From hot air to action

Decarbonised capitalism

Hope for mankind is not yet lost

IMAGINE, SAYS Adair Turner, chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, that a beneficent god had sent envoys in the night to steal two-thirds of the world’s store of fossil fuels, so that mankind knew it would run out of them within 40 years. “I’m certain that by 2060 we’d have built a zero-carbon economy and the cost of doing so would be trivial,” he says.

The alternative to heavenly intervention may be equally fanciful: that governments will curb the world’s addiction to fossil fuels by agreeing on the global application of the ultimate sin tax—a price on carbon-dioxide emissions that will rise from, say, $50 a tonne in 2025 to $200 a tonne in 2050.

Miracles do happen, but it is unwise to rely on them. In the meantime, the challenges of building a global energy system that requires a fourfold increase in electrification, a…