Your prescriptions for tackling global warming offered anything but the “clear thinking” you called for (“Clear thinking needed”, November 28th). “Generous subsidies” for renewable energy “have achieved only a little and at great cost,” you wrote. Carbon pricing would accomplish more and do so “much more efficiently than subsidies for renewables.” That is true, but you ignore the 800-pound gorilla in this room, namely, subsidies for fossil fuels.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews
Mathews is a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She served as Carnegie’s president for 18 years.
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The International Energy Agency’s “World Energy Outlook 2015” pegs global fossil-fuel subsidies at $490 billion and those for renewables at $135 billion. The IMF, which includes in its calculation the failure to account for negative externalities of energy use (what it calls “post-tax subsidies”), pegs global energy subsidies at $5.3 trillion, most of it for fossil fuels.

If the much smaller subsidies for renewables, many of which are young, evolving technologies, “perpetuate today’s low-carbon technologies” when the goal should be to “usher in tomorrow’s”, how would you describe the huge subsidies for fossil fuels that are the heart of the problem?

Put this way, the argument may allow you to poke a finger at those who practise “green theology,” but it is a serious distortion of the real issue and its needed corrective.

This letter was originally published by the Economist.