Global Change and Sustainability Center Spring Seminar Seri

Location: University of Utah, 210 ASB

"The Danger of Mismatched Assumptions in Climate Policy"- Elizabeth Moyer

Formulating effective climate policy necessarily involves researchers in very different fields, including atmospheric science, economics, and energy technology. Interdisciplinary communication involves potential pitfalls, however, as each field works with ingrained assumptions so fundamental that researchers may not clearly articulate them or understand they may not be shared across fields. We discuss two cases where mismatched unstated assumptions have produced conflict or confusion that hampers policymaking. First, evaluating actions now that would limit future climate change necessarily involves weighing near-term costs against potential future damages. Estimates of the cost of climate change to society have led to heated disputes and seemingly intractable differences over this discounting, but much of the apparent conflict likely stems from differing assumptions about economic growth. Second, unstated assumptions may compromise the most prevalent climate mitigation efforts in the U.S., state-level renewable portfolio standards (RPSs). We show that many state RPSs involve implicit assumptions about future declines in the cost of renewable electricity that suggest that much legislation as written would fail to achieve its goals. Both cases highlight the importance of cross-disciplinary training when different fields must work together.

Link: Global Change and Sustainability Center Flyer