry Holtham’s call for a public vehicle to carry private sector investment into major infrastructure projects will have particular resonance to those currently involved in the Green Investment Bank debate. Continue reading

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