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Posted October 13, 2011
An Alternative View of Climate Change Policy - Worth a Read
A better subtitle for this book might have been "How Climate Scientists Can't Keep Their Mouths Shut." very little evidence in this text on climate change policy for any kind of "cover up" within the climate change science community.
The basic theme of The Climate Fix is that climate change policy actions should avoid the issue of a cause of that change and focus on global adaptation to change. Along the way, Pilke claims, such a policy would automatically lead to some decarbonization (doing fine on its own without government interference) of the world economy thereby mitigating some of the buildup in greenhouse gases. What greenhouse gases remain in the future, the world can deal with by sequestration technologies.
Pielke does a decent job of dealing with a number of climate change topics on the boundary between science and policy that are not necessarily treated in detail in other books:
. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are not the only potential forcing agent in climate change. Dealing with them alone while excluding other human factors in climate change may leave the world no better or even worse off.
. There is plenty enough political will when it comes to addressing climate change.
. Waiting around for certainty in climate change science theory is pointless and unnecessary - major global political actions have been taken for other global challenges without even as much support as climate change has garnered.
. The "iron law" of climate change - economics trump environment every time - dictates that any action taken to address climate change will fail unless it improves the global economy. A corollary to that claim is that economic progress is inexorably linked to increased energy use - any attempt to address climate change must go hand in hand with the improved and innovative technologies of non-fossil-fuel energy production.
The author devotes two chapters to quantitatively debunking plans for achieving national CO2 emission goals, cap and trade (he favors a carbon tax) and geo-engineering. However, when his analysis turns to GHG technology fixes, he gives short shrift to all but CO2-absorption technologies, while failing to provide any quantitative reasons why. In a similar vein, Pielke overstates his claim that ambiguity surrounding the very definition of climate change (GHG-induced vs anything) is the primary cause of the stalemate over international agreements on climate-change policy.
The Climate Fix reserves it most stringent (and often uncomfortably personal) barbs for what is claimed to be the IPCC's malfeasance with respect to the a climate-change-extreme-weather link. This tempest in a teapot ignores the IPCC's hedging on this issue - the theoretical/modeling foundation for expecting such a trend is sound, the hard data remain a bit fuzzy yet some signals seem to be emerging.
Pielke calls for what would be essentially a "Hail Mary" offence on climate change ignoring the claimed bias against adaptation in the current climate-change community and advocating economic development centered on innovative, carbon-free or -neutral innovation. Again, however, he fails to apply the same quantitative analyses to these adaptive strategies (in fact, he doesn't even define what they might be) that was applied to, for example, geo-engineering.
Richard R. Pardi, Environmental Science, William Paterson University
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