Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A new direction for climate policy

A group of 14 authors from Asia, Europe and North America has just published a paper outlining a radically new approach for climate policy after the political failure in Copenhagen and the loss of credibility of climate science. I am one of the co-authors and you can read the paper here in full. This is the press release:


Rapid advance in addressing climate change is now possible for the first time in 15 years because global climate policy crashed in 2009, according to The Hartwell Paper, a new international report co-ordinated at LSE, to be published on Tuesday 11 May.

After the failure of the international climate policy meeting at Copenhagen last December, LSE Mackinder and the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, were commissioned by an international consortium of funders to chart a new way forward. 

The result of three months’ intensive work by a group of 14 authors from Asia, Europe and North America, The Hartwell Paper argues that a radical change of approach is required, given that the 1992 United Nations international climate policy framework has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in greenhouse gases. So the crash of 09 is a crisis that must not be wasted.

The paper explains how the global economy can be moved away from its dependence on fossil fuels in harmony with economic recovery and with public approval.  This decarbonisation is achieved as a by-product of pursuing more pragmatic and popular primary goals, including expanding energy access, energy security and, ultimately, making energy less expensive and more abundant. Unless fractured public trust is rebuilt, nothing can be done. So the key for completing the job is for policy makers to focus on the first steps, and not on outcome targets or timetables. Current policies fail because they are back to front, politically and technologically. They also misinterpret the core message that scientific research on climate issues gives to policy-makers.

Lead author LSE Professor Gwyn Prins said: ‘The raising up of human dignity is the central driver of the Hartwell Paper, replacing the preoccupation with human sinfulness that has failed and will continue to fail to deliver progress.’

The paper sets out access, sustainability and resilience goals. It also makes the case for vigorous and early action on non CO2 climate forcing agents like black carbon and tropospheric ozone. It then argues for rebuilding of public trust via successful improvements in energy efficiency and new energy technology innovation in decarbonised energy supply funded by a low hypothecated (dedicated) carbon tax.

The Hartwell Paper is being published simultaneously in Chinese, French, German, Italian and Japanese translations. The authors are from Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Japan and the USA.
Mike Hulme, one of the co-authors, has an excellent write-up on the BBC website today which you can read here.
Here is a link to the BBC Radio 4 programme, Costing the Earth

34 comments:

P Gosselin said...

It's certainly a vast improvement over current policy (if you can call it that). I wrote my comments at my blogsite.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Bill Hare from PIK does not like it:
"The paper's focus away from CO2 is misguided, short-sighted and probably wrong," said Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

"If you take action on black carbon and do not reduce CO2 emissions then you may end up with more warming in the long term," he told BBC News.

"And in fact, the Kyoto Protocol is one of the few things that have worked, in that it's given momentum to low-carbon energy development - we wouldn't have had the explosion in wind power without it."

He also questioned the fact that the Hartwell Paper initiative was co-funded by Keidenran Nippon, the Japanese industry lobby group that has regularly opposed the establishment of binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, instead promoting voluntary initiatives.

But Prof Hulme denied any link between the group's funding and its conclusions.

"The names of the co-authors suggest to me - and I am one of them so I can certainly speak for myself - individuals who resist all attempts to be cowed into adopting anyone else's viewpoint, whether from a paymaster, priest, president, princess or prophet," he said."
How very true.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10106362.stm

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Hare says two things that are wrong:

1. The meeting was not supported by Kiedenran Nippon

2. The paper is indeed about reducing CO2 (did he read it?)

Unfortunate that the BBC allowed these mischaracterizations in print.

Reiner Grundmann said...

It appears that Richard Black has changed the story now, so parts of the reference above are no longer visible.

Georg Hoffmann said...

My first question is about the alleged antagonism between "energy for everyone" as this report demands it at the beginning and things you find in the IPCC report.
Of course one does not find a sentence like "therefore we dont give access to electricity to 1.3 billion people" in the IPCC. But might be there is something like this in a more subtle form somewhere hidden in the documents. I havent read the IEA 450 scenario and had just a look into a press release describing the IEA 450 scenario.

"So, what does the 450 Scenario involve? First and foremost, heavy development and implementation of energy efficient technologies. According to the 450 Scenario, by 2030 energy efficiency will account for over half of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore the scenario states that by 2030, low-carbon energy technologies will produce 60% of global electricity: renewable technologies (37%); nuclear (18%) and energy plants fitted with carbon capture and storage technology (5%)."

Is anything of that actually in contradiction to your postulation? Is any of these numbers particularly in contradiction to "produce cheap energy for everyone"?

eduardo said...

