Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why are environmental economists so wildly unpopular with the public?

If you want to know the answer to this interesting question read this post over at the new "energy collective" where John Whitehead presents his hypothesis.

Impressively, he manages to do this without reference to US college sports ;-)

His concluding paragraph, correctly in my opinion, hits the nail on the head.

Basically, the trouble is that most environmental economists are economists first and interested in the environment second (at least professionally). Environmental is the adjective that modifies economics. As such, we get grief from both sides of most environmental issues. Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

Environmental Economics? [Energy Collective]


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FT on Carbon Prices

Carbon is not immune from the vagaries of the free market capitalism.

If I was a ruthless investor I would been shorting the heck out of carbon for the last 6 months and making a tidy profit. It would be in poor taste though for an environmental economist to make lots of hard cash betting against the price of carbon.

However, the long term outlook is probably stronger than many now think. It could almost be time to put a couple of "long" bets on the price of carbon. The big unknown is regulation.

Carbon prices [FT - subscription required]

Idle factories, fewer fume-belching smokestacks. So it's no surprise prices of carbon emissions permits have plunged in line with prospects for the world economy. More surprising is their recent rally. In Europe, prices of permits that allow cement factories, power plants and other big polluters to spew greenhouse gases under the European Union's carbon cap-and- trade scheme have jumped 40 per cent from their mid-February nadir.

Over the same period, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of European stocks has shed about 7 per cent. Some perspective is required. In spite of their recent jump, at just under €12 per tonne, EU allowance prices remain near the all-time low of €8.20 reached last month - and well below the €30-per-tonne highs of last summer. Back then, forecasters were expecting only a mild economic slump. The outlook has darkened.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Does CO2 endanger public health?

In a news item that could change the face of the US climate change debate the EPA is claiming that CO2 endangers health.

EPA Raises Heat on Emissions Debate[Wall Street Journal]

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House a proposed finding that carbon dioxide is a danger to public health, a step that could trigger a clampdown on emissions of greenhouse gases across a wide swath of the economy.

If approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the endangerment finding could clear the way for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases believed to contribute to climate change. In effect, the government would treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The EPA submitted the proposed rule to the White House on Friday, according to federal records published Monday.

Such a finding would raise pressure on Congress to enact a system that caps greenhouse gases -- which trap the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere -- and creates a market for businesses to buy and sell the right to emit them, as President Barack Obama has proposed.

A White House representative said Monday that Mr. Obama's "strong preference is for Congress to pass energy security legislation that includes a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must review whether greenhouse-gas emissions pose a threat to public health or welfare, and this is simply the next step in what will be a long process that engages stakeholders and the public."

The administration has proposed a cap-and-trade system that could raise $646 billion by 2019 through government auctions of emission allowances. Environmentalists want the administration to act on climate change before December, ahead of talks aimed at forging a successor to the Koyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that commits many industrialized countries to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions.

* Carbon Caps Are the Best Policy

EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn declined to comment on the details of the endangerment proposal, saying it is "still [an] internal and deliberative" document. But in a move that indicated the potential scope of regulation, the agency earlier this month proposed a national system for reporting carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions by major emitters. The EPA has said about 13,000 facilities, accounting for about 85% to 90% of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S., would be covered under the proposal.

Industry officials say it will still take months, possibly even years, for the administration to finalize rules for regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

According to an internal document presented by the EPA to White House officials earlier this month, the EPA believes the health effects of elevated greenhouse-gas levels could cause "severe heat waves...with likely increases in mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, young and frail." The agency also said climate change caused by higher greenhouse-gas levels could result in more severe storms and more suffering related to "floods, storms, droughts and fires."

Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers warn that if the EPA moves forward on regulation of CO2 under the Clean Air Act -- instead of a measured legislative approach -- it could hobble the already weak economy.

Coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and domestic industries, such as energy-intensive paper, cement, fertilizer, steel, and glass manufacturers, worry that increased cost burdens imposed by climate-change laws will put them at a severe competitive disadvantage to their international peers that aren't bound by similar environmental rules.

Environmentalists have called for the endangerment finding, and say action by Congress or the Obama administration to curb greenhouse gases is necessary to halt the ill effects of climate change.


Trade and the environment in action

How does the environment impact on trade? Another article that justifies this blogs existence.

The US steel industry "would say that wouldn't they".

It is interesting to note that US steel claim that "greening" their industry adds to significantly higher production costs. Is this via pollution abatement operating costs (PAOC) and pollution abatement capital expenditure (PAVE). The distinction as all good economists would know is crucial.

The Chinese counter-argument is correct though. Hence why a political solution to climate change is a long way off.

U.S. Big Steel pushes for carbon fees on China [Reuters]

NEW YORK (Reuters) - China's steel industry should face fees on its exports into the United States if Washington adopts greenhouse gas cuts and Beijing does not, U.S. steel industry officials and advocates said.

As President Barack Obama begins to form plants to regulate greenhouse gases, U.S. steelmakers are nervous they will lose market share if rapidly developing steelmaking countries, like China and India, do not commit to similar emissions goals.

U.S. steelmakers say they have already invested far more in pollution control on pollutants like particulates and components of acid rain, sharply boosting production costs.

"Chinese steelmakers enjoy an unfair advantage in global trade due to the lack of enforcement of exceptionally weak pollution standards," Scott Paul, the executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told reporters in a teleconference.

Paul said Chinese steelmaking emits two to three times as much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as U.S. industry does. Also, U.S. steel production has fallen during the global recession, while China's has held mostly steady.

Terry Straub, a senior vice president at U.S. Steel Corp, said the industry hopes the U.S. Congress does not rush greenhouse gas legislation without considering how the rest of the world will cut emissions.

"Let's take the time to do this right and not do it in a hasty fashion and end up with a disaster on our hands," Straub said.

He suggested leveling the playing field by putting carbon fees on imports of steel to the United States from any country that does not regulate greenhouse gas regulations.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that if other countries do not impose a cost on carbon emissions once Washington does, the United States would be at a disadvantage. The tax idea on imports was just one proposal the Obama administration should evaluate, he said.

Xie Zhenhua, head of China's Climate Change and Coordinating Committee, during a visit to Washington last week rejected as protectionist the idea of tariffs on countries that do not place a price on carbon dioxide emissions.

Chinese climate officials have said countries that buy Chinese goods should be held responsible for the CO2 emitted by the factories that make them in any global plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

The debate comes as representatives from nearly 200 countries plan to meet in Copenhagen late this year in an attempt to agree a new global climate treaty. China recently surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of planet-warming gases.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, in part because big developing countries like China were not required to cut emissions.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Boy suspended for deliberate air pollution

It is Friday after all. All those that do not laugh when reading this story get extra marks.

Student, 15, Suspended For Passing Gas [Orlando ??]

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A Polk County teenage student has been suspended from school because he intentionally passed gas, according to school officials.

The Lakeland Ledger reported that 15-year-old Jonathon Locked Jr. was suspended from Bill Duncan Opportunity School under a school district rule against disruptive behavior.

School officials said the teen repeatedly passed gas to make other children laugh. They said the smell also made it difficult to breathe.

Locked's father said his son isn't perfect and they're appealing the suspension, saying the district went too far with its punishment.


USA: Growth more important than the environment

Not surprisingly, following the onslaught of the recession people soon forget about the planet and care just about their own well being.

I suspect that it is not just Americans who feel this way. Most of Europe, if not the world would probably report similar figures.

The recent gallop results are no surprise but still make for interesting reading. Clean air has always been a luxury good. The link gives you the nice graphs.

Americans: Economy Takes Precedence Over Environment [gallop]

PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time in Gallup's 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Gallup first asked Americans about this trade-off in 1984, at which time over 60% chose the environmental option. Support for the environment was particularly high in 1990-1991, and in the late 1990s and 2000, when the dot-com boom perhaps made economic growth more of a foregone conclusion.

