Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Climate legacy of a generation: burden or privilege? Interview with Henry Shue

Q. Do you think climate technology investment can be used as a foreign policy tool to compete globally. Are we seeing such developments?

I think the best thing any country can do for its national interest is to lead the world in non-fossil fuel technology. Countries like America or European Union countries need to develop alternative technologies to deal with climate change because these will be the technologies that the world is going to use for the next century or so. It is also in their interest to be the ones who develop it.

If other countries are smart, they too must be developing the technology. The last thing you want to do is be a country that is still burning coal and oil while everyone else has alternatives. This is actually a very clear case where doing the right thing is also very much in your long-term self-interest, and can enhance your competitive position financially.

I think the best thing any country can do for its national interest is to lead the world in non-fossil fuel technology.

When it comes to climate change, we are in some cases on the brink of irreversibility, which could dash all hope. Do you have any hopeful closing words for our readers?

The truth is, we’re in a real fight. We could win or we could lose, but some good things are happening. The youth movement, the Greta Thunberg of the world, is the most hopeful thing. Just in the past few years, young people around the world have been really angry at old goats like me, who have been here for decades and haven’t solved the problem. And they’re getting really excited – that’s cool!

Another very good thing that I already mentioned is that the prices of alternative energy are down, and therefore it is much cheaper to install and use solar power than it is to keep using coal for example. But as you mentioned, we know there are so-called tipping points, cases where something happens in the climate where there’s a point of no return, and you can’t go back.

With ice sheets in particular, meaning sea level rise, it’s possible that we’ve passed at least one tipping point for West Antarctica, and we know that Greenland and East Antarctica are very Not far away, especially Greenland.

This is another reason why the next decade is really important. We must change the pace of emissions and growth before we cross another tipping point. But people are finally getting fired and so I have some hope. We are not cursed – there are things we can do and there are things we are just starting to do. We have to keep doing them and do more of them.

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