Probability and Cost Estimates for Climate Change

by Sam Peterson

As the scientific consensus regarding the existence of climate change has grown, two separate, research communities have delineated differences in experimentation and modeling of climate change costs. The “integrated assessment community” has extensively examined the influence of “technological and socio-economic uncertainties on low-carbon scenarios,” while the modeling community has focused on understanding the “geophysical response of the Earth system to emissions of greenhouse gases.” Rogelj et. al. (2013) unite these two seemingly mutually exclusive endeavors by generating “distributions of the costs associated with limiting transient global temperature increase to below specific values, [and] taking into account uncertainties in four factors: geophysical, technological, social and political.” The study concludes that political choices that delay mitigation have the largest effect on the cost–risk distribution, closely followed by geophysical uncertainties. Continue reading

Potential for Tariffs as Climate Change Mitigation: Legal and Economic Analysis

by Sam Peterson

There exist many approaches to solving the problem of climate change, which generally can be delineated in one of two categories: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptive policies include efforts to change human behavior to be compatible with the evolving global climate. Mitigation techniques result from more stringent policies. Both carbon dioxide emission caps and legislation against use of fossil fuels are environmental approaches to mitigation policy. There also exist economic mitigation policies which, by their nature, utilize market forces to dissuade continued use of products harmful to the environment. Cottier (2014) examined the effects imposition of tariffs might have on decreased use of environmentally unfriendly goods and services. They conclude, through use of elasticity measurements, that multilateral action would be effective for pursuing tariff policy, which would lead to an “average 1.4% net reduction in carbon-intensive imports from a 5% increase in tariffs.” The paper examines the World Trade Organization (WTO) legislation surrounding tariffs and concludes that countries can act unilaterally to increase tariffs or act as a group. Continue reading

Social norms and preferences towards climate change policies: A meta-analysis

by Sam Peterson

While climate change consensus has been growing in the last two decades, response to the alarming effects of it has not kept pace. There are various explanations for this societal inertia, including misinformation, lack of trust in government, and knowledge gaps (Norgaard 2009). Alló et. al. (2014) examined, by way of meta-analysis, preferences regarding climate change action based on factors incorporating social norms and temporal restrictions in different countries. The study assessed data from completed analyses regarding climate change action preferences and measured several dependent variables, including whether the study proposed mitigation or adaptation strategies, households’ willingness to pay (WTP), and forms of monetary support proposed by the included studies. Alló concludes that mitigation actions are preferred over adaptation actions, countries with long-term outlooks have higher WTP, and preferable policies encourage the prevention of disasters, like heat waves, as opposed to creation of and investment in greener technologies. Continue reading

Proximity to Coast Is Linked to Climate Change Belief

by Sam Peterson

Despite increasingly contrasting and polarizing environmental beliefs between major political parties in many developed countries, there has been diminishing speculation in recent years regarding the existence of climate change as a scientific consensus builds. Though politicians may argue the merits of recognizing climate change as an immediate problem, the individuals bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change are those in regions that are reliant on specific weather patterns and temperature limitations. To examine how belief in climate change within the populace of developed countries is affected, in 2013, Milfont et. al. analyzed the relationship between indvidual’s physical proximity to coastlines in New Zealand and their belief in climate change. They found that in a national probability sample of 5,815 New Zealanders, people living in closer proximity to shorelines exhibited greater belief in climate change and “greater support for government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions,” and found that the proximity effect “held when adjusting for height above sea level and regional poverty,” in addition to respondent’s sex, age, education, political orientation, and wealth. The authors conclude that proximity to coastlines directly correlates with ones belief in climate change, possibly the direct effects are more “concrete and local.” Continue reading

Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change

by Sam Peterson

A serious increase in the rate of climate change began almost two centuries ago with the inception of fossil fuel combustion, and global warming became a focal point in media coverage more than twenty years ago, yet no industrialized or developing nation has sufficiently reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), or adequately educated its populace to the dangers of rapidly fluctuating global temperatures. Norgaard examines worldwide response, or lack thereof, to climate change in a Development Economics background paper for the 2010 World Development Report for the World Bank and finds that citizens generally do care about climate change, but a systemic and systematic psychological routine of denial and widespread misinformation hinder the public response. Continue reading