Simon Sharpe interview: How scientists and politicians are leading climate action astray

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IT IS easy to feel anxious about the state of the climate. July was the hottest month on record and hurricanes, floods and wildfires have recently ravaged many countries. Despite this, last week, the UK government delayed its plans for net zero. Rising carbon emissions put the world on course to increase its average temperature by about 2.7°C above preindustrial temperatures by the end of this century – almost double the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5°C. But we can decarbonise the global economy far quicker, says Simon Sharpe, who has spent a decade working at the forefront of climate change diplomacy.

Sharpe joined the UK Foreign Office in 2005, where he worked on everything from human rights policy to counterterrorism. In 2012, he stumbled on a climate science lecture that made him realise catastrophic climate change wasn’t a negligible risk, but a likely scenario, and needed to be communicated to governments as such. He soon took on a series of climate-related government jobs, culminating in a high-profile role at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, in 2021.

Today, Sharpe is a senior fellow at the non-profit World Resources Institute and director of economics at the philanthropically funded organisation Climate Champions.

In his recent book Five Times Faster, Sharpe argues that it is time to see the economy as dynamic and invest in new technologies, rather than protecting the status quo. The institutions that are supposed to be helping us tackle climate change, he says, are inadvertently slowing us down. He tells New Scientist what has gone wrong with our approach to climate science, economics and …

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