The percentage of Americans choosing the environment slipped below 50% in 2003 and 2004, but was still higher than the percentage choosing the economy. Sentiments have moved up and down over the last several years, but this year, the percentage of Americans choosing the environment fell all the way to 42%, while the percentage choosing the economy jumped to 51%.

The reason for this shift in priorities almost certainly has to do with the current economic recession. The findings reflect many recent Gallup results showing how primary the economy is in Americans' minds, and help document the fact of life that in times of economic stress, the public can be persuaded to put off or ignore environmental concerns if need be in order to rejuvenate the economy.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

What does the saving of RAT island really teach us?

With a name like RAT ISLAND it was never going to take much to justify a blog post. ABC news do a good job of explaining the justification behind this "environmental experiment".

Scale up from Rat Island to the planet and tell me what it implies..... this is a 4 page good read.

Grand Quest to Rid Island of Rats [ABC news]

Centuries ago, Rat Island was believed to be a virtual paradise for seabirds -- a spongy redoubt for tufted puffins, whiskered auklets, and storm petrels. But then came the rats, which turned the fecund habitat into a near-dead zone. Now scientists are trying to return the uninhabited island to its original splendor – an experiment that environments believe could be a model for restoration but some critics say is a waste of money.


Blogs are dead - long live the blog

Why do people blog? It is a good question. Recent advice from Wired magazine rings true. Most importanly, blogs ARE so 2004 as the design of this blog instantly gives away.

There is something faintly amusing about blogs being "old tech" when most academics are just about able to make the transition from chalk to overheads let alone the ability to use powerpoint slides.

I agree with almost everything written below. It is hard to compete with the "professional blogs" with many contriubters such as Gristmill or Treehugger. This blog does not attempt to compete but the average "reader" has only so much blog eyeball time and blogs like "globalisation and the environment" are likely to be squeezed out :-(

Many academic blogs have come and gone whilst other cling stubbornly to existence (like this one). As I have just taken on a senior management role I suspect my postal frequency will also fall. :-(

Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004 [WIRED]

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you quit now, you're in good company. Notorious chatterbox Jason Calacanis made millions from his Weblogs network. But he flat-out retired his own blog in July. "Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it," he wrote in his final post.

Impersonal is correct: Scroll down Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and you'll find personal sites have been shoved aside by professional ones. Most are essentially online magazines: The Huffington Post. Engadget. TreeHugger. A stand-alone commentator can't keep up with a team of pro writers cranking out up to 30 posts a day.

At least the editors of NATURE are still fans of the "academic blog" and this fits with the ethos behind Globalisation and the Environment.

It's good to blog [NATURE]

More researchers should engage with the blogosphere, including authors of papers in press.

Is blogging a part of science, journalism or public discourse? In fact it may be all of these — an ambiguity that can sometimes leave scientists feeling uncertain about the rules of the game.

Imagine, for example, a case in which Nature's blog The Great Beyond highlights new scientific results presented at a conference on climate. That blog entry then stimulates an online debate, with climate sceptics interpreting the results their way, and others firing off rebuttals. Imagine also that the work is described in a paper that had been accepted, but not published, by Nature. The authors of the paper want to enter the fray, but feel inhibited from doing so because of the embargo imposed by Nature and many other journals on communication by authors to the media ahead of publication. And why was Nature blogging their work anyway, ahead of its publication?

This scenario highlights a need for clarification about Nature publications' procedures, and about how embargoes apply to blogs. It also highlights more generally the potential importance of scientists engaging in the blogosphere.

H/T: Direction not destination.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Monbiot's royal flush

As a poker player Monbiot has done a nice job. The fact that the Guardian newspaper supports him in his environmental rants is great.

Monbiot's royal flush: Cut out and keep climate change denier cards [Guardian]


Lungs of the earth to collapse?

