In The Field

Climate war game: The binding emissions curve…

1:22 p.m.

Lunch has been served (lasagne, ravioli and stuffed chicken courtesy of Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef behind the Newseum’s in-house restaurant), and the various country teams are busy working out their negotiating positions. No negotiations have been initiated yet, according to the control team, which handles questions of all sorts and effectively represents the rest of the world in case Brazil, Russia or any other country is invoked.

For the most part things are quiet, but Andrew Jones and Lori Siegel are frantically tweaking an emissions model in response to a technical question from the US team: Assuming that the developing world meets its commitment to reduce emissions intensity by some 20 percent by 2020, what would the United States need to do if it wanted to take a leadership role and begin to drive global emissions down on its own? The question is a big one, given that developing nations have no commitment beyond 2020, and the 80-percent reduction in global emissions in the 2012 agreement is an “aspirational goal” with no legal or regulatory teeth. This would also go a long way toward explaining why the targets aren’t being met.

Jones and Siegel have been working on the problem for 23 minutes so far, and hope to have an answer soon. For his part, Jones is impressed with the question because it focuses on what can be done today as opposed to what needs to be done several decades from now.

“If you are driving from New York to San Francisco, don’t start out talking about where you are going to park in San Francisco,” he says. “Talk about how the hell you are going to get out of Manhattan.”

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