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Opinion: Green police help keep climate change action on the fringes

Market forces have the best chance of driving significant actions that will boost climate change. However the forces of resistance are strong – both from entrenched interests and the green movement itself. Charles Dumas of Lombard Street Research argues for the nuclear option.

Green finance special section

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THE URGENT DRIVES out the important every time. The financial tidal waves emanating from $2 trillion of US sub-prime (and Alt-A) mortgages melting down has immediate effects on credit markets, stock markets, the economy and all asset prices. This drives concerns about climate change off the front page. Another factor pushing climate change policy action and economic/financial market consequences to the fringe is (paradoxically) soaring energy prices. Whatever action to combat climate change might eventually emerge, it is likely to involve a mix of carbon-emission taxes and quota trading that will achieve results by raising energy costs. As energy costs have been raised anyhow – to the distaste of ordinary people – by the combination of global boom, severe Chinese economic overheating, and speculation by investors pursuing the illusion of energy/commodity futures as an "asset class", governments are hardly looking for ways of making themselves unpopular by taxing energy further.

Perhaps recent energy cost increases have been enough anyhow for the time being. In a considered global programme of energy price escalation, it is unlikely that anybody a few years back would have proposed an immediate doubling of the chief market price for world energy: crude oil.

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