The Azimuth Project
New Economics Foundation (Rev #3)

Idea

The New Economics Foundation or nef is attempting to develop a new approach to economic modelling:

Standard models take no account of resource use and environmental constraints, and are blind to social outcomes in terms of equity and, of course, human well being. They are open-ended by nature, with growth being the primary output of interest. Inputs feed in, interact with each other, achieve balance (or equilibrium) and outcomes result.

Our approach turns this on its head. We will start with the hard outcomes we need - environmental sustainability; equitable economic justice; and high levels of human well-being - link these to relevant economic determinants within the model (aggregate output, income distribution and working hours, respectively, for example) and to ‘reverse engineer’ what this would imply for the levels and types of differing inputs.

Details

The New Economics Foundation has issued a report:

It seeks to find a way out of this dilemma:

A team of researchers published two papers in the journal Nature in early 2009 arguing that to reduce the chance of global temperatures exceeding a 2 °C temperature threshold, specific caps on carbon emissions need to be set. For example Malte Meinshausen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and his colleagues found that to reduce the probability of exceeding 2 °C to 25 per cent, cumulative CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2050 need to be capped at 1000 billion tonnes (Gt) of CO2 (1,500 Gt CO2e). To reduce this risk by a further 5 per cent, emissions need to be capped at 890 Gt CO2 (1,356 Gt CO2e) or less. Given that between 2000 and 2006, 264 Gt CO2 were emitted, this means if rates of CO2 are kept at their current rate of 36.3 Gt per year, the total carbon budget would be exhausted by 2024 or 2027 depending on the accepted probability of exceeding 2 °C (20 per cent and 25 per cent respectively). However, the authors also warn that if global greenhouse gas emissions are still more than 25 per cent above 2000 levels in 2020, the probability of exceeding 2°C rises 53–87 per cent. Given that 80 per cent of greenhouse gases are due to the combustion of CO2, this means limiting use to less than one half of the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves.

Using a different methodology, the second paper led by Myles Allen, Head of the Climate Dynamics group at University of Oxford’s Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department yields results that are broadly consistent with Meinshausen. More recent work still from the Met Office Hadley Centre warns of a scenario in which a 4 °C rise in temperature by 2060 is possible.

In 2008, cautious calculations by nef’s climate change and energy programme suggest that there may be as little as 100 months, starting from August 2008, to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – before the risk of uncontrollable global warming occurring increases significantly. This has also been supported by the recent research by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

More precisely, they calculate that by 2016 the CO2 concentration will reach 400 ppm given a 3.3 per cent annual growth rate of emissions:

This is based on the average growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions over the period 2000 through to 2006. We

have assumed that the other radiative forcings remain constant. The 3.3 per cent growth rate includes carbon-cycle feedbacks (decrease in the effectiveness of the land and ocean sinks in removing anthropogenic CO2) as well as direct anthropogenic emissions. Of the 3.3 per cent increase, 18 ± 15% of the annual growth rate is due to carbon-cycle feedbacks, while 17 ± 6% is due to the increasing carbon intensity of the global economy (ratio of carbon per unit of economic activity – i.e. GDP). The remaining 65% ± 16% is due to the increase in the global economic activity. As the atmospheric concentration of CO2e increases, so will the strength of carbon-cycle feedbacks. Given this we have also included the conservative, lower bound estimate for acceleration of carboncycle feedbacks.

Our analysis shows that, assuming that other anthropogenic driven radiative forcings remain constant and the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions (due to economic growth and increasing carbon

intensity of the economy) remains stable – by the end of December 2016 we will exceed an atmospheric CO2e concentration of 400ppmv.

References

category: organizations