Dire predictions about the future of the Amazon makes for grim reading.

What will the land be used for? How big will the feedback loops be? Now we are past the tipping point (imo) things could start unravelling rather quickly.

Does this mean we should "speed up" deforestation in the Amazon? If the trees are going to die anyway why not chop them down quick and use the wood for something useful as part of a managed decline thus leaving in place trees in the world that would not die as the climate warms. I suspect this idea would not go down well with the green lobby.

Amazon could shrink by 85% due to climate change, scientists say [Guardian]

Global warming will wreck attempts to save the Amazon rainforest, according to a devastating new study which predicts that one-third of its trees will be killed by even modest temperature rises.

The research, by some of Britain's leading experts on climate change, shows that even severe cuts in deforestation and carbon emissions will fail to save the emblematic South American jungle, the destruction of which has become a powerful symbol of human impact on the planet. Up to 85% of the forest could be lost if spiralling greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control, the experts said. But even under the most optimistic climate change scenarios, the destruction of large parts of the forest is "irreversible".

Vicky Pope, of the Met Office's Hadley Centre, which carried out the study, said: "The impacts of climate change on the Amazon are much worse than we thought. As temperatures rise quickly over the coming century the damage to the forest won't be obvious straight away, but we could be storing up trouble for the future."

Tim Lenton, a climate expert at the University of East Anglia, called the study, presented at a global warming conference in Copenhagen today , a "bombshell". He said: "When I was young I thought chopping down the trees would destroy the forest but now it seems that climate change will deliver the killer blow."

The study, which has been submitted to the journal Nature Geoscience, used computer models to investigate how the Amazon would respond to future temperature rises.

It found that a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels, widely considered the best case global warming scenario and the target for ambitious international plans to curb emissions, would still see 20-40% of the Amazon die off within 100 years. A 3C rise would see 75% of the forest destroyed by drought over the following century, while a 4C rise would kill 85%. "The forest as we know it would effectively be gone," Pope said.

Experts had previously predicted that global warming could cause significant "die-back" of the Amazon. The new research is the first to quantify the long-term effect.

Chris Jones, who led the research, told the conference: "A temperature rise of anything over 1C commits you to some future loss of Amazon forest. Even the commonly quoted 2C target already commits us to 20-40% loss. On any kind of pragmatic timescale, I think we should see loss of the Amazon forest as irreversible."

Peter Cox, professor of climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter, said the effects would be felt around the world. "Ecologically it would be a catastrophe and it would be taking a huge chance with our own climate. The tropics are drivers of the world's weather systems and killing the Amazon is likely to change them forever. We don't know exactly what would happen but we could expect more extreme weather." Massive Amazon loss would also amplify global warming "significantly" he said.

"Destroying the Amazon would also turn what is a significant carbon sink into a significant source."

Jones said the study showed that tree growth in high latitudes, such as Siberia, would increase, but would be unlikely to compensate for the carbon stocks lost from the Amazon. Even with drastic cuts in emissions in the next decade, scientists say that there will only be around a 50% chance of keeping global temperatures rises below 2C.

This best-case emissions scenario is based on emissions peaking in 2015 and quickly changing from an increase of 2-3% per year to a decrease of 3% per year. For every 10 years this action is delayed, the most likely temperature rise increases by 0.5C.

Environmental campaigners said they were alarmed by the predictions. "With a rise of over 2C you begin to see a large-scale change to savannah," said Beatrix Richards, head of forest policy and trade at WWF UK. "You also lose major ecosystem services, such as keeping carbon levels stable, providing indigenous people with goods and services, and balancing rainfall patterns globally from the US grain belt to as far away as Kazakhstan. A 4C [rise] is a nightmare scenario that would move us into uncharted territory."

"People have known about the links between climate and forests for some time, but the alarming thing now is the level of certainty because real world observations are feeding into the computer models," said Tony Juniper, an environmental campaigner and Green party candidate. "There really is no time for delay. Governments must cooperate to cut industrial emissions while at the same time halting deforestation, otherwise we'll have a mass extinction and a global warming catastrophe."

