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Friday, September 26, 2008

Recession and The Environment I – Climate Change -Root Causes and Solutions

THE AIM of this post:

I propose to develop the hypothesis that lack of vigour to combat climate change, especially by world leading US administration, is one root cause, if not the main root cause for the current economic-financial recession. I base this on the stabilising wedge methodology proposed by Pacala & Socolow and specifically in the excellent interview given by Pacala to IOP – Environmental Research. (If you have any comments on where the European Union stands in this I'd be more than pleased to hear)


I can’t do a better summary of the IOP* – Pacala** interview than that of Liz Kalaugher, editor of the relative new IOP environmentalresearchweb.(start 2007)
[ *IOP is the highly respected, Institute of Physics UK – **Pacala is with R. Socolow, the inventors of the Wedge Methodology-Tool to combate climate change by innovation from existing technology [Link] both are professors at Princeton Uni., He describes this himself in the interview as “The wedges paper, was never really intended as a practical scheme for deploying technology but rather as a way to get people to think about the problem so that those who were stalling with obfuscatory language would have to stop."] – [Mores the pity, One step forward two steps back? – JA.]

To Quote Liz: “Back in 2004, Stephen Pacala and Rob Socolow of Princeton University, US, came up with the concept of "stabilization wedges", a way of mixing and matching currently available technologies to cut carbon emissions by the amount needed to stabilize the climate. The paper was a reaction to what Pacala and Socolow saw as strategy to stall action on global warming by the Bush administration by claiming that the world lacked the technology to tackle it. While any one of today’s technologies alone is unable to meet the challenge, the pair showed that a portfolio of such solutions would be up to the job.”

Pacala describes how emissions and the planet have changed since publication of the wedges paper, the potential effects of a recession, how easy it might be to invent-[Innovate may be a better term] our way out of the problem, and his new work on calculating fair national emissions caps by assigning individual carbon allowances. (rationing-ration cards for carbon footprints –WWII wartime – post wartime technique-JA)

Four aggravating main developments since the fourth IPCC Report 2007-International Panel on Climate Change .

1. The first change since the IPCC report has to do with emissions growing too quickly.
2-3. the second and third have to do with carbon sinks being weaker than they were before.
4. Even if carbon sinks had not weaken, Ice sheet dynamics impose a tightening of the original 50y target. Now we need to reach a much more stringent one nearer 30y than we thought it was"
“There’s no good news in the mix and there’s plenty of bad news but the jury’s still out, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Pacala & Socolow’s motives:

-Stop the Bush Admin from stalling.
-Stop ‘the group of scientists that were writing grant proposals masquerading as energy assessments.” - “The call for blue sky research.”
-Stop the “unhealthy collusion between the scientific community" who believed that there was a serious problem and a political movement that didn’t”.
(NB. I seldom use itallics, perfering Straight,Upright characters.)

As a wise experienced scientist Pacala concludes that:
“It would be astonishing if it [CO2 The Wedge Methodology-Tool] weren’t false in many ways, but what we said was accurate at the time (2004 &Today).

Pacala et al - current road-map on Carbon Footprint

A. More on Stalling - the Stallers:

The China –US CO2 slanging match and All stallers put roughly is:

eg. China says “You [USA] already had your economic growth and now it’s our turn” and US points its finger at China and says it’s not fair to expect us to do that unilaterally when you’re the largest emitter in the world now. [cf. P. Senges simplified vicious circle concept using the Cold War Nuclear Arms race -You increase "its worth a bomb" -We increase... = Inflation -worth a bomb(?) fortunately without the big bang-Ultimate Crash, yet! -JA)

Pacala replies: “This rhetoric of fairness that reminds me a little bit of the former rhetoric of technological unreadiness. It’s just a gigantic stalling gambit.”

He provides several strong arguments in support of this :
“Concept of fairness that "they" are actually using here do not appear congruent with the concepts of fairness we use in our everyday lives.”

“Past emissions in the US do not necessarily have anything to do with the people there today, many are relatively new immigrants.”

