The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has drawn up scenarios of mean temperature rises from 2000 to 2100 of between 1.5C (34.7F) and 5.8C above 1990 levels. The difference between these two guesstimates is, baldly, from inherently manageable to seriously alarming. The top-end IPCC scenario, codenamed A1FI, assumes that per capita carbon emissions rise to four times current levels (they have been stable since the early 1970s) and that methane concentrations more than double (they are currently declining).
Another high-end scenario, A2, not only puts the world population in 2100 at 15.1 billion, half again as high as the 10.4 billion projected by the UN, but assumes more carbon- intensive energy use — turning the historical trend on its head. Both scenarios artificially inflate the magnitude of the challenge of climate change.
These top-end 5.8C scenarios are constantly cited and are distorting policy. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which comes into force tomorrow, already has “Past sell-by date” stickers all over it. The argument is that Kyoto does not go far enough. The proposed remedy is “Kyoto plus” — more stringent emissions cuts applied to more countries. But this would compound the deleterious consequences of a product so flawed that it should never have been put on the market.
For a start, the protocol’s implementation will require such heavy-handed regulation that Andrei Illarionov, the senior economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin who opposed Russia’s ratification of Kyoto, sees it as a recrudescence of the command economy. Appealing last week to Mr Blair to listen more to informed sceptics, he asked: “Have there been any international agreements to limit economic growth and development before Kyoto? Yes, there were two: Communism and Nazism