Ireland and the politics of climate change


Sir, – Government statements that carbon-reducing investments will rank up there with housing and health services as priorities for post-virus capital spending, plus the apparent influence of the Greens with their 7 per cent reduction target, force one to ask what this is all about.

I totally accept the scientific consensus that the world is heading for disaster unless we can halt global warming, and that human activity is the prime cause of that warming.

What I do ask is what Ireland thinks it can do about it.

We account for one-tenth of 1 per cent of global CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel usage. On the other hand, half of all such emissions are accounted for by three countries – China, the US and India – and those, plus another two, Russia and Japan, account for almost 60 per cent.

What is absolutely obvious is that, unless at least two of the big three (China and the US alone account for over 40 per cent) agree to reduce emissions, anything the rest of the world does is all cost and no benefit.

China and India could quite understandably say that they will restrict their industrialisation and growth when they have attained the kind of prosperity the first world achieved through the exploitation of fossil fuels, and the US just doesn’t give a damn about anyone else.

Does Ireland think there is a kind of demonstration effect – we set a morally sanctioned example to the rest of the world which will persuade them to cut emissions? The idea is unconvincing. Perhaps the EU could set the pace, but it accounts for only 10 per cent of world emissions and, even if Europe reduced emissions to zero, the globe as a whole would scarcely notice.

It is possible that efforts by the EU as a unit could set an example which the rest of the world would take notice of, but even here Ireland is completely irrelevant, contributing a mere 1 per cent of total EU emissions.

Why would Germany, with 20 times our emissions, Italy with 10 times, or France and Poland each with nine times, pay the slightest attention to what we do or preach and why would anyone else (that is, the big three) pay attention unless they do?

One hesitates to question what seems to be accepted as virtue, but before we accept the distortion of our policies by admirable objectives to which our policies can contribute absolutely nothing, but at considerable cost to ourselves, perhaps we should ask some questions.

The cost is not merely what it takes to reduce emissions (all those wind farms, solar panels, retrofits and expensive transport) but the loss of housing, health facilities and schools displaced in the public budget.

Why is it worth it? I would be delighted to receive the answers, but I haven’t seen them yet, even in the large amount of economic literature I have read on the subject over the years. I just hope I’ve missed something. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.