Time for a rethink on climate change, say top environmental economists

Feb 27, 2012

Governments have done so little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they should consider investing into the Rand D of large scale geo-engineering projects and their governance, according to 26 of the world’s leading environmental economists.

Examples could include firing sulphates into the atmosphere, Iron fertilisation of the oceans or oceanic ‘heat pipes’.

A ten point consensus, published this month in a book edited by two top environmental economists at The University of Manchester, argues that among other things, policy makers should ‘think outside the box’ to tackle .

Also, argues the consensus, greenhouse emissions should be taxed or capped to help consumers, businesses and governments account for the social cost of their behaviour.

Professors Alistair Ulph and Robert Hahn - from the University’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) - say that despite ambitious international targets to cut , little progress has actually been achieved.

Their book published by Oxford University Press is built around a University of Manchester conference honouring Nobel Prize winning economist Professor Tom Schelling in 2010.

“Emissions from one country may be a small part of the global emissions that drive climate change - which means there is an incentive for such countries not to act to cut emissions unless others do so,” said Professor Ulph, who is Director of the SCI.

“Moreover, the impact of global warming and the costs of reducing emissions vary across regions and time periods, so a divergence of interests pits country against country and generation against generation.”

Game theory reveals a series of virtually intractable problems  - such as tipping point analysis and the prisoners’ dilemma - which stand in the way of international agreement between nations. Most game theorists – such as Schelling-  are pessimistic about ever getting agreement on climate change.

“Because the prospect of international action is so slim, Schelling argues that policymakers need to think outside the box,” he said.

“More research and development is needed in technologies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and for managing solar radiation, even though these technologies may not be deployed for decades.”

Professor Hahn said: “Many countries already have explicit or implicit prices on greenhouse .

“But the large revenue streams that result should be used productively by reducing other taxes that distort economic activity.

“If we do fail to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming or find alternative strategies, then the damage could be catastrophic.”

Ten key points which form the Schelling consensus:

1. Economic analysis suggests that Governments have underinvested in mitigation relative to the level of effort that would be economically efficient.
2. All serious options for addressing climate change should be considered – including controlling greenhouse gas emissions, removing CO2 ,adaption and geo-engineering.
3. International agreements are needed, but need not include all countries or sectors.
4. New approaches that pass a benefit-cost test should be tried, but not necessarily in a single comprehensive agreement; e.g. individual greenhouse gasses could be handled in separate agreements.
5. Putting a price on greenhouse emissions by taxing them or using emission caps would be desirable because it would help consumers, businesses and governments to account for the full social cost of their behaviours. Many countries already have explicit implicit prices on reductions. The large revenue streams that result should be used productively by reducing other taxes that distort economic activity.
6. Climate stabilization requires that net CO2 emissions decline significantly. Achieving that goal will require a technical revolution. This is one reason why R and D in energy technologies should be a priority, though policies should also ensure innovative efforts are socially productive.
7. R and D is also needed in technologies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and for managing solar radiation, even though these technologies may not be deployed for decades. Efforts should begin now to develop governance arrangements for the appropriate use of geo-engineering.
8. Businesses need appropriate incentives for innovation, investment and behavioural change.
9. The incentives for consumers, firms and governments to adapt are strong because they will bear most of the costs if they do not. The poorest countries will need assistance from industrialised countries, which may be best targeted to more economic development.
10. There are great uncertainties about how best to manage the various components of the climate change problem. These uncertainties should be acknowledged by adopting a flexible approach to decision making that responds to new knowledge about climate change. Uncertainty should not be used as a rationale for inaction.

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Short bloke
1.4 / 5 (10) Feb 27, 2012
I am surprised that there are people still risking their reputation by referring to a tipping point with regards to runaway global warming. It is the height of physical ignorance to equate the long term future of the climate potential of the Earth to that of the present conditions on Venus. Less than one degree increase warming of the oceans causes an evaporation rate and cloud cover that causes worldwide floods. Two degrees would send the oceans berserk. There are risks with an increase in warming; even so, runaway increasing heating is not one of them.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (10) Feb 27, 2012
Sooo...we solve the pollution of the Earth by polluting it some more? Sounds sensible. Oh wait...no...it doesn't.