Although I would agree with many of the thesis presented in the paper, I cannot avoid feeling a bit uneasy. I agree that the path towards emissions reductions so far has been very unsuccessful and its prospects are not very bright. Basically, this path has been to create an artificial floor on the price of carbon and try to increase this floor in the future. As this price floor has to be global, it will be very difficult to establish. The problem is indeed of a very different nature as the ozone hole or other former pollution problems.
The authors of the paper advocate the thesis that technological innovation bails us out with limited pain, but I doubt that this is really guaranteed. To provide everyone with cheap and clean energy is not that easy - if it were nature had already solved this problems long ago. Photosynthesis, for much of its marvelous functioning, is a quite ineffective mean of capturing solar energy, which at the Earth surface has a very low density. The point of using fossil fuels is that these in essence are concentrated solar energy. Innovation can be sometimes very surprising, but sometimes also painstakingly slow. car engines, for instance, are more efficient now, but basically they obey a design that is almost 100 years old. Strong demand for technical solutions I of seemingly easy problems is not guarantee of success - if it were there would not be any bald men for instance.
I am skeptical of pre-directed innovation. I rather think that breakthrough inventions appear by chance in unexpected fields. Perhaps I good idea would be just to increase research funding across the board and hope for sprouts somewhere

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Georg- The IEA 450 scenario leaves 1.3 billion "in the dark" see:

http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/11/does-this-math-add-up.html

Eduardo- There are no guarantees! Policy often leaves us uneasy, unfortunately.

Zajko said...

This seems timely and something I would definitely support. I see it becoming more reasonable as oil prices rise, though nations with plenty of energy reserves will be more reluctant to get behind it. Definitely look forward to seeing what impact it makes.
I'm also not totally convinced how productive focused R&D on new technologies would be, but it is a new approach towards a worthwhile goal, with some potentially huge payoffs.

The ongoing oil spill may actually draw some attention to the "actual cost" of oil, especially considering many of the future reserves yet to be exploited lie under the ocean. Plans to drill in the Arctic are suddenly in question, and asking oil companies to front the bill for a standby cleanup capacity up there would be an enormous cost.
Suddenly the Alberta tar sands don't look as bad of an option, but even here, in a few years opinion may become divided between the producers and consumers of energy.

Georg Hoffmann said...

Cant see that anything of this is their objective. Where exactly is the plan in "your" scenario that everyone has a fridge in 2030 if there isnt would you like it to be characterised as "The Hartwell grpoup refuses cold food to billions of Africans".

My feeling is even if the only objective of the entire planet would be "electricity for everyone and to hell with ghgases" I still have doubts that everyone will have actually electricity in 20 years from now.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

First I would like to mention the correct spelling of Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation, http://www.keidanren.or.jp ).

Perhaps the appropriate term in place of it in the erased part of the BBC article would be "zaikai", the informal community of big capitals in Japan. The organization of steel and automobile industries are parts of it, and Keidanren is probably the most representative organization of it.

Maybe the writer confused with the previous paper by an overlapping group of authors which included Akihiro Sawa, who (after leaving the University of Tokyo) is affiliated with the 21st Century Public Policy Institute which is a subsidary of Keidanren. He is not an author of the new paper.

I think that involvement of capitalists result in both strength and weakness of this paper.

The weakness of the paper I think is that it does not doubt desirability of economic growth (in the global sense, not just in poor countries). It seems to me that the authors are trapped in the economics of the fossil fuel epoch. But not only they are so trapped but also many of their adversaries, e.g. Stern Review.

I think that the limit of growth is so severe that rich countries need to begin shrinking their economies in order to be sustainable. Theoretically economic growth can be decoupled from growth of throughput of energy and material resources. But the economic growth in the 20th century has been closely related to utilization of energy resources, as demonstrated by Robert Ayres and Benjamin Warr in their
"The Economic Growth Engine".

(This comment is my personal opinion and not a piece of work as a scientist of physical climate.)

Reiner Grundmann said...

The NZZ today has this article: [Sorry, only in German, summary below]

"Das Scheitern von Kopenhagen als Chance. Forscherteam fordert eine Neuausrichtung der Klimapolitik

The NZZ asked Andreas Fischlin of the ETH Zürich to comment. This is what he has to say:

"Fischlin kann dieser Argumentation nur wenig abgewinnen. Es sei noch zu früh, das Kyoto-Protokoll zu beurteilen, das erst seit 2008 Wirkung zeige. Zudem sei es naiv zu glauben, man müsse sich nur vom Joch der Klimaverhandlungen befreien, und schon lösten sich die Probleme quasi von selbst. Er wirft den Autoren vor, eine etwas realitätsfremde Sicht der Dinge zu konstruieren, nur um sie dann widerlegen zu können. Im Übrigen gibt Fischlin Folgendes zu bedenken. Wenn man jetzt nochmals von vorne anfange, werfe man die gesamte Aufbauarbeit über Bord, die in den vergangenen 15 Jahren geleistet worden sei. Und niemand könne garantieren, dass man in 15 Jahren nicht wieder am gleichen Punkt stehe."

