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on 26 April 2010
It should come as no surprise that Helm and Hepburn two of the smartest thinkers in the energy, economics and climate have produced such a fine book. There are a number of chapters with some genuinally fascinating insights. Scott Barrett's chapter on the weaknesses on climate treaties enforcement has uncovered material that shows the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting gases has had a greater effect on curbing greenhouse gas emissions (HCFC is an active greenhouse gas and an ozone depleting gas) than Kyoto and he shows what we can learn. Stern's chapter reflects on the changes in climate science since the third assessment report (which Stern's famous 2007 review was largely premised on). These suggest that targets should be tougher than current goals and we should seek to stabilise levels at 450-500ppmCO2 equivalent.

Helm himself has contributed a number of excellent chapters. His critique of the EU-ETS is devastating. He attacks it for its political gimmicks - like the alliterative 20% emissions cuts by 2020, for the short duration of phases 2 and 3 relative to the time horizon investment in new infrastructure is made, the lack of floor price for carbon. These are all valid criticisms but they don't answer the counter criticism of what better alternative we have and which we could negotiate in the few years in which we need to reduce emissions.

The chapters on Chinese climate policy and carbon capture and storage - largely drawn from existing US techniques - are an uncomfortable reminder to European readers about just how far ahead the US is in actually putting in place policies to make a decisive reduction in their emissions, and the validity of Chinese arguments that they should not be punished for being the world's workshop.

So why only four stars and not five? Inevitably with a book of 22 chapters there is some variability in the quality of the chapters. The book is weak in its handling of demand side measures: energy efficiency and smart metering is ignored and the chapters on behaviour economics surprisingly poor mysteriously devoting far more space to the intricacies of setting the correct discount rate rather than the issues of motivation, community action and agency issues which we need to address if we are to encourage reductions in emissions. There is some treatment of ethics: for instance in the chapter on India, but none on issues of fuel poverty and affordability which form an important back drop to the economics and politics of climate change.

Prashant Vaze [...] The Economical Environmentalist: My Attempt to Live a Low Carbon Life and What it Cost]]
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on 26 January 2010
A comprehensive treatise on economics and politics of climate change. The editors assembed a well-balanced collection of contributions from leading authors covering subjects as diverse as why so little has been achieved so far in the field of climate change policy; how counting consumption related emissions (as opposed to production based) in China leads to more accurate redistribution of responsibility for causing climate change; how limited are policy conclusions obtained with the help of the MARKAL energy system model; what are the the costs of renewable energy technologies, why energy efficiency is not free and what is a rebound effect; how the US experience in cap and trade systems and carbon taxes could help in reducing emissions and how the EU climate change policy has been evolving in recent years. A stimulating read, highly recommended.
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on 10 December 2009
I highly recommend this book.

This book has 20 chapters written by some of the leading academic economists and political scientists in the field. In addition to the chapters by Dieter Helm and Cameron Hepburn, the authors include Nicholas Stern (who wrote the "Stern Review"), Ross Garnaut (who wrote the "Garnaut Review" in Australia), Robert Stavins (at Harvard) and a host of other leading academics from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE etc etc. It takes the science as given, and looks at the economics (and politics) of doing something about climate change.

With such a high-powered list of authors, you'd expect it to be a good book, and it really is. But I have two main points to note:
1) Is that there really isn't all that much political science in the book, although the 2 chapters at the end are pretty readable and interesting.
2) My second is that it is pretty "serious" text that is probably directed at a more scholarly audience, rather than the average reader. In other words, this book is not a brief and simple overview of climate change policy. You probably need to know some economics (and maybe political science) to follow everything.

Also, not all the authors agree with each other, but you do get a sense of the debate among the experts. But despite my complaints, it nevertheless comes highly recommended and is a great source of info on the big questions like the merits of carbon taxes or emissions trading, or the economics of carbon capture and sequestration, or the idea that we should account for "imported emissions" embodied in goods that we bring in from abroad.The Economics and Politics of Climate Change
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