I think that geoengineering is way too risky a venture. If it goes wrong (as any moncausalistic endeavour always will) we have no way of cleaning it up. I hardly think all nations will agree to do it (and I don't see how this could be undertaken by just a bunch of nations or -even worse- as unilateral action by one nation without causing massive conflict)

Add to that that I don't really trust an institute (SCI) that was set up by a supermarket chain (TESCO)...
rubberman
3.9 / 5 (7) Feb 27, 2012
Sooo...we solve the pollution of the Earth by polluting it some more? Sounds sensible. Oh wait...no...it doesn't.

I think that geoengineering is way too risky a venture. If it goes wrong (as any moncausalistic endeavour always will) we have no way of cleaning it up. I hardly think all nations will agree to do it (and I don't see how this could be undertaken by just a bunch of nations or -even worse- as unilateral action by one nation without causing massive conflict)

Add to that that I don't really trust an institute (SCI) that was set up by a supermarket chain (TESCO)...


All valid points. Also capped off by the fact that these are environmental economists, not climate scientists, or even scientists of any kind for that matter.

Short bloke, did you read an article about tipping points and venus and then comment here by accident? Neither are mentioned in this article although I guess they could be implied by the phrase "the damage could be catastrophic".
ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 27, 2012
"...COULD be..."
What are the probabilities?
If an asteroid hits the earth damage WOULD be catastrophic. What is being done to prevent such a well document event?
ormondotvos
5 / 5 (7) Feb 27, 2012
Everybody's an expert if they have a keyboard and no peer review...
Short bloke
2.1 / 5 (9) Feb 27, 2012
Rubberman. Yes, at the outset of the debate on global warming I read many articles on global warming mainly referring to the need to stop the Earth from becoming like Venus, and my thoughts then were identical to that expressed in the comment you referred to.
The tipping point was mentioned in the above article and was dominant in all earlier debates. Following being forced by being confronted by the realities of physics, the Venus concept was abandoned in favour of the realities like floods, acidification of oceans etceteras.
With regards to major disruptions to human society to respond to postulations of gloom and doom, then such postulations need to be backed by physical facts and not perhaps or maybe.

Voleure
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 28, 2012
I doubt you will find a peer reviewed scientific article that there is a threat of a runaway Venus scenario. Real climate org did an interesting study on worst case release of methane clathrates and even that did not lead to a runaway effect just extra forcing.
These recommendations outlined in this article are from economists who are perhaps veterans on the difficulties of obtaining international cooperation even if their scientific credentials in this area are lacking.
My personal feeling is cooperation on the scale needed to correct the emissions will only come with a literal gun to the combined heads of our leaders. Likely far too late to avert the worst warming effects. Some of the points seem pragmatic in that light. I don't think they, or anyone with any sense, thinks Geo-engineering is a solution. Still spending on research along the most promising lines that emulate natural processes seems prudent.
rubberman
5 / 5 (5) Feb 28, 2012

The tipping point was mentioned in the above article and was dominant in all earlier debates. Following being forced by being confronted by the realities of physics, the Venus concept was abandoned in favour of the realities like floods, acidification of oceans etceteras.
With regards to major disruptions to human society to respond to postulations of gloom and doom, then such postulations need to be backed by physical facts and not perhaps or maybe.



Actually, The tipping point referred to above would have to be the irreversable melt of the greenland ice sheet. We've already surpassed the loss of permafrost tipping point with the "line" now 130KM north of where it was 50 years ago, and northern communities losing roads and buildings because of thaw.

http://www.reuter...20100217

Ice free arctic ocean = Albedo feedback, this one is also a forgone conclusion although the time frame is up for debate.
rubberman
5 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2012
The jury is also still out on the Methane clathrates mentioned by Voleure above. However, given what is presently going on...

http://e360.yale....an/3248/

And the combined affect of the two forcings I mentioned above feeding the third, I'd say greenland is in trouble...not in my childrens lifetime, but their kids will be reading some pretty scary headlines...and not living on the coast. This is based on observation of current physical facts...not perhaps or maybe.
Sadly I would also agree with Voleure that it is too late to avert the worst effects...but to continue on a "business as usual" path is just plain stupid....oh wait, we are.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2012
Venus does get twice the solar flux of the earth, but the sun has nothing to do with global warming?
rubberman
5 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2012
Venus does get twice the solar flux of the earth, but the sun has nothing to do with global warming?


