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More thoughts from the Weitzman event

Posted by Daniel Hall on April 4, 2008

That Marty Weitzman talk I attended last month not only featured Weitzman but also had some pretty amazing discussants including Richard Posner and Tom Schelling. There were plenty of juicy tidbits (besides the one I’ve already mentioned) and so I’ve gone through my notes and have tried to pull out a few of the highlights. There’s enough here that I’m putting it all below the fold…

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Posted in Climate Change, Economics, Geoengineering | 1 Comment »

Climate change, geoengineering, and other moral hazards

Posted by Daniel Hall on November 13, 2007

Here’s the video from an interesting TED talk by David Keith about geoengineering as a response to climate change. He obviously has mixed feelings about whether geoengineering should be used.

My conclusion is that it’s worth researching, if based on nothing more than our inability to slow emissions growth so far — note the statistic he gives about current emissions being above the worst-case projects from a decade ago — and the likelihood of enormous further growth if the globe’s poorest residents get access to reasonable levels of energy service in the coming decades (pointedly illustrated by Megan McArdle earlier today). Further, it seems to me that Keith is quite right that we should start to think about an international framework to address geoengineering deployment. It is likely to be so absurdly cheap that it is easy to imagine nations deploying such ‘fixes’ unilaterally without particular regard to impacts on others.

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The G word*

Posted by Daniel Hall on October 26, 2007

Ken Caldeira had an op-ed this week in the NYTimes that argued we should have more funding for geoengineering:

Seeding the stratosphere might not work perfectly. But it would be cheap and easy enough and is worth investigating.

This is not to say that we should give up trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ninety-nine percent of the $3 billion federal Climate Change Technology Program should still go toward developing climate-friendly energy systems. But 1 percent of that money could be put toward working out geoengineered climate fixes…

Think of it as an insurance policy, a backup plan for climate change.

I am in broad agreement with this thought. Particularly if the impacts from climate change turn out to be far worse than median projections, it will be useful to have a back-up plan to save our skin (if not much else).

RealClimate has a more skeptical — but extremely thoughtful — take on the issue. I urge you to read the whole thing, but want to highlight this:

The problem is that geoengineering a sunshade is being sold as insurance long before anybody has any idea whether it would work and what the unintended consequences would be. It’s not really insurance. It’s more like building a lifeboat, but a lifeboat based on a design that has never been used before which has to work more or less perfectly the first time the panicked passengers are loaded into it.

To my mind geoengineering is worth researching because of the option value it creates — we don’t have to deploy it, but we can if we need to. But as RC points out, there is a pretty tremendous value in not having to take that option in the first place.

*I wanted to call this post something else, but couldn’t stand the thought of how much (likely vile) spam I would receive.

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