The Green Paradox: A Supply-Side Approach to Global Warming

Hans-Werner Sinn, 288 p., The MIT Press (2012)


  • Sinn und Werte
  • Haltung und Selbstorganisation
  • Innovation und Veränderung

In this work, Hans-Werner Sinn, one of Germany's most internationally renowned economists, takes a critical look at Germany's current climate policy. He emphasizes that it is high time to act, but questions the approach taken so far.

As an introduction to the topic, Sinn explains the origins and consequences of global warming. He then draws a detailed picture of the international and national political measures and technical possibilities for counteracting climate change. While the author does not see bioenergy as a suitable weapon in the fight against global warming, he argues how and why nuclear energy would have been a suitable instrument. However, he sees the biggest (political and scientific) failure as having ignored the supply side of fossil fuels in climate change policies and models. Accordingly, the fight against climate change should not only focus on reducing the consumption and emission of fossil fuels, but on leaving them in the ground right away, i.e. reducing the supply. This is where the concept of the green paradox comes in. According to Sinn, in fact, the mere announcement of combating climate change has led to the earth warming up faster. Since the owners of fossil resources see their future revenues endangered by green policies, they accordingly accelerate the extraction of these fuels. Sinn judges previous climate policies as "expensive, inefficient and useless." However, he does not leave it at mere criticism, but also gives concrete instructions for action. Among other things, he calls for better coordination of the various support measures for renewable energies and a policy that motivates resource owners in the fossil fuel sector to adopt a more conservative supply behavior.

With sharp argumentation and a foundation of thoroughly researched facts, Sinn refutes many common viewpoints and measures in the current climate debate. He paints a sometimes gloomy picture of the situation and leaves hardly a good hair on the efforts made so far. The author provides extensive details from chemistry, physics, history, politics and economics. Not everyone is likely to like this sweeping blow, but it does have an effect (at least in part). Institutions such as the IPCC and the German Ministry of Research have already taken up the idea of the green paradox in their deliberations. It should be noted that Sinn focuses mainly on the perspective of Germany and the European Union.

Tripl3leader recommends this book to all those who want to gain a deeper understanding in the debate about climate change. A wide variety of expertise awaits the reader in the 540 pages, which may not be fully internalized during the first reading.

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