Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist, has a nice graph showing the abatement costs of various different technology options. Over on the left hand side the cheapest – as usual – are various energy efficiency options that, like loft insulation, are cheaper than free, in that they save you money.
So why aren’t all these mitigation options already installed? In a word, because people aren’t always rational. Often, like me, they’re lazy and can’t be bothered with the hassle of having to stay home for a day to spend five hundred quid on having the loft done – when it will take years to recoup the cost of the investment.
Which begs the question: why have power companies still not managed to figure out a way of selling domestic heat and power as a service rather than as a commodity? I worked as a think tank research fellow on UK energy policy four years ago, and even then it seemed clear that this was where the debate needed to go.
Well, maybe things will finally move if Gordon Brown moves energy over to the Department of the Environment…June 25, 2007 at 5:02 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
We’re talking about leadership…
John Llewellyn, Senior Economic Policy Adviser for Lehman Brothers, makes the case for economic incentives. Exhortation, he says, won’t work.
If he’s right (and accepting that unchecked climate change will be disastrous), then I think it’s fair to say that the world is stuffed.
Because something has to come before incentives – the decision by a hundred or so leaders to apply those incentives, and the decision by a few billion voters to support their government’s actions.
That will require an awful lot of exhortation. And it’s also where we’re flying blind. more »June 25, 2007 at 2:47 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
From my old colleague Nick Mabey‘s presentation: a comparison of two competing narratives about future action.
The Stern Review is in no doubt that the cost benefit analysis is clear: we must act now! The damages will cost 5-25% of future GDP; future costs should be valued highly; the low carbon economy is pretty cheap to install.
Not a bit of it, says the IPCC. Future damages will only cost 5% of future GDP! And in any case, future costs are just a question of current preferences. And the low carbon economy is actually very expensive, too. The cost benefit analysis is clear: there is no optimum level for stabilisation!
In fact, Mabey argues, neither narrative is setting the debate. Instead, it’s the ‘energy security tribe’ who run the dominant discourse and are actually shaping energy markets, with their story of pipeline politics and security of supply. As for price signals through emissions trading or climate policy, right now that signal can’t even be heard by markets over the much louder noise of energy market fundamentals…June 25, 2007 at 2:21 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Global system, Influence and networks |
Quote of the day so far: Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Ambassador for Global Environment, who opines that:
“If [UNFCCC Conferences of Parties] were televised live, people would be aghast!”
Amen to that. And it raises the interesting question, so far not really explored at today’s conference: where will the real deal-making be done? Of course, we all agree that the deal will be signed at a UNFCCC summit; even President Bush said so, at Heiligendamm.
Yet even some environment ministers are increasingly wondering privately whether the real deal-making needs to be done in some other forum, probably at head of state level.
But where?June 25, 2007 at 2:12 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks |
Cleo Paskal switched focus from the problems that climate change will exacerbate to the unfamiliar problems it could cause.
What if a small, low lying country disappears, she asked? Does it continue to exist as a ghost nation? Can it hold onto its UN seat, perhaps with a government-in-exile to keep its name alive?
And what will happen to maritime borders as sea levels rise? Paskal expands in a recent paper:
If the Florida coastline retreats up towards the middle of the state, and Cuba stays more or less as it is, should the border be moved to reflect the new midpoint?
That would push the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico into Cuban territorial waters, she points out. And the Cubans would be able to drill for oil where Miami once was…June 25, 2007 at 12:42 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, North America |
Interesting differences of opinion about how serious a problem we’re facing…
Potted Bert Metz: To avoid dangerous climate change (a 2 degree increase in mean global temperature), we need to stabilise emissions by 2015 and get them back to current levels by 2040. Even if this is achieved, we’re still going to see very costly damage.
Potted Matthew Hulbert: Don’t expect a ‘seminal moment’ where climate change is definitively linked to conflict, but security is undoubtedly going to get worse. Climate change is an undoubted ‘threat multiplier’. Africa is most vulnerable, where the climate is already challenging, many people live close to the edge, and resilience is in short supply.
Potted Brahma Chellaney: Yeah it’s going to be bad, but the doomsayers are painting too black a picture. “Scaremongering makes it harder to come up with a realistic response.” The green bandwagon is already leading us down some dead ends. Biofuels, for instance, are a sop for the farm lobby, but will push food prices higher and harm the poor. Innovation and ingenuity are the answer. more »June 25, 2007 at 11:16 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
Our second speaker: Bert Metz, the co-chair of the mitigation working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Metz regaled us with various numbers about the affordability of climate mitigation before noting parenthetically that, um, the figures didn’t take into account the costs of damages.
An analysis showing that stabilising at lower greenhouse gas levels is more expensive, but that doesn’t make any assessment of the damages?
What you don’t usually get told in these kinds of presentations is why the damage costs have been left out. The short answer: because the mitigation ‘experts’ all remember what happened with IPCC’s second assessment report, back in 1995. It wasn’t pretty…June 25, 2007 at 9:48 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Economics and development |
Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup – Chief of the UK’s Defence Staff – opens the conference, pitching for a frontline role for the military in the response to climate change.
Key questions for military planners. Is the pace of climate change likely to be quicker than the world can respond to safely? In the most unstable parts of the world, will the consequences of climate change ‘pour petrol onto a burning fire’?
