Investing billions of pounds in new offshore wind farms and nuclear power stations could harm efforts to prevent climate change, an Oxford University study has claimed.

In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, leading climate physicist Professor Myles Allen, from the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship, argues that investment in technologies to capture and dispose of carbon dioxide is vital to stabilise climate, especially at temperatures 'well below 2 degrees Celsius', as called for in Paris, and that 'spare no expense' approaches to cutting emissions in the short term may not be the answer.

Prof Allen, who has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, said projects such as the £18 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station could be counter-productive.

He said: "If you spend stupidly now and reduce economic growth, you impair the ability of future generations to pay to get emissions to zero.

"They will need to pay for carbon dioxide disposal. It is time to divert some of our less productive subsidies into CO2 disposal."

Prof Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science in Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment and Department of Physics, found that that, unless the cost of carbon capture and disposal is brought below $200/tonne of carbon dioxide, then stabilising temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius will require "truly heroic levels of self-sacrifice by future generations".

He added: "Early investment in carbon dioxide disposal is critical, because most of the cheapest options, like underground storage, will take decades to develop and gain public acceptance.

"Currently, of the billions being spent on combating climate change, only a tiny fraction is remotely relevant to these vital "backstop" technologies."

Prof Allen said: "A climate policy that relies exclusively on substitution requires a mindboggling assumption of "irrational selflessness" on the part of future generations when they run out of the easy stuff to substitute.

"It is time to divert some of our less productive subsidies into carbon dioxide disposal."

The study 'Drivers of peak warming in a consumption-maximising world' is published in Nature Climate Change.