The Not-So-New Climate Economy Report

An alliance of the most influential global institutions, including the UN, World Bank, IMF and OECD, just issued a report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, chaired by Felipe Calderón and Nicholas Stern. The report’s title is Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy. In a nutshell, it says that not only is climate action compatible with economic growth, but the two may actually work as a positive feedback loop: more climate action leading to more growth, “smart” growth-spurring policies reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. By and large, the report does not contain any new arguments, as it is more of a synthesis of existing research. Alas, it is a synthesis of only a part of existing research, which can be already seen in the title: economic growth is a main objective along with the mitigation of climate change. You’ll vainly look for any reference to the degrowth and a-growth debates, and so the report, while valuable in some respects, reproduces many of the common errors of growth-enthusiasts. Continue reading

Talking About Green Jobs Might Impede Action on Climate Change

Advocates of true action on climate change do not have an easy job to do. Scientists keep producing evidence of dangerous man-made climate change, the IPCC keeps producing reports that summarize that evidence, activists keep doing their activism… Meanwhile, politicians, and decision-makers more generally, keep talking and the society at large sticks to business-as-usual. No wonder that the “alarmists”, as we are sometimes called, are steadily looking for new powerful arguments. In hope either that a specific single argument will suddenly make people wake up and act on climate change, or that the accumulated mass of arguments will do. One such argument is about so-called “green jobs”. Clean technology investments are presented as a great opportunity to create jobs, as a growth booster. However, in this specific case, the well-intentioned pro-climate-action argument might actually be a shot in the cause’s foot. Continue reading

Emissions Trading and Feed-In Tariffs: Do We Need Both?

When I started this blog some 3.5 years ago, the focus was on climate issues, particularly climate economics. More recently, however, I have neglected this topic a little. Fortunately, working at a research institute gives one the opportunity to learn a lot about things other scientists do–e.g., regarding the quite popular question whether the EU needs both emissions reduction and renewable energy deployment targets such as the 20-20-20 target. In other words: do we need an energy mix consisting, e.g., of emissions trading and feed-in tariff schemes? Or is emissions trading enough to reach policy goals? And, by the way, what are these goals? Continue reading

Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?, Revisited

More than two years ago I wrote here a piece about nuclear power. I critisized in it a commentary authored by Bjorn Lomborg, who argued that nuclear power is the all-environmentally friendly energy source. Then, I replicated a “green dogma” and wrote that

first, we cannot but abandon both [nuclear power AND fossil fuels], and, secondly, it is not necessarily true that we cannot afford a switch to renewables.

I do not longer think this is true. While still not sharing Lomborg’s and others’ enthusiasm about nuclear fission, I view it as the lesser evil. Continue reading

What If We Are Wrong about Global Warming?

No, I do not intend to present some other “sweeping” Climategate-like “proofs” that all those climate scientists warning since the 1960’s that human activities influence the global climate have been wrong. Quite the contrary, to date, science tells us clearly that the Earth is warming and that we are those responsible. Moreover, it tells us that it is likely to keep warming unless we do something about it, and if we do not, the consequences may be very unpleasant. So, the title question is entirely hypothetical. Nevertheless, I still find it very interesting because climate science may be wrong. Continue reading

Climate Change and the Long Winter 2013

Where is the global warming? After a rather long and hard winter this year, many Europeans ask this question. The media have been spreading the terrible scenarios of a human-made global warming for years. But in Europe and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, in April there was still a lot of snow outside. Reason enough to become doubtful. Seemingly. Actually, however, the winter of 2013 is perfectly fitting the picture drawn by climate science. To understand why, we have to answer a few preliminary questions first. Continue reading

Yasuní – A Model for the Future?

How much is a pristine ecosystem worth to us? And a stable climate? These are questions that are very controversial among many environmentalists, as I recently discussed. However, economic valuation of Nature and its “services” is not just a theoretical possibility, it is a fact. A particularly interesting example of an (implicit) valuation of an ecosystem is the Ecuadorian Yasuní-ITT Initiative. Continue reading

The Climate Is Too-Big-to-Fail

How is it that we really do care about too-big-to-fail banks and largely embrace the sacrifice-laden efforts of governments to bail them out, but apparently don’t care enough about our too-big-to-fail climate system to accept personal and collective sacrifices needed to “bail it out”, i.e. to keep catastrophic climate change at bay? Well, this is a question psychologists and sociologists are better suited and trained to answer than I am. Instead, I would like to sacrifice a few minutes of my spare time in an attempt to sketch the consequences of the fact that our climatic system is too-big-to-fail in conjunction with the fact that we have not really cared to stop dangerously interfering with it so far. Continue reading

The Climate Cancer

A man is diagnosed with cancer and the oncologist orders treatment. The patient waits and waits and waits. He is not suicidal but thinks “What does this doctor really know?” Over the next few weeks, he gets a second opinion and then a third opinion…they are all the same: a chemotherapeutic cocktail. Meanwhile, the cancer is spreading. Begrudgingly, the man begins taking the medicine. But pride mixes with fear and he takes just one third of the prescribed dose. What does the oncologist say? If depends on the personality of the oncologist. A hopeful one will urge the patient to follow the full regime. A discouraged one will level with the man “either you follow the full regime or don’t bother taking anything”. The dishonest one says “those side-effects aren’t all that bad…”. [Joseph Henry Vogel, The Economics of the Yasuní Initiative: Climate Change as If Thermodynamics Mattered, p.78]

Rio+20 Sum-Up

The much awaited (though recently rather with a lot of pessimism) Rio+20 “Earth Summit” came to an end. Instead of commenting myself on all the things which went wrong (and the few that weren’t as bad), I would like to provide links to commentaries made before, during and after the Summit that give a fair account of what happened and how to interpret the failures of the international community to commit to saving our planet. Also, they provide an outlook on what developments we may expect in the near future.

