Although it includes a short section on climate scepticism, and acknowledges that some scepticism is healthy for climate science, this isn’t a book about the often-partisan divide that characterises much of climate politics, notably in the USA (a divide that Giddens calls ‘disastrous’). Rather, it’s a book about managing climate change through preventative measures (mitigation) and adaptation. It draws inspiration from what countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have been doing right (we learn, for example, that carbon taxes have been most effective in Denmark because revenues were used to subsidise energy-saving initiatives).
Giddens makes the point that the threat of climate change seems intangible and distant, and so most will do nothing about it, yet waiting until the dangers become visible will be too late. A strong central (and centrist) government capable of setting aside partisan disputes can ensure long-term success, he says.
In particular, climate change action needs to be decoupled from the green movement, whose aims may contradict mitigation (conservation and the construction of wind farms don’t make happy bedfellows, and few greens will approve of more nuclear power stations). Indeed, Giddens sees many of the central tenets of green philosophy, such as the precautionary principle, as contradictory to the point of meaninglessness.
A masterful survey of climate politics, filled with advice for policymakers, comprehensively updated.
THE POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE (Second edition) by Anthony Giddens, Polity, £14.99