“Although hard power cannot solve climate change,” Stirrup argues, “military power may be needed to respond to the consequences.”June 25, 2007 at 8:47 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
So we’re off, with a promise from Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, that the conference is going to take us beyond the conventional wisdom on the economics of climate change. Our current energy systems reflect the subsidies, tax incentives and policies of the past. What will a low carbon economy cost? What impact will future policies have on these costs? Answers to these questions, we are told, are to come…June 25, 2007 at 8:19 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
Back from a brief radio silence (me on honeymoon, David doing public diplomacy stuff in Nigeria), we’re off today and tomorrow to Chatham House‘s two day conference on climate change, from which we’re going to be live blogging.
We’re also jointly doing the wrap-up speaking slot at the end, during which we will attempt to sum up 2 days and 45 speakers in seven and a half minutes each… As Woody Allen once said:
June 25, 2007 at 6:56 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
“I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”
It’s been many years coming, but there are signs that, at last, George Bush is getting serious about climate change:
June 25, 2007 at 6:13 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
In a nationally televised address reminiscent of President Kennedy’s historic 1961 speech pledging to put a man on the moon, President Bush responded to the global warming crisis Monday by calling for the construction of a giant national air conditioner by the year 2015.
“Climate change is real and it demands a real solution,” Bush said. “Therefore, I am committed to dedicating all of the technology, all of the brainpower, and all of the resources we need in order to keep America cool and comfortable well into the 21st century.”
Last week actually, but still top of the charts:
DER SPIEGEL: Mr President, former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
called you a ‘pure democrat’. Do you consider yourself such?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: (laughs) Am I a ‘pure democrat’? Of course I am,
absolutely. But do you know what the problem is? Not even a problem but
a real tragedy? The problem is that I’m all alone, the only one of my
kind in the whole wide world. Just look at what’s happening in North
America, it’s simply awful: torture, homeless people, Guantanamo, people
detained without trial and investigation. Just look at what’s happening
in Europe: harsh treatment of demonstrators, rubber bullets and tear gas
used first in one capital then in another, demonstrators killed on the
streets. That’s not even to mention the post-Soviet area. Only the guys
in Ukraine still gave hope, but they’ve completely discredited
themselves now and things are moving towards total tyranny there;
complete violation of the Constitution and the law and so on. There is
no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died.
- 0. I wrote 0 business plans for it. The plan is simple: Get a site launched in a few months, see if people like it, and sell ads and sponsorships (or not).
- 0. I pitched 0 venture capitalists to fund it. Life is simple when you can launch a company with a credit-card level debt.
- 7.5. 7.5 weeks went by from the time I registered the domain truemors.com to the site going live. Life is also good because of open source and Word Press.
- $4,500. The total software development cost was $4,500. The guys at Electric Pulp did the work. Honestly, I wasn’t a believer in remote teams trying to work together on version 1 of a product, but Electric Pulp changed my mind.
- $4,824.14. The total cost of the legal fees was $4,824.14. I could have used my uncle the divorce lawyer and saved a few bucks, but that would have been short sighted if Truemors ever becomes worth something.
- $399. I paid LogoWorks $399 to design the logo. Of course, this was before HP bought the company. Not sure what it would charge now.
- $1,115.05. I spent $1,115.05 registering domains. I could have used GoDaddy and done it a lot cheaper, but I was too stupid and lazy.
- 55. I registered 55 domains (for example, truemors.net, .de, .biz, truemours, etc, etc). I had no idea that one had to buy so many domains to truly “surround” the one you use.
- $12,107.09. In total, I spent $12,107.09 to launch Truemors. During the dotcom days, entrepreneurs had to raise $5 million to try stupid ideas. Now I’ve proven that you can do it for $12,107.09.
Over at Wired, Sharon Weinberger (a one-time public diplomacy temp in the US Embassy in Doha) reflects on the ever-growing walls around American embassies:
June 3, 2007 at 12:52 pm | More on Global system, Influence and networks |
Unlike the hulking security monstrosities that constitute the modern U.S. diplomatic presence abroad, the U.S. embassy in Doha is housed in a reasonably attractive building… But its notable feature, according to the Regional Security Officer, was “good setback.”
Setback refers to the amount of space between the outer perimeter and the main embassy building. The more the setback, the better protected the embassy is from a bomb on the street, or the more time security forces have to respond to an incident at the gate. For example, several U.S. embassies in Africa had very, very bad setback, as became evident from a briefing after the 1998 East Africa bombings. When asked what the concerns were prior to the bombing, a State Department official answered with one word: Setback. Much of the subsequent construction and security upgrades to U.S. embassies have concentrated on increasing setback…
American embassies are increasingly cut off from those very countries in which the U.S. is supposed to be fostering better relations, and worse, create caricatures of the detached diplomat more interested in tennis than work.
Adolescents who spend more time playing online strategy games than concentrating on their studies may be making better choices for the future than their parents believe.
Historian Niall Ferguson has been running scenarios about what might have been through Muzzy Lane’s Making History game with the help of his 13 year old son. And according to Clive Thompson, writing in Wired, the experience has forced him to rethink some of his favourite theories completely.
Now Ferguson, best known for Virtual History, a 1997 book based on asking ‘what if’ about historical events ranging from World War 2 to the English Civil War, is working with Muzzy Lane to design a new game. Due out in 2008 it will model modern, real-world conflicts, and allow players to tweak strategies and approaches to these problems.
According to Thompson:
“Ferguson discovered something that fans of war-strategy and civilization-building “god” games have realized for years: Games are a superb vehicle for thinking deeply about complex systems. After you’ve spent months pondering the intricacies of the weapons markets in Eve Online, or the mysteries of troop placement in Company of Heroes, you develop a Mandlebrotian appreciation of chaos dynamics — how a single change can take a stable situation and sent it spiraling all to hell, or vice versa”.May 22, 2007 at 2:35 pm | More on Off topic |