Changing Climate, Changing Economy

Changing Climate, Changing Economy

The Cournot Centre series

Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut

How did climate change become an economic issue? Why is economic discourse so influential on the public policy of climate change? How can it best contribute to the scientific and public debates? Nine eminent scholars explain in this book both how economics has changed environmental understanding and how the study of climate change has modified the economy.

Chapter 3: Building Scenarios: How Climate Change Became an Economic Question

Michel Armatte

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


Michel Armatte INTRODUCTION My position in the debate on climate change is not principally that of an economist involved in model-based research on the human forcing of climate change, the scale of its impact on societies or the optimization of policies of mitigation, adaptation and innovation. I am interested in such research from the reflexive viewpoint of the history and sociology of sciences, or of science studies in general knowledge. Such a position has the disadvantage of not making direct statements about climate change, but has the advantage of not being restricted to any particular one of the scientific communities acting in this domain. My reflection on these subjects started with questions about modelling and its origins in the different traditions of meteorologists and economists (Armatte and Dahan Dalmedico, 2004). Questions arose about limited growth in the 1970s,1 challenging models of the climate system (in the tradition of models of atmospheric circulation and its coupling with oceans and vegetation) and pathways of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their impact in integrated assessment models (IAMs), which help to refine cost–benefit calculations for policies of mitigation. I then became more interested in the complementary approach of scenarios, the roots of which can be traced back to the ‘prospective method’ of Cold War think-tanks. For France, the approach began with the pioneering work of Gaston Berger and Bertrand de Jouvenel, moving on to the indicative planning of the Commissariat au Plan, the Délégation à l’aménagement du territoire et à l’action...

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