Apparently it does on Venus.....
Howhot
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 28, 2012
Interesting posts. I'm in the Antialias_physorg camp, that some types of geoengineering could do more harm than good. For example putting iron into ocean to stimulate plankton growth, plankton that would absorb CO2 and release O2. While that might happen it could backfire and create so much plankton that it creates a film on the surface of ocean and blocks light to other life, killing off vast amounts of deep water plants.

Geoengineering needs a per-reviewed deep think before ideas are put into practice.

Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 28, 2012
"Venus does get twice the solar flux of the earth, but the sun has nothing to do with global warming?" - RyggTard

Who told you that the sun has nothing to do with Global Warming, Tard Boy?

Your lying friends at the Heartland Institute?

Certainly it wasn't the IPCC and the rest of the scientific community who estimate that an increase in solar output prior to 1990 could account for as much as 20% of the warming seen up to that date.

So what are you yammering about? Fool.
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2012
Venus does get twice the solar flux of the earth, but the sun has nothing to do with global warming?


That's just it.

Venus gets twice the solar flux of Earth, but it's temperature is 2.57 times the Earth in Kelvin....in spite of Venus having an Albedo 2 or 3 times higher than the Earth's albedo.

WHICH MEANS that even though Venus has twice the solar flux as Earth, only about the same amount of sunlight actually penetrates the atmosphere...yet the planet is 2.57 times the Earth temperature in Kelvin...

Are you getting this concept yet?

During the next century, the Earth's average Albedo is probably going to DROP by a point or more, due to loss of ice caps and snow packs, (especially relevant for Northern Hemisphere,) even as CO2 concentrations will double through human activity alone.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2012
The density (molecules/m3) of the Venusian atm is 66 times greater than that of Earth.
There is 64 times the number of molecules of CO2 on Venus than that on Earth.
So there is twice the solar energy on Venus compare with earth, but its temperature is less than 3 times greater than that of Earth?
Seems like CO2 does not really 'trap' that much heat with 64 times the amount of CO2 and a much more dense atm to retain that heat.
What does albedo have to do with the infrared absorption bands of CO2? There are still only a few well defined, narrow absorption bands for CO2 whether on Venus or Earth.
Given the AGW propaganda, Venus should be much warmer.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2012
CO2 doesn't trap a great deal of heat. That is why a doubling of CO2 on it's own would only increase the temperature of the earth's surface from 290'K to 291'K.

Feedbacks will increase that by another 2'K to 4'K.

That 6'K rise is enough to convert most of the U.S. to a barren desert, just like it was a few million years ago when the earth was 6'K warmer.

"Seems like CO2 does not really 'trap' that much heat with 64 times the amount of CO2 and a much more dense atm to retain that heat." - RyggTard
kochevnik
5 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2012
On a bright note, most of populated Utah may again become an inland sea.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2012
More Tard Boy non-logic from the king Rand Tard.

The idiot presumes the composition of Venus is the same as the earth, when in fact it is composed of 95 percent CO2.

Like all Libertarian scum, RyggTard just pulls factoids out of his ignorant ass.

"The density (molecules/m3) of the Venusian atm is 66 times greater than that of Earth.
There is 64 times the number of molecules of CO2 on Venus than that on Earth." - RyggTard
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2012
Heartland Institute (Libertarian) Employee Commits Perjury in New Zealand

http://hot-topic....roversy/

I have never encountered a Libertarian/Conservative who wasn't a scumbag liar.
Howhot
5 / 5 (6) Mar 05, 2012
Heartland Institute (Libertarian) Employee Commits Perjury in New Zealand


What a find. Really worth reading to see the reach that this scum of the earth group has on the climate debate. First there is NO DEBATE about climate change. It's happening and the conservative Heartland people pay others to deny climate change in-spite of overwhelming detailed scientific evidence. Amazing how low they will go.
Howhot
5 / 5 (4) Mar 05, 2012
The title of the Article here is;
Time for a rethink on climate change, say top environmental economists


And I have to agree with most of the points made in the "Schelling consensus". I'm not sure about #6. I'm not sure R&D will get us out of the 2100 environmental doomsday our children will have to survive.

Here is another environmental economists analysis that is worth a read; http://www.common.../02/29-4