Climate change: Answers to common questions

Climate change: Answers to common questions

This report – authored by Oxford University and sponsored by Pictet – seeks to give a brief but firm grounding on the current state of knowledge about climate change, its implications and what sort of solutions might be possible.

Amid the ongoing debate about climate change, investors often fail to appreciate the sheer weight of scientific evidence attesting to humanity’s impact on the planet. Equally, they might not know where further research is required before firm conclusions can be reached about how best to contain or reverse global w arming.

Written in thoughtful, clear and unemotive language by Professor Cameron Hepburn and Moritz Schwarz of the University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, it is an important resource for those of us who are not climate change specialists.

The better we all understand the settled facts, the better we can not only plan for the future, but change its course for the better.
— Laurent Ramsey, Managing Partner of the Pictet Group, Co-CEO of Pictet Asset Management

It addresses several contentions – that climate change is not happening or that, if it is, it will be mild – or that, in any event humans are not causing it. The authors also address questions about the impact of climate change – whether there might be benefits, the scale of likely damage, and humans’ ability to adapt.

It’s a document we at Pictet are proud to have sponsored. We understand that climate change affects all of our futures, wherever we are in the world, whatever our standing.


Cameron Hepburn, Professor
Moritz Schwarz, Doctoral student
Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment
Institute for New Economic Thinking
University of Oxford


As the world marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, a new report by Oxford University in partnership with the Pictet Group offers a sobering assessment of the environmental problems facing our planet.

The study, by Professor Cameron Hepburn and Moritz Schwarz of the University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, seeks to dispel many of the lingering  myths about climate change and  sheds new light on the scale of the likely damage if decision makers fail to meet their carbon emission targets. Furthermore, amid the swirling debate about global warming, governments, businesses and investors “often fail to appreciate the sheer weight of scientific evidence attesting to humanity’s impact on the planet” the report warns.

Prof Hepburn’s and Mr Schwarz’s report was written as a response to questions the Oxford team has received from governments, business leaders and investors on the effects of global warming.

The document is structured into nine areas of doubt commonly expressed about climate science and economics, each of which is broken down into points of contention.


Levels of doubt in the science and economics
Type of doubtUnderlying questionSpecific challenges
Doubt re impactQuestions about existence
or extent
1 - “Climate change is not happening”

2 - “Warming will be very modest”

 Questions about source3 - “Humans are not causing climate change”
 Questions about impact4 - “There are benefits from climate change”

5 - “Damage from climate change will be small or uncertain”

6 - “Humans will be able to adapt”

Doubt re mitigationResponse is futile7 - “There is no point in reducing emissions, Earth will keep warming anyway”
 Response is costly8 - “The cost of reducing emissions are very high”
 Response is unequally shared9 - “Other countries are not playing their part”

Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment

The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) was established with a benefaction by the Smith family in 2008 to tackle major environmental challenges by bringing public and private enterprise together with the University of Oxford’s world-leading teaching and research.
Research at the Smith School shapes business practices, government policy and strategies to achieve net-zero emissions and sustainable development. We offer innovative evidence-based solutions to the environmental challenges facing humanity over the coming decades. We apply expertise in economics, finance, business and law to tackle environmental and social challenges in six areas: water, climate, energy, biodiversity, food and the circular economy.
SSEE has several significant external research partnerships and Business Fellows, bringing experts from industry, consulting firms, and related enterprises who seek to address major environmental challenges to the University of Oxford.
We offer a variety of open enrolment and custom Executive Education programmes that cater to participants from all over the world. We also provide independent research and advice on environmental strategy, corporate governance, public policy and long-term innovation.
For more information on SSEE please visit:
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