Climate Policy ≠ Energy Policy [At Least It Shouldn’t!]

There continues to be confusion that controls on the emissions of CO2 and other human of greenhouse gases is the main response that is needed with respect to climate policy. That is, if we can control these emissions, we can prevent a dangerous intervention into the climate system.

Unfortunately, the climate system is not that simple. The need for a broader perspective was summarized in our paper

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

where we wrote

“If communities are to become more resilient to the entire spectrum of possible environmental and social variability and change [Vörösmarty et al., 2000], scientists must properly assess the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the choices made by modern society and anticipate the demands for resources several decades into the future.”

In 2008, I discussed the relationship of climate policy with energy policy which I reproduce below [from  Roger Pielke Sr.’s Perspective On Adaptation and Mitigation]

There is considerable discussion on the relative roles of adaption and mitigation with respect to the findings in the 2007 IPCC report (e.g., see).  Thus, I have concluded that it is worthwhile to specifically define my views on this subject, as I did on the related subject of the human role within the climate system; see

Roger A. Pielke Sr.’s Perspective On The Role Of Humans In Climate Change

First, it needs to be emphasized that climate and energy policies, while there are overlaps, are distinctly different issues. As reported on Climate Science (e.g. see and see), the 2007 IPCC approach, and other related reports, are actually energy policy proposals cloaked in the guise of climate change.

Following is a short summary of my view on climate and energy policies with respect to adaptation and mitigation:

  • Climate policy in the past has been, with the limited exception of deliberate weather modification (see), focused on adaptation. Dams, zoning so as to limit habitation in flood plains, etc are examples of this adaptation. 
  • For the coming decades, adaptation still needs to be the primary approach. As reported in the 2005 National Research Council report (Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties) the human influence on the climate system involves a diverse range of forcings. Thus, a focus on controlling the emissions of carbon dioxide by itself (i.e. mitigation) is an inadequate approach for an effective climate policy.
  • Energy policy, however, clearly must emphasize an active management policy since a vibrant economy and society requires energy. However, all energy sources are not the same in terms of how they affect the environment and their availability. For example, the dependence of the United States, Europe and other countries on oil from politically unstable regions of the world needs to be eliminated.
  • The current focus of the IPCC and others on climate change with their emphasis on global warming, as a guise to promote energy policy, therefore, is an erroneous and dishonest approach to communicate energy policy to policymakers and the public. The optimal energy policy requires expertise and assessments that involves a much broader community than the climate science profession.

The take home message is

“…..the 2007 IPCC approach, and other related reports, are actually energy policy proposals cloaked in the guise of climate change”.

The use of a narrow focus on climate (as represented by the emphasis on just one human climate forcing type – CO2 and few other greenhouse gases) as the vehicle to effect energy policy changes is very seriously flawed. [see also the post from yesterday  – http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/05/reality-check.html].

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