A separate study from the Met Office shows that, if temperatures do reach 2C, then there is a one-in-three chance they would stay that high for at least 100 years, whatever action was taken on carbon pollution.

The results were announced on the second day of a key climate science meeting in Copenhagen, which is intended to spur politicians into taking action to cut carbon pollution. It comes ahead of a UN summit in December, also in Copenhagen, where officials will try to agree a new global deal on climate to replace the Kyoto protocol. The results from the meeting will be published in the summer as a supplement to the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Positive feedback

Amazon dieback is one of the key positive feedbacks brought about by global warming. These are typically runaway processes in which global temperature rises lead to further releases of CO², which in turn brings about more global warming. In the Amazon this happens on a more localised scale but the result, increased forest death, also releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Experts predict that higher worldwide temperatures will reduce rainfall in the Amazon region, which will cause widespread local drought. With less water and tree growth, "homegrown" rainfall produced by the forest will reduce as well, as it depends on water passed into the atmosphere above the forests by the trees. The cycle continues, with even less rain causing more drought, and so on.

With no water, the root systems collapse and the trees fall over. The parched forest becomes tinderbox dry and more susceptible to fire, which can spread to destroy the still-healthy patches of forest.

Other positive feedback effects expected by scientists, are releases of carbon stored in frozen arctic ecosystems and an increase in the sun's energy absorbed by the planet as ice melts.


Vampire found in Italy

I am finding it a little tough to work out the link between vampires and the environment as an excuse to post this article but have failed.

So unfortunately this is just for my own interest and the fact that it is kinda cool. Some could argue that the current financial crisis was fueled by those in the city sucking the lifeblood out of the average man in the street.

"Vampire" Unearthed In Venice Plague Grave [Planet Earth]

ROME - Italian researchers believe they have found the remains of a female "vampire" in Venice, buried with a brick jammed between her jaws to prevent her feeding on victims of a plague which swept the city in the 16th century.

Matteo Borrini, an anthropologist from the University of Florence, said the discovery on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo in the Venice lagoon supported the medieval belief that vampires were behind the spread of plagues like the Black Death.

"This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire," Borrini told Reuters by telephone. "This helps ... authenticate how the myth of vampires was born."

The skeleton was unearthed in a mass grave from the Venetian plague of 1576 -- in which the artist Titian died -- on Lazzaretto Nuovo, which lies around three km (2 miles) northeast of Venice and was used as a sanitorium for plague sufferers.

The succession of plagues which ravaged Europe between 1300 and 1700 fostered the belief in vampires, mainly because the decomposition of corpses was not well understood, Borrini said.

Gravediggers reopening mass graves would sometimes come across bodies bloated by gas, with hair still growing, and blood seeping from their mouths and believe them to be still alive.

The shrouds used to cover the faces of the dead were often decayed by bacteria in the mouth, revealing the corpse's teeth, and vampires became known as "shroud-eaters."

According to medieval medical and religious texts, the "undead" were believed to spread pestilence in order to suck the remaining life from corpses until they acquired the strength to return to the streets again.

"To kill the vampire you had to remove the shroud from its mouth, which was its food like the milk of a child, and put something uneatable in there," said Borrini. "It's possible that other corpses have been found with bricks in their mouths, but this is the first time the ritual has been recognized."

While legends about blood-drinking ghouls date back thousands of years, the modern figure of the vampire was encapsulated in the Irish author Bram Stoker's 1897 novel "Dracula," based on 18th century eastern European folktales.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stern words from Stern

When the Stern review first came out he was pilloried for "scare mongering" and over selling the environment.

Now Stern says he got it wrong on the downside. I tend to agree with Stern on this one. The devastation will have a global reach.