Fischlin is a biologist and coordinating lead author of the IPCC AR4. He says that:

1. it is too early to make a judgement about Kyoto which only shows its effects after 2008. How long should we wait before it is ok to dismiss it?
2. the Hartwell group believes that the problems would go away spontaneously if we stopped the international negotiation process. Did he read the paper?
3. There is no alternative and we have spent 15 years within the UNFCCC framework. We would be starting from scratch if we followed the advice of the Hartwell Paper.

We are aware of this sunk-cost-argument and address it in the paper. What Fischlin does not realize is that we will be even further behind if we keep waiting for Cancun, then for next summit, and then for the one after...

Even in the unlikely case that all UN nations would agree to ambitious targets, this would tell us very little about the real prospects of halting negative effects from global warming. After all, the signatories of Kyoto did not meet their own modest targets.

Werner Krauss said...

This sounds really interesting. It is a kind of relief to read another kind of language after the religious / scientific sin-and-curve mantra. What kind of concept is 'dignity'? Interesting, as is 'access to electricity' instead of restriction.
I think that the effort is worthwhile in any case. The solution (if there is one at all) of the problem is very much related to how we perceive the problem. There is no objective state of climate, there are only more or less realistic approaches to deal with it. There should be no restrictions for alternative discourses, and this for sure is a 'post-apocalyptical' and a 'post-skeptical' one.

P Gosselin said...

http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/the-hartwell-paper-is-it-really-a-new-way-forward/comment-page-1/#comment-42775

Reiner Grundmann said...

There is a good radio broadcast on the Hartwell Paper on Radio 4, Costing the Earth. You can listen to it for the next 7 days or so here
And The Economist has an article and some thoughtful comments here

Peter Heller said...

Great Work, Mr. Grundmann.

This ist an excellent piece of political analysis as well as an opportunity to redirect the debate to the real problems.

But I do not think, that this paper describes a new climate policy. The paper describes an approach which has been common before the rise of the apocalyptic scenarios. Therefore it is a concept for a policy without the climate issue at all.

My full comment here:

http://www.science-skeptical.de/blog/kehraus-der-klimapolitik-das-hartwell-papier/002562/

(in German)

Reiner Grundmann said...

Peter Heller:
thanks for the link to your blog which contains a fair summary of the Hartwell Paper. However, you minsunderstand its intention. It is not to develop a new policy (to solve a problem), it is about a reorientation of policy (to acknowledge that 'the problem' cannot be solved completely). We make some suggestions for such a task.

You engage with the central points of the Hartwell paper but perhaps not deep enough. Your faith in market efficiency is difficult to stomach, given the world's problems which are mainly results of unfettered market operations.
And you misunderstand our proposal for a small dedicated tax when pointing to existing green taxes. These are aimed at changing individual behaviour (from fossil to renewables use) but are mainly creating additional revenue for governments. Hence the cycnicism of parts of the population for such schemes.
The Hartwell Paper argues that behaviour cannot be changed radically by such taxation, that access to energy for the poor would not be secured and that the energy challenge of the future would not be met.
Thus we need to create a fund to stimulate radical technolocal innovations, for which money comes through a very small tax. This is necessary because business as usual (operation of free markets) will create externalities that are undesirable (increase poverty, increase climate risks, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Eduardo-

if it were nature had already solved this problems long ago. Photosynthesis, for much of its marvelous functioning, is a quite ineffective mean of capturing solar energy

Actually it is the most effective mechanism possible eg Engel et al 2007

Through photosynthesis, green plants and cyanobacteria are able to transfer sunlight energy to molecular reaction centers for conversion into chemical energy with nearly 100-percent efficiency. Speed is the key – the transfer of the solar energy takes place almost instantaneously so little energy is wasted as heat. How photosynthesis achieves this near instantaneous energy transfer is a long-standing mystery that may have finally been solved.
“We have obtained the first direct evidence that remarkably long-lived wavelike electronic quantum coherence plays an important part in energy transfer processes during photosynthesis,” said Graham Fleming, the principal investigator for the study. “This wavelike characteristic can explain the extreme efficiency of the energy transfer because it enables the system to simultaneously sample all the potential energy pathways and choose the most efficient one.”


