Climate policy and the role of experts in decision-making

Hal Varian professor of business, economics and information management at the University of California, Berkeley discusses one of the challenges of choosing a course of action to respond to climate change:

“The choice of an appropriate policy toward global warming depends heavily on how one weighs the costs and benefits it imposes on different generations. The Stern Review chose a particular way to do this, but many other choices could have been examined.

Exploring the implications of alternative assumptions is likely to lead to better policy than making a single blanket recommendation.”

The climate is a complicated dynamical system and it makes sense to defer to climate experts, for example at the IPCC or Real Climate, on questions about the state of the climate and how it is evolving. However, all of us can contribute meaningfully to our society’s decision about how to share the burden of climate change between current and future generations.

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2 comments

  1. Ben

    Sort of, though I caution that the trade offs must be presented in a way that the public understands.

    Just like some ignore scientific consensus on climate change, most scientists are completely ignorant of and willfully ignore economic consensus on climate change economics.

    Many of Al Gore’s proposed policies are incredibly economically wrong headed. Actually, the policies proposed by most policy makers are.

    Perhaps more education is necessary.

  2. Vivek Mohta

    Ben,
    In looking back at my post, I clearly should have included your point– that the economy is also a complicated dynamical system and we ought to defer to economists on how we might expect the economy to evolve in response to policy choices. (There might be some challenges here in that, in general, there seems to be less consensus in economics than in the earth sciences.)

    Policy makers often don’t understand either of the complexities or choose to ignore them. Perhaps more education is necessary or perhaps a culture of humility and respect for knowledge.

    I also agree that trade-offs must be presented in a way that the public understands. Rarely do policy choices have only an upside. A good political leader ought to be able to communicate trade-offs clearly and honestly to the public.

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