Global warming 'will be worse than expected' warns Stern [Guardian]

Politicians have failed to take on board the severe consequences of failing to cut world carbon emissions, Nicholas Stern, the economist who warned the government of the high cost of climate change, said today.

Stern told a meeting of climate change scientists in Copenhagen that the effects of global warming would be worse than he predicted in his seminal 2006 report on the economics of the problem. He said policy-makers needed to think more about the likely impact of severe temperature rises of 6C or more.

Speaking after a keynote speech at the conference, Stern said: "Do the politicians understand just how difficult it could be? Just how devastating 4, 5, 6 degrees centigrade would be? I think not yet. Looking back, the Stern review underestimated the risks and underestimated the damage from inaction."

His remarks echo concerns by other scientists at the meeting. Privately, many climate experts and officials say that the European target of limiting world temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels is no longer realistic.

Steven Sherwood, a climate researcher at Yale university, will tell the conference later today that warming of 4C or more this century looks "increasingly likely".

Bob Watson, a former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and chief scientist at the environment department, has already warned that governments need to prepare for a 4C rise.

The 2007 report of the IPCC said that average temperatures could rise by up to 6C this century if no action were taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists say this could be an underestimate, because world emissions have grown faster than expected.

According to the 2006 Stern report, a rise of 4C would put between seven million and 300 million more people at risk of coastal flooding each year, there would be a 30-50% reduction in water availability in southern Africa and the Mediterranean, agricultural yields would decline by 15%-35% in Africa, and 20%-50% of animal and plant species would face extinction. Yesterday, scientists announced at the conference that a 4C rise would lead to the loss of 85% of the Amazon rainforest.

A 5C rise would mean that major cities such as New York, London and Tokyo would be threatened by a rise in sea levels and increases in ocean acidity would severely disrupt marine ecosystems and fisheries. An increase of more than 5C — equivalent to the amount of warming that occurred between the last ice age and today — is, according to the Stern report, "likely to lead to major disruption and large-scale movement of population". It said the effects would be "catastrophic" and "far outside human experience".


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Financial Crisis and Climate Policy - conference

From the inbox.

It is good idea to bring together scientists from different areas to discuss the financial crisis and climate change. This is likely to be an interesting conference although I am not sure all bases are covered.

Financial Crisis and Climate Policy
A Science-Policy Debate

April 4, 2009
Ca' Foscari University - Venice, Italy

The European Climate Forum (ECF - and the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM - are pleased to announce the International Conference on “Financial Crisis and Climate Policy”, to be held on April 4th, 2009, at Ca' Foscari University (Mario Baratto Room), Venice, Italy. The conference has been organised in collaboration with the European Centre for Living Technology (ECLT -

"Europe must lead the world into a new, or maybe one should say, post-industrial revolution, the development of a low-carbon economy". This is the perspective offered by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso when the EU declared its ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy use, and improving energy efficiency. In summer 2007, this step enabled the G-8 summit of Heiligendamm to declare the aim to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, and at the end of the year, it kept the momentum in the global climate policy process at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali.

A year later, however, the biggest financial crisis since 1929 hit the world. That crisis made painfully clear how unsustainable the financial boom of the past decades had been. But the perspective of sustainable development has been largely absent in the haphazard way different European nations have tried to counter a global financial crisis that will shape the 21st century.

The possibility of this crisis had not been anticipated by the sophisticated computer models run by major central banks and leading institutions of economic research. And the scientists working on the risks of climate change and the options for climate policy had not taken such a possibility in consideration either.

It looks like both scientists and policy-makers have some homework to do. The science-policy debate organized by the European Climate Forum and the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei aims to identify the tasks that need to be tackled and the means needed to do so.

Four distinguished panelists will look at the problem from four different perspectives: climate research, economic research, business, and the study of complex systems. With that background, researchers and stakeholders from a variety of fields are invited to engage in an open discussion. Main findings of the debate will be fed into the EU conference “Sustainable Development: A Challenge for European Research” that will take place on May 26-28 in Brussels.