Maksimovich

eduardo said...

@ Anonymous,

I think we are referring to two different measures of efficiency. The one you are referring to is the quantum-mechanical efficiency for photon capture, i.e. roughly speaking how many of the phtosynthetically active photons are indeed captured in the phtochemical reaction. But these active photons cover just a quite narrow range of the solar spectrum, basically two bands at 450 nm and 680 nm. Form the energy budget point of view, photosynthesis captures globally about 0.02 watts/m2 of energy, while the total down-welling solar energy reaching the Earths surface in the entire visible spectrum is about 180 watts/m2

P Gosselin said...

"Your faith in market efficiency is difficult to stomach, given the world's problems which are mainly results of unfettered market operations."

I'd say the problems are caused more by the "fettered" market operations, and not the unfettered ones. All the financial messes we have today are government created, by reckless spending.

Concerning climate change being a problem we cannot solve, I say if you want to find a problem that cannot be solved, then just imagine one that can't. And then imagine that you can't solve it. And there it is.

This is precisely what this whole climate issue is. A non-problem turned into a crisis by a bunch of cowards unwilling to face the responsibility of solving the real problems we have today.

If people think this opinion is too harsh, well then too bad. Much harsher is actually deserved.

The crisis we have today is not on the planet - rather it's in the weak minds of some people.

P Gosselin said...

"This is necessary because business as usual (operation of free markets) will create externalities that are undesirable (increase poverty, increase climate risks, etc.)"

Karl Marx could not have expressed this any better. You're gifted.

The free markets ought to just lay their tools down for a couple of days, and let those receiving tax revenues earn their own damn for a change. Governments just keep pissing it away, and create nothing (except for new scares and huge deficits).

Reiner Grundmann said...

P Gosselin

"Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen."

This is from Nicolas Stern who advocates carbon markets to remedy the situation.

I have yet to see an argument to show that climate change is the result of government intervention.

Tobias W said...

"This is necessary because business as usual (operation of free markets) will create externalities that are undesirable (increase poverty, increase climate risks, etc.)"

Reiner: I'll ignore the rest, but where on earth did you get the idea that "free markets ... increase poverty"? This I must say is challenging consensus, since basically every economist I've come across says it decreases poverty - that's why the worlds poor have luckily become a lot fewer in recent decades... If you really want this scheme to work in reality, as opposed to in theory, you had better make the market your prime concern.

Reiner Grundmann said...

I said markets create externalities -- economic consensus.
But even your tweaked quote could be defended: poverty is always relative so we are really talking about social inequality. Without state intervention social inequality will increase as a result of free markets. This is not disputed, what is disputed is if this is justified or not.

If we do not provide cheap energy the poor will be priced out of the market and not be able to access energy. Would you say it is their own fault?

eduardo said...

Two figures may put this matter in perspective. Germany will subsidize the production of solar electricity with about 10 billion eur in 2010. The corresponding figure for Spain was 6 billion eur in 2009 (Spain will now probably cut retroactively). Spain as a whole, public plus private spending in research and development is close to this number, about 8 billion eur per year. Germany spends in R&D roughly 55 billion per year

Tobias W said...

Reiner:

Thank's for your response. I would say that poverty and social inequality are two different things, at least when it comes to "hard" economics. Otherwise you get into sociological debates about "relative poverty", which I find to be rather spurious because it is then not a poverty based on numbers but instead on a "perceived" poverty in relation to those who are richer.

You say: "If we do not provide cheap energy the poor will be priced out of the market and not be able to access energy. Would you say it is their own fault?"

Certainly not! But I would challenge the notion that the market creates more expensive energy than a state regulated one. That was really my main point, if you can make the markets create the foundations for your scheme instead of the state it will make it easier to implement in reality. I haven't got links for this assertion but certainly there have been several assessments of just how expensive the windpower-scheme has been for countries like Spain, etc where it ahs been state controlled (I'm shure you know this a lot better then me anyway:-).

Reiner Grundmann said...

Tobias
agreed that there are many government schemes that do not make sense, and support for some renewables certainly falls in this category. The alternative is not to get the government out of regulation but to engage in a more efficient way. And we need to realize that at present we cannot change the energy/climate game through incentives that are behaviour changing. Making carbon massively more expensive will not help us achieve long term goals. It will lead to social exclusion and to subsidies for the middle classes. Yet still, we will not plug the energy gap thereby. At present, we do not have the energy technologies necessary to provid cheap energy for the world population in the coming decades. Fullstop. How can we create them?