“You receive the benefits of your western standard of wealth and you distribute the emissions costs to everyone in the world. The same is true of the Chinese person who has your income. It’s not that I have anything against China, but I don’t see why the wealthy in Shanghai ought to get a free ride.” [ Pacala does not mention the relative statistics, but the point is general.]
“Those dollars and the emissions that go with them have exactly the same robber baron roots as the money in your bank account. Money is promiscuous – it travels around the world.”

“You receive the benefits of your western standard of wealth and you distribute the emissions costs to everyone in the world.”

Pacala et al. are working, in his own words, on a “fancy-schmancy statistical thing;” effectively an “Analytical Accountancy Method –ie physically based” bottom-up (individual) Emissions Capping System aggregating national caps to international one all based on the individual etc. [ a sort of Rationing system to call a spade a spade].

He only hints at some basics since at the time of the interview 12 May 08 their work had not been published.

“You could have one number for the whole world, reducing it every year. Although I can’t tell you precisely what the answer is because the work is not yet published, I will tell you that it simultaneously passes the laugh test and offers sensible”.

“One hint is that the climate problem turns out to be almost entirely a problem of the wealthy – 50% of emissions are caused by the top 700 million emitters. And a substantial fraction of those people – on the order of a fifth – actually live in developing countries.”

"It’s got a nice little [read nasty?] feedback loop in it, if you grow faster economically and you have a whole bunch of rich people then your target comes down faster. If you grow slower and your people stay poor then you never hit the cap."

[It’s well known that the wrong way forward is to have a Russian style economic and industrial collapse thereby reducing emissions drastically – The "wise-cracks” call this “Schumpeter"[Link1] destructive creation-innovation process[Link2] or something ” – (you can’t go down any further so, if you live through it, the only way is up-rebuild. Not sure if that's what Pacala mean't. There are well-off-rich & stinking rich, & same on the poor man scale. I must re-read him - JA]

“I’ve got money now and I’m the one that’s spending it. I’m getting all the pleasure but I’m distributing all the pain” says Pacala. [Sounds about right, and I would suggest to the chaps in Princeton, if their jobs are not on the line, that they would do well to start not at the bottom but near the National leadership level to be credible all down the line – battle of the comms-(communication) aside! If their jobs are at risk it's time to call on me, confidentially.

See what I mean: Pacala quotes “If the US will just get out in front and act unilaterally, it seems to me that’s a major missing element that would cause everyone else who’s missing their Kyoto targets to buck up and start to deliver on their own commitments.”

My proposed conclusion

But US did not sign Kyoto, and push it forward - as in the famous SALT treaties on nuclear arms of which I am no expert-, and this has sent all the wrong messages. It could plausibly be argued that this is the root cause of the current financial crash and recession-JA.

cf. Pacala approach above and their abundant freely available online work.

Let me add: I urge you the source and comment -naturally praise is preferable, abuse tolerated, but Above-All all, information is necessary and will be shared unless otherwise requested. Fee free - Tighter emissions rationing is on the agenda and economic resession will not be tollerated - work that one out.

Source: Link

NB. As the fastest evolving current "Affairs" theme I have carried out a little more research and will share this with you in my next post.

2 commentaires:

PlanetThoughts said...

I am not clear from the article how you connected the reticence of the USA to act on climate and environment issues, with the overall world economic problems. It is probably there in your article, but it seems to have slipped by me if it is there.

James Alexander said...

It is indeed. Put simply the current "financial" crises is analogous to "The Tip of the Iceberg" - I/5 visible and melting 4/5 hidden The underlying causes are certainly economical and social.
Basically my post started as a fairly daring hypothesis following Pacala' opening _ he, as an insider, pin-points US Admin. for lacking proper leadership as well as dilettantism in some sectors he knows very well. But read too cf. some bk-up materials in:
"Recession and the Environment II". Some links to more "naming and shaming"? - I know it's against our religion, but More and more Economists and keen Observers see such ties.
NB. We no longer say in France:
"Au bas mot" (when all is said) we say: "Obama"