Saturday, April 4

9:00 Welcome
Prof. Klaus Hasselmann, Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

9:15 Science and Policy: Dialogue of the Deaf?
Prof. Antonio Navarra, Director of Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC), Bologna, Italy

9:45 What lessons from the financial crisis for climate policy?
Prof. Carlo Carraro, Director of the FEEM Sustainable Development Programme, University of Venice, CMCC, Venice, Italy

10:15 What Lessons from Climate Policy for the Financial Crisis?
Prof. Peter Hoeppe, Head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/ Corporate Climate Centre, Munich, Germany

10:45 Navigating Complexity: Financial Crisis and Climate Policy
Dr. John Finnigan, Director of the CSIRO Centre for Complex Systems Science, Canberra, Australia

11:15 Coffee break

11:30 Open Debate: Challenges for Research
Moderated by Prof. Carlo Jaeger, Chairman ECF

13:30 Lunch

This public debate follows a technical workshop on Agent-Based Modeling for Sustainable Development documented in the attached file. If you are interested in the workshop, please check the corresponding box on the registration form.

Aida Abdulah
European Climate Forum


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Roll up, roll up, CO2 credits going cheap, 3-5 Euros a tonne

Related to the previous plea by Stiglitz and Stern for a stable and strong carbon price comes news on what the market really thinks the price of carbon should be and who is buying.

Governments Keep Hunting For Cheap CO2 Credits [PlanetArk]

LONDON - The market for government-level emissions rights under the Kyoto Protocol is alive and well, mostly unfazed by the global economic downturn. Through the most opaque of the emissions trading schemes under the Kyoto climate change pact, nations comfortably below greenhouse gas targets can sell excess emissions rights to other countries in the form of credits called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs).

Critics call them "hot air", arguing that most were generated through restructuring in eastern Europe in the 1990s, when polluting industries in ex-communist countries were shutting anyway, rather than by new investment in clean energy.

Countries such as Austria and Japan are still hunting for these cheap AAU credits, despite the criticisms and the fact that United Nations clean energy project-based offsets, seen as having more environmental integrity, have also fallen in price.

"We started before the recession and we continue to negotiate with potential AAU sellers," said Sascha Eichberger of Kommunalkredit, which manages Austria's CO2 credit purchasing.

He said Austria plans to buy 5-10 million AAUs by 2012 but added that the dropping AAU price has prompted some countries to rethink sales. "The current price development is not what sellers expect to get for AAUs," he said.

The Czech Republic said earlier this month that it had again postponed an auction for 10 million AAUs as it needed to re-draw its sale strategy due to the drop in prices.

One broker told Reuters in January he had heard of AAU negotiations for as low as 3-5 euros a tonne (US$3.81-$6.36), or around half the value of the largest deals signed in 2008.

December AAU deals between seller Poland and buyers Ireland and the World Bank were reportedly done at around 10 euros a tonne, although no parties will confirm this.

Governments remain extremely guarded over AAU prices, despite the fact that the rights are bought with taxpayer money.

Eichberger would not comment on prices but said Austria is in talks with the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia and Hungary.

A Romanian government official told Reuters he expects Romania to sell 10 million AAUs in the first half of 2009, but also would not comment on current talks or their asking price.

Buyers insist that AAU deals are "greened", meaning their proceeds are earmarked for investment in clean energy or energy efficiency.

Eichberger said Austria had no plans to speak with countries lacking clear greening plans. "Russian and Ukrainian markets at the moment are not interesting for us," he said.

Hungary, which has already sold AAUs to Spain and Belgium, said it may now use revenues to ease its national budget deficit, analysts Point Carbon reported on Tuesday.




Critics argue that increased scrutiny surrounding the environmental integrity of the projects, built in countries like China and India, makes project-based offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), a better alternative than AAUs.

The option for governments to use either CERs or AAUs to meet Kyoto targets has caused a correlation in their prices.

