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David Timmons

Fossil-fuel-led growth has been a major contributory factor to rapid rise in carbon emissions. Emissions of CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78% of the total GHG emissions increase from 1970 to 2010. Cutting down on use of fossil fuels and shifting to clean energy sources is therefore a major strategy for combating global warming. This chapter discusses the economic principles that should govern renewable energy choices. Renewable energy sources including biomass energy, water power, wind, solar, and geothermal energy have somewhat different characteristics than fossil fuels: they are capital-intensive with their costs dependent on interest rates, their costs are highly dependent on their scales and production sites, and many renewable energy sources are available only intermittently. Minimizing the total cost of providing renewable energy suggests that marginal costs of individual renewable energy sources be equal. In many areas, use of more expensive sources such as solar photovoltaic energy will thus make it economical to develop hydropower and wind power on sites that might not appear feasible currently. Similarly, the marginal cost of renewable energy suggests that additional energy conservation will be economical, and a large portion of the transition to renewable energy will likely be accomplished through energy conservation rather than energy production. To minimize total costs, equality of marginal costs must also hold at all points of time and from all points in space, suggesting possibilities for energy storage and long-distance energy transmission facilities. While the market would eventually accomplish a renewable energy transition as a result of rising fossil-fuel prices, public policy will likely be needed to make the renewable energy transition soon enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

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David Ciplet, J. Timmons Roberts and Mizan Khan

As currently configured, the United Nations’ greenhouse gas mitigation framework will allow temperature rise above what scientists predict will trigger catastrophic environmental events around the world, which are expected to impact upon vulnerable and poor populations most. This inadequate framework emerged at the negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, which laid the groundwork for future agreements in Durban in 2012 and Paris in 2015. How did we arrive at an entirely inequitable and scientifically inadequate climate regime, and what’s stopping us from changing course? We argue that the global political order has shifted in important ways since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol a dozen years prior. Building upon the scholarship of neo-Gramscian scholar Robert Cox we identify major relevant historical shifts in three main areas: global political economy, geopolitics and ecological conditions. The developments in each of these areas have structured the limits and possibilities for international action on climate change. Any efforts to constructively address the climate crisis will have to contend with the major tensions in each of these areas of world order.