• Home
  • |
  • Blog
  • |
  • Decarbonization: Will We Win The Race?

March 6, 2024

Decarbonization: Will We Win The Race?

Mark Trexler

I listened to Jo Paisley's GARP podcast on the Inevitable Policy Response (IPR) with Jakob Thomä, and came away with some interesting take-aways.

We've basically been talking about an Inevitable Policy Response after every major climate event dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And Paul Gilding made it official in 2010 with his great book The Great Disruption, which hypothesized a 2018 start date for a dramatic policy response to the impacts of climate change (the IPR).

I have always seen decarbonization as ultimately inevitable. The real question is how it comes about, including the idea of an IPR, and whether it happens in time to avoid really bad climate change. I even memorialized this question in the cartoon at the top of this post.

When the IPR came out with its latest forecast several months ago, I was a bit dumbfounded by its optimistic conclusion of global net zero by 2060-2070 and that "temperatures will peak at 1.7°C-1.8°C suggesting the Paris Agreement will be achieved…recognizing that uncertainties around temperature sensitivities remain and the battle is not won." So I was interested to see what insights the podcast might provide. I'll list three:

  • There wasn't any discussion of the MANY roadblocks/barriers that will have to be overcome to achieve the stated forecast. The methodology relies on forecasting the implications of policies and commitment across key countries and decades, and perhaps implicitly builds in barriers by asking experts "what will happen in the future," but as far as I can tell never explicitly tackles the many potential ways that decarbonization might be slowed, from U.S. elections, to the Russia conflict, to a conflict with China, to a global food shock, etc. So I would argue that the methodology is inherently biased towards substantial optimism.
  • Clearly an initiative titled Inevitable Policy Response will face cognitive pressure to "see" an IPR in our future, almost 30 years after we started discussing the idea. So I can see the drive for an optimistic outlook. But in the face of an optimistic forecast, isn't IPR worried about the risk that climate change gets a lot worse?
  • And here's where the podcast really comes in. After explaining the optimistic emissions and temperature forecast, Jakob closed the discussion by pointing out that even at 1.7°C-1.8°C, or even 1.5 degrees for that matter, the consequences of climate change are going to be really, really bad.

In other words, the IPR team seems to have threaded the needle. If emissions fall rapidly, then the forecast was right. If climate change gets a lot worse rapidly, then even though the forecast might be wrong, it won't really matter, since climate change was always going to get a lot worse regardless.

I'm not suggesting any nefarious intent here, but it does square the cognitive dissonance circle pretty effectively!



Related Posts

Investing in Adaptation Solutions: A “Must Listen!”

Investing in Adaptation Solutions: A “Must Listen!”

Plausible Transition Planning: The Need to Address Radical Uncertainty About the Future

Plausible Transition Planning: The Need to Address Radical Uncertainty About the Future

Mark Trexler


Mark has more than 30 years of regulatory and energy policy experience. He has advised clients around the world on climate change risk and risk management. He is widely published on business risk management topics surrounding climate change, including in the design and deployment of carbon markets. Mark has served as a lead author for the IPCC and holds advanced degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
>