climate change, there is an official policy consensus. That consensus has been
firmly in place for over twenty years, and virtually all governments subscribe
to it. By way of recent example, paragraph 66 of last year’s G20 Summit
Document begins as follows: “Addressing the threat of global climate change is
an urgent priority for all nations. We reiterate our commitment to take strong
and action-oriented measures ...”
The measures referred to are chiefly directed towards curbing
emissions of (so-called) “greenhouse gases” in general, and carbon dioxide in
particular. The policy consensus reflects what I call received opinion; and the
core of received opinion is that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) constitutes
a serious threat, which however can be contained and partially averted by
severely limiting emissions.
The consensus has been increasingly reflected in a wide variety
of official actions at local, state, national and international level. In
taking these actions, the governments concerned have so far met with widespread
It is a remarkable fact that, throughout the period since its
adoption at the end of the 1980s, the policy consensus has gone without serious
political challenge. In the OECD member countries in particular, climate change
issues have typically been the subject of close and continuing cross-party
agreement, so that policies have been little affec...
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