Some scientists think that the planet is already on an irreversible journey to dangerous warming. A few climate-change sceptics think the problem will right itself. Either may be correct. Predictions about a mechanism as complex as the climate cannot be made with any certainty. But the broad scientific consensus is that serious climate change is a danger, and this newspaper believes that, as an insurance policy against a catastrophe that may never happen, the world needs to adjust its behaviour to try to avert that threat.
The problem is not a technological one. The human race has almost all the tools it needs to continue leading much the sort of life it has been enjoying without causing a net increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Industrial and agricultural processes can be changed. Electricity can be produced by wind, sunlight, biomass or nuclear reactors, and cars can be powered by biofuels and electricity. Biofuel engines for aircraft still need some work before they are suitable for long-haul flights, but should be available soon.
Nor is it a question of economics. Economists argue over the sums, but broadly agree that greenhouse-gas emissions can be curbed without flattening the world economy.
It is all about politics. Climate change is the hardest political problem the world has ever had to deal with. It is a prisoner’s dilemma, a free-rider problem and the tragedy of the commons all rolled into one. At issue is the difficulty of allocating the cost of collective action and trusting other parties to bear their share of the burden.
Climate Change Is Hardest Political Problem Ever
From The Economist ("Getting Warmer"):