Which Climate Change Consensus? (Part 4)
There has been some interesting discussion on policy solutions for ‘climate change’ at the thread following Part 2 of this series.
David Tribe mades the comment:
Focusing on policy realism is what is needed. We’ve heard too much about model uncertainties and physics.
Ian Castles responded with a suggestion from Indur Goklany’s submission to House of Lords Economic Committee Inquiry:
“Over the next few decades the focus of climate policy should be to
(a) broadly advance sustainable development, particularly in developing countries since that would generally enhance their adaptive capacity to cope with the many urgent problems they currently face, including many that are climate sensitive;
(b) specifically reduce vulnerabilities to climate-sensitive problems that are urgent today and might be exacerbated by future climate change; and
(c) implement ‘no-regret’ emissions reduction measures; while
(d) concurrently striving to expand the universe of no-regret options through research and development to increase the variety and cost-effectiveness of available mitigation options”.
Ian then made comment that:
In the light of this and other submissions, the House of Lords Economic Committee unanimously concluded that ‘The important issue is to wean the international negotiators away from excessive reliance on the ‘targets and penalties’ approach embodied in Kyoto.
Hence there should be urgent progress towards thinking about wholly different, and more promising, approaches based on a careful analysis of the incentives that countries have to agree to any measures adopted’ (Report, para. 184).
The objections to Kyoto go deep. To quote a few from Aynsley Kellow’s paper for ASSA:
a) the Protocol ‘lacks adequate enforcement mechanisms;
b)it allows paper reductions in emissions to be offset against future real increases;
c)and it is overly sanguine about the ability to create the institutions (especially measurement and verification measures) which will permit the establishment of effective emissions trading regimes.’
… A major element in the Castles and Henderson critique of the IPCC approach is precisely that the Panel is excessively confident of its ability to make long-term projections of emissions, i.e., of socio-economic conditions and technological possibilities. The concluding statements you [Ender] quote from the Econbrowser blog summarise precisely why basing policies on very long-term projections of emissions is wrong-headed.
But the emissions scenarios do need to be constrained by what is logically possible, and they do need to be based on sound concepts. For example, it would be a nonsense (a) to assume that average incomes per head in Africa will increase 15-fold by the middle of the century (as the IPCC scenarios with both the highest and lowest emissions profiles do); (b) to base projections of emissions of GHGs on this assumption; but then (c) conclude that climate change will lead to large increases in the numbers at risk of hunger on the continent. Yet this is what is done in the most widely-cited impact study using the IPCC scenarios.
In his submission to the Lords Committee, Julian Morris of the University of Buckingham made the point that, if Bangladesh and the United States prove to have similar levels of output per head by the end of the century, as the IPCC high emissions scenarios assume, this outcome could only have come about because either (a) Bangladesh has found a highly cost-effective way of coping with the adverse effects of climate change or (b) it would not have suffered these effects. He concludes that ‘Either way there appears to be a contradiction between the economic scenarios that underpin the IPCC’s climate forecasts and the scary stories that the IPCC tells on the back of these forecasts.’