• Dissenting view claims ‘co-benefit’ projects should be prioritised over international agreements in efforts to mitigate climate change

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

A former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change human geographer, Professor Mike Hulme of the University of Cambridge, has spoken of his view that the most effective way to mitigate climate change at present is to find projects to work on which provide immediate local ‘co-benefits’. This would be an alternative to intergovernmental agreements and explanations of the science of climate change, as Professor Hulme believes climate change has become in some countries a “toxic brand” with much vitriol surrounding it. Instead, a “smarter politics” would involve alternative framings for different projects. An example “co-benefit” project would be the installation of solar panels, which could be framed for one side of politics as delivering independence, and for another as delivering emissions reductions. As Professor Hulme says, “Science is a very powerful way that humans have invented and discovered to understand the way in which the physical world works. Science will not be able to adjudicate on what we should or should not do. We have invented another human tradition — we call it politics — to resolve those sorts of challenges.” Other academics partly agree with Professor Hulme and partly disagree. Some point out that national agreements such as the Paris Agreement have been somewhat effective in delivering mitigation action, while others believe that better communication of the problem will result in more action on it. To this last point Professor Hulme counters that “People who are just as committed to the evidence of climate change have very different views about what energy mix we should have — between fracking, nuclear and solar.” As a dissenting view, Professor Hulme’s view will help to sharpen an interesting and necessary debate.