Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 8: Climate policy: from ‘know how’ to ‘do now’
The recent increase in attention to global warming is very welcome. Logically, it is part of the revived growth debate since climate change is the major symptom of uneconomic growth. However, the discussion of climate change usually fails to make the connection to growth. Most of the attention seems to be given to how to accommodate growth within the limits of the complex climate models and their predictions. Even that 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? The climate models ask whether CO2 emissions will lead to atmospheric concentrations of 450–500 parts per million, and will that raise temperatures by 2 or 3º Celsius, by a certain date, and what will be the likely physical consequences in climate and geography, and in what sequence, and according to what probability distributions, and what will be the damages inflicted by such changes, as well as the costs of abating them, and what are the ratios of the present values of the damage costs compared to abatement expenditures at various discount rates, and which discount rate should we use, and how likely is it that new information learned while we are constructing the model, will invalidate the results?
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