So, oil is back above $80 again and officially the International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that deep cuts in emissions are needed not just to tackle climate change but to avoid a doubling of energy bills by 2030, while unofficially a whistleblower at the agency thinks we are already in the "peak oil zone" and only behind the scenes lobbying stops government's admitting as much.
There are many reasons why climate change scepticism and a refusal to accept the need for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is a sure fire indicator of a mind deep in the throes of intellectual atrophy - the inability to discern between one off data points and long term trends, the support for theories that have been comprehensively debunked, the unedifying victim mentality - but now we can add peak oil to the list.
As we've argued before it is possible to construct a water tight case for action to tackle climate change without an expert understanding of climate change science - all you need to do is undertake a risk analysis. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are more than 95 per cent certain that human actions are leading to potentially irreversible climate change, then we should act now to tackle the problem on the not unreasonable grounds that it is stupid to gamble with the future of civilisation when the odds of doing nothing and getting away with it are so slim.
It's intriguing to ask what would have happened had the vast majority of the world's economists warned that we were heading for financial crisis? Or imagine what would happen if the world's intelligence community was 95 per cent certain that Iran had the bomb and was readying to use it? Then again don't, it's not a pretty picture.
The very real threat of peak oil further tilts this climate risk equation ever further in favour of low carbon action.
A bit of back-of-the-envelope game theory makes this plain. Imagine the stake is two per cent of GDP and the proposal is to invest it in rapidly transitioning to a low carbon economy.
If the climate scientists are right this would provide us with a reasonable chance of avoiding climatic breakdown and an economic and humanitarian crisis unprecedented in its scope and scale. But look at what we still get if they are wrong (which all the evidence suggests they aren't) - we get rid of the risk of peak oil, and as a result we get massively improved energy security, an end to unpalatable relationships with petro-dictatorships and reduced energy price volatility. Not to mention increased employment as a result of renewables higher level of labour intensity, and a massive fall in the hidden health and economic costs that arise from air pollution.
Now flip the equation around. What happens if we do nothing? Some climate sceptics argue the money would be better invested in poverty reduction and development in poor nations, but anyone who thinks the rich world will stump up a further two per cent of GDP for such admirable purposes is living in cloud cuckoo land (although many sceptics already spend plenty of time there dreaming up their scientific arguments, so perhaps they do genuinely believe this will happen). The reality is the money would be invested in the same old manner and would deliver the same old returns.
If the sceptics are right and there is no climate-related reason to switch to low carbon technologies we get these same old returns - and we still have to find a way to deal with escalating energy security. But if they are wrong, we get something akin to the end of civilisation.
In the complex world of futurology, economics and risk, the low carbon transition option is as close as you get to a no lose scenario, while the do nothing option results in a very high chance that we lose everything. Even the most booze-addled Vegas punter could assess the odds and pick the best option.
I would call it a no-brainer, but given the level of intellectual rigour the sceptics apply to tackling climate science I'm not sure that would preclude them from continuing to argue against action.
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