Insights into Economics and Politics of Copenhagen COP15 from Lectures @LSE

I don’t know which other school has a better array of public lectures than LSE–there are really great.

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference is a hot topic and it only gets hotter as the time of the summit approaches. So, I’ve decided to share some notes and thoughts from two lectures at LSE.

The Road to Copenhagen: a global deal on climate change. by Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

LSE will upload the podcast soon, but today let me to outline the key points.
Basically, Ed believes that the politicians have all the power to achieve success in Copenhagen. Still, he admits that challenge at hand is enormous–a consensus of such scale has never been reached in history. So, to accomplish this enormous task, he argues for a change from “the politics of now” to “the politics of common good,” with four attributes:

  1. Beyond immediate good
  2. Focus on consumers of future generations
  3. Self-interest as (still) powerful motivator
  4. Idealism

The main problem, he says, is that the Global Warming challenge is “marked by distance”:

  1. temporal distance: we need to act now, but the benefits will be felt decades after (how old will you be in 2050?)
  2. geographical distance: people are affected everywhere around the globe, but we need to control our actions domestically
  3. causal distance: who does what and what causes what? we can’t play the blame game here

This also sounds great, but how exactly to create this change in frameworks? Can we include future generations and distance regions into our comparison of pros and cons of our actions? I am very excited to see where this challenge will lead us.

Let’s look at some economics of the Copenhagen.

Climate Change: Are We Heading for a New Cold War? by Professor Graciela Chichilnisky.

She was one of the authors of Kyoto Protocol. Despite it’s failure, the Protocol was an important attempt to regulate carbon emissions through market solutions.

At the LSE lectures site you can listen to her podcast, so I’m not going to put all my notes here. What struck me most are two things: the gloom and the bright perspectives.

Gloom future. many have heard about the effect the Global Warming will soon have on the coastal states. But have you read heard the speech by the President of the Maldives? It’s titled “The Death of a Nation”–during this century the country will cease to exist.

Bright future. But, Professor Chichilinksy also presents another point. The costs of switching to low carbon infrastructure are $43 trillion (!). But an alternative that she proposes–Cap and Trade + Air Capture–will create a global $200 billion a year industry of sustainable energy and carbon capture! This would allow gradual
switching and would create significant economic benefits to all participants. Can we make money and save the world through this one?

Let me conclude with the words of an unknown MP whom Ed Miliband have quoted: “Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a nightmare’.”

We all need a dream to make cooperation of such scale possible. So, who wants to share a dream?

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