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New, ‘relentlessly pragmatic’ approach to climate change needed?

Cross-posted from Daniel Cressey on The Great Beyond

hartwell cover.bmpThe collapse of UN-led international efforts to combat climate change means a new approach that is “politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic” is required, according to a new report.

The 14 authors of a new report on climate policy describe themselves as “an eclectic group of academics, analysts and energy policy advocates”. They say the Kyoto Protocol style approach “crashed” last year with the perceived failure of the Copenhagen meeting.

A new approach, focusing on human dignity, is required, they argue in their ‘Hartwell Paper’ – named after the house in Buckinghamshire where the authors convened in February.

“To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness –which has failed and will continue to fail,” write the authors, including Gwyn Prins, of the London School of Economics; Roger Pielke Jr, of the University of Colorado; and Hiroyuki Tezuka, who represented the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.

A new approach should focus on three objectives, says the paper, ensuring energy access for all, developing in a way that does not undermine Earth systems, and ensuring societies can withstand all climate vagaries, “whatever their cause may be”. The Hartwell group argues that the inclusive approach of previous attempts to reach a global climate consensus needs to be broken up, with forests, biodiversity, air quality and other issues put back into silos and made to “again stand on their own”.

Their paper also suggests that an almost exclusive focus on carbon dioxide is unwise, and there should be more action on other greenhouse agents, such as black carbon and tropospheric ozone.

Bill Hare, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told the BBC, he did not buy this. “The paper’s focus away from CO2 is misguided, short-sighted and probably wrong,” says Hare. “If you take action on black carbon and do not reduce CO2 emissions then you may end up with more warming in the long term.”

Hare also says that the Kyoto Protocol is “one of the few things that have worked” and he questions the Hartwell group’s acceptance of industry funding.

On his blog, Pielke Jr writes, “As we state up front, some funding for our meeting did indeed come from industry. Other funding came from foundations. We are appreciative to all of our funders for enabling the work to occur. I can assure you that no one told us what to say, and I’m pretty sure most participants were unaware of where all of the funding came from at the time of the meeting (I was).”


  1. Report this comment

    sailrick said:

    “Other funding came from foundations”

    Yeah right. Which foundations would that be? The Heartland Institute? AEI? TASSC?

  2. Report this comment

    Bishop Hill said:

    Isn’t it odd that you need to spend so much time on the funding of the Hartwell paper but don’t need to mention Bill Hare being an adviser to Greenpeace?

  3. Report this comment

    David B. Benson said:

    Black carbon is an easy fix which will help a tinsy bit; little more than a feedgood. CO2 is the harbinger of thigs to come.

  4. Report this comment

    Jesús Rosino said:

    A new approach should focus on three objectives, says the paper, ensuring energy access for all, developing in a way that does not undermine Earth systems, and ensuring societies can withstand all climate vagaries, “whatever their cause may be”

    I agree, and they forgot these two: no poverty in the world and peace for everyone. What a priceless new idea, isn’t it? 😉

  5. Report this comment

    Mark Everingham said:

    Surely it is relevant that the one critic you quote is an advisor to Greenpeace? Why are you selective about which side of the debate has its sources of funding targeted? Do you think it was relevant to the reports on the Oxburgh committee?

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    james greyson said:

    The Hartwell paper is confused. Doesn’t make up its mind between issues in silos made to “again stand on their own” and climate being “just one part of a larger complex of such conditions encompassing population, technology, wealth disparities, resource use, etc.” They advise “rebuilding fractured public trust” but propose a carbon tax which dreams that government can be trusted to legislate, oversee, collect the cash and spend it. Consequently their “relentlessly pragmatic” “partial management” ‘just try to cope’ approach is a giving-up strategy. Another suicide note for civilisation.

    Instead of shrinking our ambitions we could raise them to match the scale of the problems.

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    Tony Sidaway said:

    This is already ancient history. Back in February it was just plausible for a forward-thinking group of dissidents to predict the collapse of public trust in science, and forecast a need for approaches more pragmatic than those currently in progress. Now it’s May, the “Climategate” nonsense has failed to gain traction and no revolution in science has shown up to replace the strong inference that reductions of carbon dioxide emissions are necessary.

    In hindsight, one is almost tempted to ask “What possessed them to think that a radical rethink with a strong presumption against action on carbon dioxide stood any chance without a strong scientific basis?”

    But let’s be kind. Back in February the smart money was adopting a “wait and see” strategy while various investigations were in progress. Now the moment has passed, and we’re treated to items like this which, in context, can be seen as the remnants of post-Copenhagen opportunism.

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