|Title||Tools for analysis of non-marginal change|
|Keywords||climate change, public policy, greenhouse gas emissions, non-marginal analysis|
Climate change assessment involves the study of public policy choices over time horizons spanning many decades to centuries. These assessments require the development of scenarios of how the future may unfold, and how policy may impact these evolutionary paths. While it is impossible to develop reliable visions of our distant future, we can state with confidence that marginal changes in current trends in greenhouse gas emissions (and their drivers) are not likely to provide relief from potentially disastrous anthropogenic changes to the earth system. If anthropogenic climate change is judged to be a significant risk, we will need a regime change in the provision of energy for the earth's growing population and needs.
This realization has significant implications for the validity of our assessment tools. More often than not scenarios are constructed with subjective wishful-thinking presented as objective fact. Moreover, the foundations of our analysis of alternatives to current conditions are more often than not based on marginal change (e.g., micro-economics). Subjectivity is fine, but we need to be careful about coherence of these wishes. Marginal analyses are fine but we need to recognize the limitations of these for climate policy analysis.
I am exploring various approaches to characterization of path dependency and regime change (in values, technology...) so that we can begin to evaluate policy alternatives using a new class of analytical approaches more suited to long-term non-marginal issues.