Climate Change Conference

Lord Nicholas Stern. I underestimated the dangers of climate change

L’economista Nicholas Stern è a Marrakech per partecipare ai lavori della conferenza sul clima (Cop 22). Il suo messaggio è chiaro: “I danni economici sono maggiori delle previsioni”.

Just a few weeks after the 2015 Paris climate conference (COP21), Lord Nicholas Stern told LifeGate that the agreement, which has indeed been reached, could be not enough to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees. “It’s good that we’ll have an agreement, but we still have work to do. After Paris, we must accelerate actions,” Stern said.

cop22 marrakech
The world flags at the entry to COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco © STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Today, in occasion of the ongoing climate change conference in Marrakech (COP22), Morocco, Stern has added an important detail to his concerns about climate change. He said he “underplayed the dangers”. He refers to the well-known Stern Review published in 2006, which became the manifesto on the economic damage of climate change calculated on the basis of a potential international stalemate in combatting climate change.

In the margins of a meeting organised by the London School of Economics (LSE), Stern – who now chairs the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment – has pointed out why we’re not doing enough.

L'economista britannico Nicholas Stern, autore del rapporto omonimo © David Levenson/Getty Images
British economist Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review © David Levenson/Getty Images

The data contained in your report were already appalling 10 years ago. Why are you saying that they’ve been underestimated?
I think looking back 10 years after the Stern review was published and looking at the increase in emissions we’ve had from around 40 billion tonnes a year then to about 50 now, the problems have become more severe because that means that concentrations have gone on rising at a faster rate. So we are at a more difficult starting point now than we were 10 years ago. And at the same time science has shown us that some of the effects are coming sooner and quicker than we thought and more worrying than we thought. I think that when I said that the cost of inaction was large and bigger than the cost of action I’ve probably underestimated it. The cost of inaction, the cost of delay and the cost of not doing very much is still higher than I thought then. And we’re seeing so much technical progress that the cost of action has starting to fall. And actually now we even see it in a different way. We see that the alternative story, the low-carbon story is actually the growth story of the future.

During a meeting here at COP22 you said that there’s no need of being afraid of what Donal Trump is going to do once he takes office. You cited the opposite case, Canada, which wasn’t taking part in the climate challenge with Stephen Harpet, but is now leading the way with Justin Trudeau. What should we expect from the next 4 years?
I think we should start by being hopeful. We know that many of the states, and cities and firms of the US are moving strongly in the direction of low carbon, because they recognise that’s where the future is, that’s where the future products and processes will be, and that’s where competitive opportunities will lie. And they see that clearly. Not everybody, but many of them. But they’re growing. And we will have to see how Mr. Trump will make his policies, because he’s raising infrastructure, very understandably – wisely in my view. We must hope that that infrastructure is modern, clean and smart. And that can make a difference. We have to encourage, not criticise.

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