Research Paper “Discursive Stability Meets Climate Instability: A Critical Exploration Of The Concept Of ‘Climate Stabilization’ In Contemporary Climate Policy” By Boykoff Et Al 2010

In response to the post

The Need For Precise Definitions In Climate Science – The Misuse Of The Terminology “Climate Change”

I was alerted to a paper on climate stabilization which adds significant insight into this subject. The paper is

Boykoff, M. T., D. Frame, and S. Randalls, 2010. Discursive stability meets climate instability: A critical exploration of the concept of ‘climate stabilization’ in contemporary climate policy, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 20, pp. 53-64.

The abstract reads [highlight added]

The goals and objectives of ‘climate stabilization’ feature heavily in contemporary environmental policy and in this paper we trace the factors that have contributed to the rise of this concept and the scientific ideas behind it. In particular, we explore how the stabilization-based discourse has become dominant through developments in climate science, environmental economics and policymaking. That this discourse is tethered to contemporary policy proposals is unsurprising; but that it has remained relatively free of critical scrutiny can be associated with fears of unsettling often-tenuous political processes taking place at multiple scales. Nonetheless, we posit that the fundamental premises behind stabilization targets are badly matched to the actual problem of the intergenerational management of climate change, scientifically and politically, and destined to fail. By extension, we argue that policy proposals for climate stabilization are problematic, infeasible, and hence impede more productive policy action on climate change. There are gains associated with an expansion and reconsideration of the range of possible policy framings of the problem, which are likely to help us to more capably and dynamically achieve goals of decarbonizing and modernizing the energy system, as well as diminishing anthropogenic contributions to climate change.

The conclusion reads

In this paper we have argued that the elegant attraction of ‘climate stabilization’ discourses has culminated in a focus on long term mitigation targets and a cost-effective climate policy that does not address broader political and ethical questions about the timescale, actors and costs involved. It seems appropriate, scientifically, historically and socially, to question this discursive hegemony and open up debates on more productive and effective framings of climate policy. This paper therefore argues that while the climate stabilization discourse (and associated ways of thinking/proposing/acting) has been valuable in drawing greater attention to human influences on the global climate, it is time to explicitly move to more productive ways of considering minimizing detrimental impacts from human contributions to climate change.

The perspective of “it is time to explicitly move to more productive ways of considering minimizing detrimental impacts from human contributions to climate change” fits with the view we express in our paper below, however, in my view, we  need to broaden the recommended viewpoint so that

More productive ways of considering minimizing detrimental impacts from human contributions to climate (and not just a change part), as well as from all other environmental and social threats.

In our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

we write in the abstract

We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.

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