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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 11:31 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 11:31 | SYDNEY

Climate and uncertainty



4 July 2008 16:01

The science and policy of climate change is devilishly complex, and not just for the non-experts. As the newly released Garnaut report says:

Climate change is a diabolical policy problem. It is harder than any other issue of high importance that has come before our polity in living memory.

(Nb. I haven't read the whole thing; just this extract.)

As someone with a international security background and with only the vaguest grasp of the science, I've been struck by how reliant the policy prescriptions for dealing with climate change seem to be on scientific modeling of what our climate might be like in 2050 and beyond. I'm always wary of such long-term predictions in my own field. In fact, the evidence is pretty clear that political experts routinely make very bad predictions on subjects they know a lot about.

So given it is sensible to assume a high degree of uncertainty about climate projections, but also that the risk of inaction could be high, what to do? According to Lowy Institute colleague Warwick McKibbin, the cap-and-trade approach favoured by the Rudd Government doesn't take account of the scientific uncertainties. Warwick says he has a better idea that hedges against those uncertainties.

As Fergus noted yesterday, Ross Garnaut evidently disagreed, because he publicly ruled out the alternative approach favoured by McKibbin. However, on Tim Dunlop's reading of the Garnaut Report, Garnaut seems to have come around to the McKibbin view.

I'm sure Warwick will let his views be known soon.

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