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Comment: Is the world’s fossil fuel ‘addiction’ an illusion?

SEI Executive Director Johan L. Kuylenstierna reflects on the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and the widespread perception that it is too difficult to be feasible.

Published on 21 February 2014

I am often asked what it will take to successfully address climate change. My first response is that we need a positive vision about the future and human ingenuity. Studies clearly show that doomsday scenarios are not effective triggers of action; it is the true conviction that you (as an individual or a society) with your actions actually can contribute to positive change and a better future.

My second response is that we must recognize that it will take real effort. Yes, there are many benefits to climate action, even in the short term, but there are costs as well.

We cannot underestimate the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. After all, what we seek is nothing less than a revolution – and revolutions can be painful, especially for those who are thriving under the status quo.

In the current world order, that means industrialized countries that built our economies with fossil fuels, and emerging economies that are following our example.

Businesses are reaping large profits from producing fossil fuels, often with devastating environmental impacts beyond carbon emissions. To make things worse, every year, governments pump more than $500 billion USD of subsidies into fossil fuel-based energy – some $50-90 billion within the OECD countries alone.

Source: RTCC, UK

Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on the Haga Initiative blog with the headline “For a safe climate, we must tackle fossil fuels”.

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Topics and subtopics
Climate : Mitigation / Economy : Business

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