The Model UN and Climate Change Crowd Meet in Paris

A bunch of politicians, who all believe (they are not scientists so don't know how to refute) they need to control CO2, gather in Paris for a Model...

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It’s almost New Years, so time for a resolution. Yes, this is the year I will reduce my CO2 emissions.

A bunch of politicians, who all believe (they are not scientists so don’t know how to refute) they need to control CO2, gather in Paris for a Model UN like conference, to settle on a non-binding target that adversely effects all the economies of the world, but if you believe the science has no measurable impact on the climate.

This non-binding agreement has more than a few obvious flaws:

  1. A country could believe COP21 is meaningful, and waste time deluded that Paris agreement fixes the problem or moves us to the next plateau. But the politicians who agreed will, overtime, leave office, replaced with politicians perhaps uninterested in the agreement. Political will has a half-life no greater than one’s time in office.
  2. This agreement seeks to end the use of a cheaper energy solution. Net of externalities, fossil fuels perhaps are uneconomical, but externalities are by their definition outside of the economic decision making process. It is unclear that a non-binding, even a binding agreement, could over 40 years motivate a country to work counter to its near term economic interest.
  3. From a game theory standpoint, it makes sense to bluff. A country like China will gladly say it will comply, and then not. In their bluff, the willful believers implement constraints for a period giving China more advantage.
  4. If it is true that climate change is due to human effects the agreed to goals will not halt climate change (See Hansen).
  5. If climate change is real, it’s getting warmer, but not human driven, this plan directs resources to CO2 reduction when resources should be focused elsewhere, like building sea walls.
  6. If the climate is not getting warmer over the long term, this is a total waste of time.

I am sure the President and John Kerry will start ridiculing Congress for resisting the Paris agreement. While it is fun to criticize Congress, maybe we should start seeing Congress as a source of common sense, as messy as it is. If you can’t convince 50% of Congress maybe the plan is not so good.

So what is a good plan? There is really only one: Reduce the cost of clean below the cost of dirty. Legislation does not create innovation. Innovation delivers more than expected for less than expected. It’s a subject of a longer post, but in my opinion the only way to control CO2 emission is to internalize its cost benefit. Carbon trading, targets, agreements, etc do not internalize these costs because each can be changed through political will faster than the capital life cycle of energy infrastructure. Anyone who truly believes man is the major reasons for climate change should focus solely on reducing cost of clean energy.

A few thought questions:

  1. Can anyone identify a predicate worldwide non-binding agreement, that works against a countries economic interest, that achieved its desired long term goal?
  2. Since all these politicians are so hot on science, as if they got better than a C in any science course, can anyone name a game theory construct that would prove the context of this agreement achieves its goal?
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