Oxford Economist Criticizes Europe's Approach to Climate Change in New Book

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[author: Matt Bingham]

A book by Oxford Economics Professor, Dieter Helm, is highly critical of the methods being used by European countries to reduce their carbon emissions in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. The Carbon Crunch: How We're Getting Climate Change Wrong—and How to Fix It, argues that current regulatory efforts to cut carbon emissions have focused on expensive and ineffective methods, resulting in limited progress and widespread scepticism of the movement. (This blog is based primarily on a review of Mr. Helm's book by The Economist, and not a full reading of the book which is not yet available in the U.S.)

One of Mr. Helm's most surprising conclusions is that the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by European countries has actually increased global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by shifting manufacturing to China and India, where industry is less regulated and more carbon-intensive than in Europe. He also argues that countries could achieve much higher reductions in GHG emissions for the same amount of money by initially supporting a shift from coal generation to natural gas, rather than focusing their efforts on expensive renewable technologies. Joining many other economists, Mr. Helm also believes that a carbon tax is preferable to a carbon price set by markets.

The Economist's opinion: "This prescription is unrealistic. Europeans are too committed to their regulatory approach to change now. But Americans, Chinese and Indians would learn a lot from Mr. Helm about cutting carbon emissions rationally. And all readers will get a cogent account of how self-defeating current global climate-change policies are turning out to be."