28 September 2009

Lomborg is All Over the Place

In an op-ed in the Washington Post today, Bjorn Lomborg summarizes parts of my Mamizu Climate Policy paper on Japan's emissions reductions targets (here in PDF). [Note to Bjorn, it is appropriate to acknowledge sources, even in an op-ed.] In this op-ed Lomborg is defending coal, or attacking those who wish to decarbonize, or defending free trade . . . or something. A few weeks ago Lomborg was championing geoengineering, this week he is defending coal.

Lomborg cited some data from my Mamizu Climate Policy paper, but neglected the conclusions, which are as follows:
If climate policy is to be about more than symbolic exhortation, then it will necessary for goals to be more than aspirational. Japan’s Mamizu climate policy targets for 2020 and 2050 announced in mid-2009 were exceedingly ambitious, and if they are to be criticized, it should be for being too aggressive, not too weak. Should Japan actually succeed with respect to a short-term target of the magnitude implied by the Mamizu climate policy, then it will have achieved a carbon intensity of its economy lower than that of France in 2006 by the end of the decade, representing a decrease in emissions per unit of GDP of about 33%. If the world economy were to be as carbon efficient as implied by Japan’s 2020 target, then global carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 would have been only 40% of their actual value.

Regardless of the nature of changes to the composition of the Japanese government in the future, there is considerable merit in encouraging Japan to actively seek to achieve its Mamizu climate policy because its successes and shortfalls will provide a valuable body of experience to other countries seeking to achieve similar goals. Should Japan choose to depart from its proposed Mamizu climate policy to one based on (even more) impossible targets and timetables than they may find themselves the subject of international applause rather than condemnation. At the same time such a shift would signify a desire to meet the symbolic needs of international climate politics while sacrificing the practical challenge of decarbonization policy. Conventional approaches to climate policy have thus far borne little fruit, but that is a topic that goes well beyond this brief analysis. Diversity in climate policy should be encouraged.