Elinor Ostrom Green from the Grassroots

Sunita Narain Beyond Rio+20

Jagdish Bhagwati Rio’s Unsustainable Nonsense

Kristen Sheeran From Top-Down to Bottom-Up: New Directions for Climate at Rio+20

George Monbiot Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphes of fluff

From now on, you can use “Rio+20” as a synonym for “failure”.

Climate Change on the Road to Rio

Next week, Rio de Janeiro will host the Rio+20 conference – a reminiscence of the path-breaking Earth Summit that took place there 20 years ago, in 1992. Back then, the world community committed itself (at least verbally) to sustainability and laid foundations for many subsequent efforts to protect the environmental basis which our livelihoods depend upon. Since then, much has changed – some to the better, some to the worse. Today, probably the most urgent threat to humanity is climate change – in fact, it was in 1992 already, even though the science of climate change was not so consistent and clear then as it is now. It is only natural to expect that the new Earth Summit will bring at least some steps toward a successful combat against anthropogenic climate change. However, the prospects do not appear as good as one might wish. Continue reading

(Partly) Right for the Wrong Reasons

Some time has passed since I commented (i.e., criticised) on Bjørn Lomborg’s writings for the last time. His most recent activity (an article on Project Syndicate) is, however, inviting for another round of critique. Actually, there is not much newness to be found in this piece by Lomborg. But because it kind of summarises his views, it may be worth a brief investigation. Continue reading

About a Short-Sighted Polish Government

Recently the EU planned to commit to new greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals – 20% (compared with 1990) in 2020, 30% in 2030, 60% in 2040, 80-95% in 2050. Out of the 27 member states, only one refused to support this initiative – it was Poland. Its government argued that the goals cannot be possibly reached in a country where 95% of power generation comes from coal power stations. Furthermore, another argument was that EU-wide commitments are futile as long as the big polluters – United States, China, India etc. – don’t make binding commitments as well. However, in both cases the Polish government seems to have overlooked important issues. Continue reading

Climate Change Denialism and GM Food Opposition

I have ever opposed genetically modified food – reasons for that can be found here and here (they have evolved a little, but my opposition remained strong). However, recently I had to revise many of my previous arguments. Also I had to realize that many arguments against GM food as used by its adversaries are counterfactual, oversimplifications, misrepresentations of scientific results and the like. Then, I asked myself: you know this pattern, don’t you? At first glance at least, their affinity to climate change denialism is striking. Continue reading

Is Geo-Engineering a Viable Solution to Climate Change?

In a few months the Rio +20 conference will be held. This means that 20 years have gone since world leaders agreed on an unprecedentedly ambitious programme for global sustainability – including the first attempt to lay foundation for a global fight against climate change. During these 20 years, much has changed – unfortunately, mainly to the worse. We still find ourselves on the business-as-usual emissions trajectory – in other words, on collision course. Understandingly, this feeds calls for alternative approaches and solutions. One of them that gains ever more prominence is: geo-engineering. Continue reading

What Is Uncertain in Climate Economics?

One of the central problems of a majority of economic integrated assessment models of climate change is that they mostly ignore or at best underplay all the uncertainty around the problem they try to analyse. Meanwhile, these models are mostly presented in calibrated form, i.e. including concrete values for different variables – just what a cost-benefit analysis is expected to do. Even if there are some confidence intervals specified, they are mostly rather crude and are a kind of sherry-picking of “meaningful” uncertainties. However, the dynamics of the climate itself and the consequences of his changing are profoundly uncertain and full of feedback mechanisms. In the following I would like to present and discuss some major sources of uncertainty in economic climate modelling, arguing that it is even deeper than in “just” climate modelling and that the consequences for standard approaches are profound. Continue reading

Durban: The Need-Expect Dichotomy

Five days ago the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was launched in Durban, South Africa. 19 years have gone past since the path-breaking United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro where the UNFCCC was created, and 17 years since its parties agreed upon the so-called Kyoto Protocol – a joint effort of developed countries particularly to tackle anthropogenic climate change. Next year the Kyoto Protocol is going to expire. So, it is worth-while to think about what needs to be done – and contrast that with what one can “reasonably” expect from the members of the international community gathered together in Durban these days. Continue reading

Connecting Climate Science and Economics, Part 3

In this post I am going to give a summary of the third part of Climate Economics: The State of the Art by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton of the Stockholm Environment Institute, concerning recent research in the economics of mitigation and adaptation. Part 1, with a discussion of newest results from the climate science, can be found here. Part 2, summarizing the report’s findings about the economics of climate change, here. Continue reading