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

Want to Save the World? Start in China

Within a few days, Yale e360 published two extremely interesting analyses of China’s recent environmental and social problems: China’s Great Dam Boom by Charlton Lewis and China at Crossroads by Ed Grumbine. Both fascinating in their own right, these articles show that if you want to save the world from a looming environmental catastrophe, you have to start in China. Continue reading

Lessons from Doha

Last week, the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar went to an end. Similar to most of the COPs held since 1994, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, it was not successful – unless you count as success the fact that it did not end in disaster. As a Polish commentator put it, the COP18 saved the international community’s honour, but it did not save the climate. 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

Is Greenpeace Cornucopian?

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and numerous other environmentalist organizations have been long pressing for a committed global effort to tackle climate change. It is clear that the major issue here is energy production – we desperately need low-carbon energy to keep the Earth’s climatic system in balance. However, these environmentalists also fight nuclear power, one of the two established low-carbon technologies in energy production (the other being hydropower) that are the only ones so gar that provide baseload electricity. At the same time, Greenpeace & Co. have long dismissed the idea (or, rather, ideology) called Cornucopianism which states that human ingenuity and free markets will provide solutions to every challenge humanity shall ever encounter – so we don’t have to worry about climate change, acid rain, the ozone hole, overpopulation, dwindling resources etc. – there will always be a backstop technology to save us. Continue reading

Externalities of Energy Generation

Because of repeated discussions of this subject in comments under my posts, I decided to make a list of externalities for various energy generation forms. For this I chose the most popular energy generation methods as currently in use, i.e. I excluded for example geothermal and solar thermal energy. The list is hardly complete, so you are welcome to add further points in comments (also for further energy generation methods). 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

The Nuclear Solution to Climate Change

I argued repeatedly that nuclear power should not be considered a solution to climate change – due to environmental and financial concerns (for a summary, see here). Today I found an interesting article concerning the financial side, which is very important, since it is often argued that nuclear is the cheapest energy source we have. Here an excerpt:

There has been ample discussion in recent years of a “nuclear renaissance,” and many politicians and energy analysts believe that a meaningful response to climate change must include a new fleet of nuclear plants in the United States. The long-term planning studies that routinely come out of utilities, advocacy groups, and the Department of Energy now commonly include new nuclear units. However, many of these studies use nuclear and utility industry cost estimates for new nuclear plants, rather than estimates based on the actual experiences of companies currently trying to build nuclear power plants. Given the dollars and the environmental impacts at stake, it is critical that planners make resource decisions using the best information available. [more]

Renewable Energies Are Not Enough

We can do two things to push the biophysical limits to growth further back: increase resource efficiency (do more with less) and replace finite resources with renewable energy and materials – in other words, we need to tap the potentially infinite sources of prosperity.

These are words by Ralf Fücks, the president of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, derived from a recent commentary in Die Zeit, translated into English for the TripleCrisis blog. Though I generally agree with the author, there are some parts of his argumentation that I am rather skeptical about. One of them is a common error made by people calling for a transition to a “green” economy: the argument that replacing non-renewable with renewable resources will solve the problem. Continue reading

Why Economics of Climate Change?

Anthropogenic climate change is a scientific fact. It may be regarded as the greatest challenge humanity has ever imposed over itself. Yet, it is an extremely complex challenge. It has, of course, a scientific component – without the advances in science, especially in climatology (but also, e.g., physics and geology), we probably wouldn’t be aware of the problem we face. Furthermore, as Kristen Sheeran rightly notes,

[m]any will argue that, at its core, the climate crisis is about ethics, rights, and responsibilities.

But, why is there economics of climate change? Do we need it? And if yes, what for? Continue reading

New Paradigms Needed

Through all its history humanity has been facing challanges which often seemed unsolvable. Nevertheless, we have been able to achieve a solution every time so far – sometimes better, sometimes worse, but we’ve done it. Today again we face a whole spectrum of huge challanges: the climate change with all its facettes. Biodiversity reduction due to general damages to ecosystems all over the world. Poverty and undernourishment. There are many proposals how to solve these problems, many of them of a rather technological nature. But these won’t do. More is needed: new value systems. New paradigms. Continue reading

Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?

Here an update Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?, Revisited, including a changed attitude toward the problem.

I already almost have specialized in commenting on articles by Bjørn Lomborg, the (in)famous “Skeptical Environmentalist”. Today I will do it one more time.

It is a sad true that we often have to choose between alternatives which we don’t like – deciding on what is better, not what is good. In his recent article my favourite politologist argues that we have to make a decision: do we want to rely on electricity generation from nuclear power or from fossil fuels?, since renewables are still too expensive and cannot close the gap if we would like to abandon both. As one can think, I don’t agree with Mr Lomborg – otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. I will argue that, first, we cannot but abandon both, and, secondly, it is not necessarily true that we cannot afford a switch to renewables. Continue reading

Some Words about Nuclear Power

What is now happening in Japan is terrible. The earthquake, the tsunami, now the near-catastrophe in the nuclear power station of Fukushima. All the people suffering after having lost relatives, homes, and now being in danger of losing their health or even life. One may say that Japan is the country best prepared for such a calamity. It is probably true, but this doesn’t really alleviate suffering of the affected part of the Japanese population.

While the attempts to limit the negative consequences are ongoing, it is time to think about the catastrophe and its causes: It is clear that we have no influence on earthquakes and tsunamis. They are independent of our doings. We may be able to contain the damages – that is something the Japanese are really good at. However, the nuclear catastrophe is not independent of us. All in all, it is men who build power stations and use nuclear fission to produce electricity. Continue reading

The Problem Is the WTO

Kevin Gallagher from TripleCrisis wrote a very insightful article about the US-China conflict about government support of the latter for its domestic green industry. You can read it here.

Here an excerpt:

    The US claims that such impressive feats have been achieved in part by the establishment of a green fund that helps firms make wind power equipment, with the stipulation that some parts be sourced from Chinese firms. If the WTO finds that China’s green fund targets only specific sectors, that such funds are conditioned on sourcing to local firms, and that the funds are channelled to trade activities that harm US firms and workers, then China may indeed be found in violation of the WTO rules.

    But if that does prove to be the case, China should not be seen as the problem. The problem is the WTO.

Power to the People

According to Malavika Jain Bambawale, there are near to 1,5 billion people without access to electricity out there. Out of that number, more than a half is living in (no, not in Africa, as you may have thought) the Asia Pacific region. Just to realize: 1,5 billion is close to one quarter of the world’s population. It is one of the most challenging problems (and, for that matter, inequalities) of humanity. Continue reading