What about thedeveloping world -- China, for instance -- joining this movement?
It is really clear Chinese companies care about air pollution and rightly so, because that is what actually bothers the people who work in the factories. Likewise with water and deforestation. Those things make a real impact. Those are the kinds of things that they should be doing something about it. They should be worried about local pollution problems—and that’s where they do spend most of their time.
What about the value of alternative energy?
Most of the things that people talk about have fairly high costs and do little good in the long term. People invest a little bit to look good but they will not pay a lot to actually help solve the problem. It would require high subsidies for these alternative fuels. You can envision cutting emissions 5 percent probably at very low cost but can you cut 10 percent-15 percent? That’s much harder to do.
Of all the alternatives, what looks the best?
I don’t know. Nobody really knows. We would want to invest in a large number of alternatives. It is not about all of them succeeding but some of them succeeding. Like solar and carbon capture. We need to find cheaper ways to do solar, partly because it is the one thing that is ubiquitously available. It is the same with carbon capture, which makes a lot of sense in China.
What do you think of former U.S. Vice Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize?
I think it was good that the United Nations climate panel won but I thought it was a curious choice to also award it to Al Gore.
Because Al Gore, particularly in the US, has brought us away from thinking it is all a hoax, which is good, but he’s also brought a lot of people to the conclusion that it is a catastrophe, which is not good.
We need to realize that sea levels will raise a foot over the next century but we need to realize that they also rose a foot over the last century and a half.
What is the single biggest mistake people are making?
It is probably the idea that this is something we can fix in the next five to ten years, If you imagine that we are going to go along as we have before, by 2030, we will have 14% of our energy come from renewable sources. But what would happen if we had a dramatically different scenario, where we really make a big effort, then by 2030 instead of going from 13% to 14%, we would go all the way to 16%. That points out we are really trapped in the idea we can make a huge difference if we try right now. What we can do is affect rich people in rich countries a little.
And look at the Kyoto Protocol. People look at it like a good standard. If everybody had approved it and lived up to the requirements, it would have postponed global warming seven days by the end of the century.