Mitigating Strategies for CO2 Problems

Lave LB (1981). Mitigating Strategies for CO2 Problems. IIASA Collaborative Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: CP-81-014

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Abstract

Vast uncertainties surround our ability to predict the physical and social effects of increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere during the next century; fossil fuel combustion rates will change, predicting the effects of carbon &oxide on climate is difficult, and predicting the resulting social reactions to these changes is essentially impossible. Furthermore, time must elapse before there is convincing proof of the expected amount of climatic change, before people perceive the magnitude of the problem and accept its existence, before we can act to abate emissions, and before new capital can be put into place. In addition, it will be extraordinarily difficult to convince all nations to abate carbon dioxide, .especially since some will gain from climatic changes. Thus, we must focus on adaptation to future climatic change, as it is a more feasible social response than reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to prevent change.

Unfortunately, the effects of carbon dioxide are likely to be insidious and difficult to connect to climate change. Myriad effects, both good and bad, are unlikely to be recognized as caused by carbon dioxide.

Conscious adaptation involves explicit decisions or compulsion such as convincing people to change their behavior or punishing antisocial behavior through laws or fines. Unfortunately, such actions cannot be tailored to achieve precise objectives; they are blunt tools that should be used only for important goals and then sparingly. Unconscious adaptation takes place through behavioral changes induced by the market place or social institutions. These mechanisms can be swift and powerful, but are difficult to manipulate.

Monitoring climatic change and informing important groups of the current state of knowledge on carbon dioxide induced climatic changes can help to speed adaptation, as can contingency planning and development of nonfossil fuel technologies. More important are plans that would set unconscious adaptation into motion, such as plans to disseminate information on the problem and on behavior which will help individuals or firms.

Of greatest importance is having a society that can quickly perceive and adapt to the new regime. This means a strong economy with high scientific and engineering capabilities, a well educated population, and a more flexible, resilient capital stock. These social and economics characteristics are desirable from many points of view unrelated to carbon dioxide. Thus, carbon dioxide can serve as a catalyst in promoting policies that are justified for a host of reasons.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Collaborative Paper)
Research Programs: Resources and Environment Area (REN)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:50
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2016 17:11
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/1789

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