Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, has called on “the environmental movement” to rethink the way it engages with climate scepticism. He told Business Green that following years of "pious alarmism”, green NGOs and businesses should develop a more "prosaic" argument for action on climate change based around its costs and benefits. He went on to say that climate hawks should equate action to cut emissions with the insurance that households and businesses buy but rarely use.
"[People] spend money on house insurance and car insurance and life insurance, and, if what is overwhelmingly likely to happen and your car is not broken into or your house does not burn down or you don't die, it is money poured down the drain," he said.
"Even if you are a climate change sceptic, you surely think the chances of manmade global warming happening are probably a bit higher than your house burning down tomorrow.
"So you do not have to believe all the worst case scenarios on climate change to think it is worth doing what we do as a family and spend a bit of money and make a few changes just to ensure that something catastrophic does not happen."
Matthew Taylor’s criticisms of some green campaigners struck a chord with me. I agree with him that the “insurance frame” is a very useful way of neutralising “climate sceptics” or, more likely, engaging with “climate neutrals”.
But let's not get too carried away. The “insurance frame” will not, on its own, build the political space needed for measures of the magnitude needed to meet the UK’s existing climate targets. These include, for example, securing £200bn of private sector investment in energy infrastructure by 2020; substantially decarbonising electricity by 2030; and increasing investment in renewable power generation.
Over the next few years, the government and climate hawks will need to advocate and defend low carbon policies against a backdrop of rising power prices and tighter household budgets.
Prosaic arguments won’t cut it.