Archive for the 'Climate Change Solutions' Category

How to Prevent Climate Change Summit from Failure

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

In December 2009, the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen. Their aim will be to conclude an agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which terminates in 2012. Given the abysmal failure of Kyoto one may be permitted to ask, Will Copenhagen succeed any better? The answer depends on expectations of what can be achieved in this short amount of time; the answer depends on how “success” is defined.

It is easier to define failure. Most climate watchers would define failure to mean lack of an agreement by states to “commit” to limiting their emissions dramatically. I would define failure to mean repeating the mistakes made in Kyoto in 1997. The worst outcome would be for the United States to “commit” to meet quantitative targets and timetables of emission reduction without being sure that these obligations will be approved by Congress. (more…)

Science, Belief and the Volcano:

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Science, Belief and the Volcano:

In January 2008 there was an article in the National Geographic called the The Gods Must Be Restless. The author, Andrew Marshall, describes Mbah Marijan, who has the job of satisfying the ogre that inhabits the volcano Merapi in Indonesia. The volcano is about to explode, the government has ordered an evacuation and Marijan is not convinced. Quoting the article:

“The alerts are merely guesses by men at far remove from the spirit of the volcano. The lava dome collapse? ‘That’s what the experts say,’ he (Marijan) says, smiling. ‘But an idiot like me can’t see any change from yesterday.’ ” (more…)

Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence:

Here at the beginning of the Obama administration there is a shift in mindset unlike any I have ever seen. During my years in the U.S. government, the science agencies didn’t get significant attention until a year or more into the new administration. This year we see science getting attention from the beginning, and, for example, there was a nominee for NOAA administrator announced prior to the inauguration. (Jane Lubchenco from Wikipedia, Professor Jane Lubchenco, More on Obama science appointees). Along with this new emphasis on science there are people and groups trying to position themselves. This includes those who fight against the government taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. (more…)

An Insightful and Provocative Keynote

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Herman Daly delivered a fantastic keynote address to AMS’s workshop on Federal Climate Policy. The text is reproduced here in full.

Climate Policy: from “know how” to “do now”

Herman E. Daly

The recent increase in attention to global warming is very welcome. Most of the attention seems to be given to complex climate models and their predictions. That too is welcome. However, it is useful to back up a bit and remember an observation by physicist John Wheeler, “We make the world by the questions we ask”. What are the questions asked by the climate models, and what kind of world are they making, and what other questions might we ask that would make other worlds? Could we ask other questions that would make a more tractable world for policy? (more…)

Problem Solving: Breaking it down

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

On my (more dynamic) blog I have been writing a series about how we make the attribution of climate change to humans. Recently, the comments on that blog have moved to the discussion of the Copenhagen Consensus and how the climate change problem stacks up against other great problems we face. Here is the TimesOnline on the Copenhagen Consensus. Here is the primary link to the Copenhagen Consensus. There is an interesting list of priorities developed by the Copenhagen Business School. The Consensus Project is headed by Bjorn Lomborg, who has become a controversial figure in the community. The project aims to look at the great problems of the world taken together and in the face of both monetary resources and capabilities. Then it is determined which are the most urgent to address. In general, full-on attack of the climate change problem does not come out on the top of the list. (It seems that some of the readers of my blog use this to dismiss the importance or correctness of climate change science.) (more…)

Where do Modeling Requirements Come From?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Requirements vs Requirements of scientists

I sit in my share of meetings on models and modeling. I listen to plans about model development and impassioned statements of the importance of “the science.” There are struggles on how to make the interface to other communities, the proverbial policymaker. In a room full of scientists they always come around to the need to follow “the science.”

What does it mean to follow “the science?” Science is a process of investigation – a method. It is one of several ways that we generate and accumulate knowledge. (more…)

Designing Post-2012 International Climate Change Policy

Friday, December 7th, 2007

The 2007 UN-sponsored climate change negotiations opened in Bali, Indonesia this week. By the end of the conference on December 14, the world community may agree to a two-year “roadmap,” as called for by the UN Secretary-General, for negotiating an agreement to guide climate change mitigation efforts after the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s 2008-2012 commitment period. A number of academics, analysts, nongovernmental organizations and related processes have proposed various ways of moving forward with international climate change policy, including the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s Dialogue at Pocantico, the UN Foundation and the Club of Madrid’s Global Leadership for Climate Action, and the Centre for Global Studies’ L20 concept of engaging the most important developed and developing countries on this issue, which is similar to the Bush Administration’s Big Economies process. (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 4. Organizing or Not (Open Source?)

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 4. Organizing or Not (Open Source?)

In this series I have maintained that there is a need for a sustained management of the climate. The global scale of the problem of controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the exceedingly long time scale before there are realizable benefits from our actions, the fact that the climate change problem is strongly correlated with energy consumption and societal success – these and an array of similarly enormous factors both demand and defy management.

Climate change is to a good approximation a problem of energy consumption. Energy resources are stressed, and there is growing energy-related stress on the economy and national security. The energy problem is urgent and immediate and will demand attention. It is possible to address the urgency of the energy demand and to make the climate problem worse – i.e. coal. It is possible to develop the illusion of addressing the energy problem while at the same time addressing the climate problem – i.e. corn ethanol. The climate change and energy use problems are correlated, but their solutions are not. Therefore, if we are going to address the climate change problem, then we need to define our goals and to manage towards those goals. (more…)


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Readers of may remember a four-volume assessment of the social science research relevant to global climate change that appeared about a decade ago, entitled Human choice and climate change, edited by Steve Rayner and Elizabeth L. Malone. If not, here’s a bit of background. This was a truly extraordinary effort, centered on a Vancouver meeting in 1997, and involving more than one hundred contributors. Especially intriguing was a small satellite document issued with the assessment entitled “Ten suggestions for policymakers.” To quote Rayner and Malone:

“What can public and private decisionmakers learn from a wide-ranging look at the social sciences and the issue of human choice and climate change that illuminates the evaluation of policy goals, implementation strategies, and choices about paths forward? At present, proposed policies are heavily focused on the development and implementation of intergovernmental agreements on immediate emissions reductions. In the spirit of cognitive and analytic pluralism that has guided the creation of Human choice and climate change, we look beyond the present policy priorities to see if there are adjustments, or even wholesale changes, to the present course that could be made on the basis of a social science perspective. To this end we offer ten suggestions to complement and challenge existing approaches to public and private sector decisionmaking: (more…)


Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

This post identifies real and perceived risks of climate policy and explores ways to minimize those risks. I’ll focus on four risks:

1) Damage to the economy as a whole
2) Damage to some sectors within the economy
3) Lost opportunities from the investment of limited resources on climate change
4) Potential political costs of supporting climate policy

Most risks, perceived & real, can be managed well but not all can be eliminated entirely. (more…)