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Working Paper: Global Climate Control: Is There a Better Strategy Than Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Paper Number: 2006-04

Document Date: 09/2006

Author(s): Alan Carlin

Subject Area(s): Climate Change; Environmental Policy; Benefit-Cost Analysis

Keywords: global warming control; global climate change control; cost-benefit analysis; cost-effectiveness analysis

Abstract: Many environmentalists and some developed nations appear to have concluded that there is one climate change problem, global warming, and that there is only one solution to it, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, usually through the Kyoto Protocol. This paper argues instead that there are actually four major inter-related problems and concludes that several different approaches, including engineered climate selection, would be required to solve all of them. Although some measures can address certain climate change problems, none can address all of them. The paper first reviews the four major climate change problems, analyses whether the most prominent of the greenhouse gas control approaches (the Kyoto Protocol) is likely to be either effective or efficient in solving them, and then analyses both management and technological alternatives to this approach.

The paper concludes that the most efficient and effective approach would be to actively pursue both engineered climate selection approaches involving radiative forcing using stratospheric particles optimized for this purpose as well as a new effort to reduce ocean acidification, with immediate priority given to the former in order to solve all the non-ocean acidification problems quickly while the more difficult, much slower, and much more costly effort to reduce ocean acidification is analyzed and carried out. This two-fold approach could be used to rapidly reduce the risks from adverse feedback/tipping point problems from global warming and from global cooling from major volcanic eruptions, and to rapidly stabilize average global temperatures at any desired level. This should also allow a little time for a new effort to better understand ocean acidification and design and carry out a careful program to reduce it directly, or possibly to decrease the carbon dioxide levels themselves to the extent that this is the most effective and lowest cost approach. If the latter, this should result in the lowest possible costs of carbon dioxide control by stretching out the period in which they would be made given the sensitivity of the costs of carbon dioxide emissions reductions to the rapidity with which they occur.

Published: Carlin, Alan. 2006-07. "Global Climate Control: Is There a Better Strategy Than Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions?" University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Responses to Global Warming: The Law, Economics, and Science of Climate Change 155: 1401-1497.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

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