Much is being written about the failure of Rio+20. A must read is this article by George Monbiot and the reaction of Reiner Grundmann at Klimazwiebel.
Today I was reading a slightly older piece that could have been written just after Rio. I couldn’t have said it better, so I just post a selection below. The question for today is who wrote it and when?
Although apparently important information may be amassed—and there is now a vast literature on climate science and endless analyses of emissions reduction policy proposals—an inappropriate framing of the problem can lead science, followed by policy, down a blind alley. In fact, the sheer volume of knowledge production can be self-reinforcing to the point that reassessment of the starting assumptions becomes almost impossible to contemplate. The investment has been too great to feel able to discard it; and there is no incentive to do so because unlike economic theory, where it is rational to walk away from sunk costs, in politics, these represent political capital.
Although the rational thing to do in the face of a bad investment is to cut your losses, get out, and try something different, there are many obstacles that may prevent this, ranging from administrative inconvenience, to psychological and emotional barriers. It is difficult to abandon profound investments not just of capital, but also of effort and conviction, or of reputation and status. Therefore, as well as it being administratively inconvenient, politicians and diplomats who have invested much personal effort and conviction in creating the Kyoto regime may simply find it psychologically and emotionally impossible to walk away from an entrenched community of understanding and action to which they feel that they belong and that belongs to them. Meeting inside the special bubble and breathing the rarefied air of international summitry reinforces both sorts of feelings.
The Wrong Trousers: Radically Rethinking Climate Policy
van Gwyn Prins & Steve Rayner uit 2007.
Marcel, thanks to Google it seems the quote is from: http://www.scribd.com/doc/36370313/Prins-and-Rayner-2007 But what’s your point in quoting this? The fact that the powers that be are not willing to use their power for the benefit of all, and that those with less power have not organized well enough to overcome the powers that be, does not mean that the balance of power is not shifting. It seems to me that more people than before now recognize we will have to transform the global economy towards a more circular and steady-state type of economy. But of course the resistance of the… Lees verder »
Yeah google made this one really easy. Lennart, this long and very interesting essay explains why Kyoto was doomed to fail from the start. Kyoto was and is just the wrong approach for a wicked problem as climate change is. So when Prins writes “The investment has been too great to feel able to discard it; and there is no incentive to do so because unlike economic theory, where it is rational to walk away from sunk costs, in politics, these represent political capital.” he means that although climate diplomats in private would be willing to acknowledge that they are… Lees verder »
Godwin metaphores are always silly in this discussion. BTW: FDR waited until PH happened (he knew Japan’s attack was imminent) which was needed to turn US’ anti-war sentiments. The (on climate models based) promised climate disasters turned out to be baseless and had to be even worse in order to keep the people’s (and politician’s) attention.
History learns us that we never learn from history…
Marcel, I’ve not yet read the whole essay, but two main points seem to be: – international/global mitigation treaties are doomed to fail – national adaptation policies are to be preferred I strongly disagree with both, since they deny the core of the climate problem, as I see it. That core in my view is: – adaptation is inevitable, but will probably become too expensive or simply impossible without strong mitigation – strong mitigation can only be achieved by global cooperation to avoid free-riding – the responsibility to pay for both adaptation and mitigation lies primarily with the rich countries… Lees verder »
“economic theory, where it is rational to walk away from sunk costs”
Thanks for the laugh, Marcel.