Cheap CER prices, concerns over the integrity of AAUs and the lack of accountability and transparency over where proceeds are spent may see governments opt to buy CERs over AAUs.

But the economic downturn may see an erosion in rich nations' emissions and their subsequent emission offset demand.


Stiglitz and Stern on "Obama’s chance to lead the green recovery"

The FT reports on Obama’s chance to lead the green recovery. Stiglitz and Stern and to be commended for continuing to bang the climate drum in the face of the current financial crisis that is rapidly turning into a fully blown depression.

Green jobs are part of the solution but the effect should not be exaggerated.

The problem as the authors understand all too clearly is that the negative effects from climate change will occur is the relatively distant future. The financial crisis is happening now.

The article has some good environmental economics 101 material that is worth reading. The carbon price is what will let them down I am afraid. A strong price for carbon will be hard to achieve in the current recession.

Obama’s chance to lead the green recovery [FT]

We face two crises: a deep global financial crisis, caused by inadequate management of risk in the financial sector; and an even deeper climate crisis, the effects of which may seem more distant but will be determined by the actions we take now.

The scale of risk from climate change is altogether of a different and greater magnitude, as are the consequences of mismanaging or ignoring it. The US, in particular, has a window of opportunity to act on the financial crisis and, at the same time, lay the foundations for a new wave of growth based on the technologies for a low-carbon economy.

President Barack Obama, in his speech to Congress and budget last week, explained that we need to address both of these challenges, and outlined a broad approach. US leadership could generate a powerful response from across the world, making possible an agreement at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in December on a scale necessary to manage the risks involved.

We will eventually emerge from the financial crisis, although mistakes in management can affect its depth and duration. However, mistakes in managing the risks of the climate crisis may be irreversible. As noted in Making Globalization Work*, if we had a thousand planets we might continue with the reckless experiment on which we are embarked, and if the likely disaster occurred we could move on to another. Unfortunately we do not have that luxury: we have only one planet.

The financial crisis originated from the housing market bubble and was preceded by the dotcom boom. We cannot replace these with yet another bubble. The investments necessary to convert our society to a low-carbon economy – investments that can change the way we live and work – would drive growth over the next two or three decades. They would ensure that growth, with accompanying improvements in standards of living, was sustainable. The path that we have been on is not.

The economic crisis will leave the US and other economies greatly weakened and it will be imperative to increase efficiency. One area in which there is ample room for improvement is in the energy efficiency of businesses, consumers and the government.

According to a recent paper by the Peterson Institute, spending $10bn (€7.9bn, £7.1bn) to insulate US homes and federal buildings could create and sustain up to 100,000 jobs between 2009 and 2011, while saving the economy from $1.4bn to $3.1bn a year between 2012 and 2020.

This type of investment and those in green technology and infrastructure would not only provide a short-term stimulus but also improve the US competitive position. As the world moves to a low-carbon economy, there will be a competitive advantage for those who embrace these technologies.

Private investments are driven by market signals. These signals are distorted because we have been pricing one of the world’s scarcest resources – a “good” atmosphere; or the societal costs of emissions, which lead to a “bad” atmosphere – at zero. Not surprisingly, this has led to inefficient outcomes, with emissions levels too high and too little effort devoted to energy conservation and research.

Providing a strong, stable carbon price is the single policy action that is likely to have the biggest effect in improving economic efficiency and tackling the climate crisis. Clarity on policy and prices is all the more important now, with companies facing such uncertainty because of the financial crisis: the two risks compound each other, damping investment. We may not be able fully to resolve the risks of the financial crisis quickly; but we can take actions now that will markedly reduce uncertainties about future carbon policies and prices.

As creative entrepreneurs turn their minds to the challenges posed by a low-carbon economy, the excitement and drive of innovation is evident. This can be the spur to real growth that has so long been missing. The problems of global warming cannot be attacked without the participation of all countries. The world has been waiting for the US: there is now reason to believe that it is ready to lead.