I have not seen an economist's analysis that says 'leave it to the market' (well, those that do not care about equity might propose such schemes). What economists have proposed are carbon markets in the hope that higher carbon prices will somehow translate into lower carbon emissions.
The Hartwell paper proposes a small dedicated taxt to raise revenue for innovation in energy provision.

Tobias W said...

Reiner:

Thanks for your reply.

I just want to make clear that I like your scheme, because it is realistic. It can be implemented because it won't cost the enormous amounts of money that the earlier schemes have proposed (it will probably be a lot less then the energy tax that is already in play in Sweden). However will it truly be more effective in reality? That is the question at hand.

Ok, let's now say that you have implemented the tax and you have started to raise the money needed for "innovation in energy provision." How do you actually propose to spend the money? This is where I think that the problem arises. Just look at all the money that has been allocated by the Obama administration on "green energy and green jobs". Has that money actually created less CO2 in the atmosphere, let alone more jobs? I think not (but I can't prove that for shure offcourse). This is however where the trouble arises; is it not possible for you to create a market mechanism that will lead companies to create the sort of innovation that you're after? When the money is collected and spent by the government it tends to cost a lot and not provide the right incentives for the innovation it was supposed to create in the first place. That is where the free market can help. Or am I just being too laissez faire here:-)?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Tobias
I am afraid so.
The market will make decisions once powerful new and cheap forms of energy are available. Until then we need years, perhaps many years of research, development & demonstration. The R&D budget of fimrs is simply not big enough. Could one company have sent a manned spacecraft to the moon?

ghost said...

the newspaper Zeit had an interesting article about the "Energy revolution from below" in th USA. Instead of waiting for the end of the ideological battle in Washington, States and local and regional initiatives already started. They make local and state laws and use Obamas money as spark. There are a lot projects.

http://www.zeit.de/wissen/umwelt/2010-05/umwelt-oel-usa

Tobias W said...

Reiner:

No off course you are right, one company could not have sent a manned space craft to the moon. But I am still worried that a very large amount of money that is to be "handed" out by the government to their pet projects is not a particularly effective way of spending the money raised. But let's agree to disagree on this:-).

I am howeveer interested to hear what you have to say about "Shale gas" as is presented in the WSJ below:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303491304575187880596301668.html

So what do you say; Will shale gas rock the world?

Reiner Grundmann said...

I don't know about the prospects for shale gas. But surely would not like for governemnts to pick it as a winner. This is what the Hartwell paper has to say about the handing out of the funds for RD&D:

"Of course, we are also aware that suitable arrangements will then need to be
set up to manage the revenue from an hypothecated carbon tax and to direct
investment. There are innovative models to be studied. We do not offer the
examples as a complete blue-print. For example, we believe that experience
shows that national rather than global agents are more likely to be effective
in this field. China, India and the USA in particular are cool about
multilateral enterprises. That said, the approach of the Global Fund to Fight
AIDS, Malaria and TB is particularly relevant because it too was faced with a
need to promote “blue skies” research efficiently. The way that it avoided the
dilemma of ‘winners’ was by explicitly refusing to specify preferred research
models. Instead it invited applications from people with medical models for
new drugs, for new ideas in treatment regimes etc. The Fund spent time and
money on high-grade and intensive review processes through its Technical
Review Panels, worked with applicants and then invested in the successful
projects with successive grants, thereby funding success and discontinuing
failure."

Tobias W said...

Reiner:

Thanks for your time on this.

If the approach of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB, could actually be realised then I would be very happy with this arrangement. And this is coming from someone with a deep "sceptical" streak, particularly when it comes to all things "green". If you can persuade me, you can persuade anyone on the "right" side of the fence. It think your problem will actually be persuading the environmentalists, they have a very entrenched outlook on this issue - it's all or nothing for them...

Best of luck with your scheme!

Anonymous said...

Reiner Grundmann said... 21

"I have yet to see an argument to show that climate change is the result of government intervention".
May 15, 2010 1:08 PM

Actually, mr Grundmann, I have yet to see an argument to show that climate change is the result of human intervention. the government intervention is the use of scare tactics and waste of money, and actions to solve a non problem at the cost of not solving real problems.

Leonard Weinstein

gregor said...

Die Botschaft hör ich wohl, allein mir fehlt der Glaube;

i think those guys did a great job in creating the hartwell paper. in my opinion its a pretty well balanced view of current knowledge and unknowledge about the earth sstem as well as global political and economical future. but I fear - unfortunately - that most people like fischlin are way too much on their own kyoto - copenhagen -cancun highway (fast lane), so that they won't absolutely understand what is meant by prins et al.