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  • Author: Richard Schmalensee, Robert Stavins
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The U.S. Clean Air Act, passed in 1970 with strong bipartisan support, was the first environmental law to give the Federal government a serious regulatory role, established the architecture of the U.S. air pollution control system, and became a model for subsequent environmental laws in the United States and globally. We outline the Act’s key provisions, as well as the main changes Congress has made to it over time. We assess the evolution of air pollution control policy under the Clean Air Act, with particular attention to the types of policy instruments used. We provide a generic assessment of the major types of policy instruments, and we trace and assess the historical evolution of EPA’s policy instrument use, with particular focus on the increased use of market-based policy instruments, beginning in the 1970s and culminating in the 1990s. Over the past fifty years, air pollution regulation has gradually become much more complex, and over the past twenty years, policy debates have become increasingly partisan and polarized, to the point that it has become impossible to amend the Act or pass other legislation to address the new threat of climate change.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jesse Reynolds, Gernot Wagner
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: New technologies, such as social media and do-it-yourself biotechnology, alter the capacities and incentives of both state and nonstate actors. This can include enabling direct decentralized interventions, in turn altering actors’ power relations. The provision of global public goods, widely regarded as states’ domain, so far has eluded such powerful technological disruptions. We here introduce the idea of highly decentralized solar geoengineering, plausibly done in form of small high-altitude balloons. While solar geoengineering has the potential to greatly reduce climate change, it has generally been conceived as centralized and state deployed. Potential highly decentralized deployment moves the activity from the already contested arena of state action to that of environmentally motivated nongovernmental organizations and individuals, which could disrupt international relations and pose novel challenges for technology and environmental policy. We explore its feasibility, political implications, and governance.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael A Mehling
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Parties to the Paris Agreement can engage in voluntary cooperation and use internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards their national climate pledges. Doing so promises to lower the cost of achieving agreed climate objectives, which can, in turn, allow Parties to increase their mitigation efforts with given resources. Lower costs do not automatically translate into greater climate ambition, however. Transfers that involve questionable mitigation outcomes can effectively increase overall emissions, affirming the need for a sound regulatory framework. As Parties negotiate guidance on the implementation of cooperative approaches under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, they are therefore considering governance options to secure environmental integrity and address the question of overall climate ambition. Drawing on an analytical framework that incorporates economic theory and deliberative jurisprudence, practical case studies, and treaty interpretation, this Working Paper maps central positions of actors in the negotiations and evaluates relevant options included in the latest textual proposal.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael A Mehling, Gilbert E. Metcalf, Robert Stavins
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Paris Agreement has achieved one of two key necessary conditions for ultimate success—a broad base of participation among the countries of the world. But another key necessary condition has yet to be achieved—adequate collective ambition of the individual nationally determined contributions. How can climate negotiators provide a structure that will include incentives to increase ambition over time? An important part of the answer can be international linkage of regional, national, and sub-national policies—that is, formal recognition of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purpose of meeting a Party’s own mitigation objectives. A central challenge is how to facilitate such linkage in the context of the very great heterogeneity that characterizes climate policies along five dimensions: type of policy instrument; level of government jurisdiction; status of that jurisdiction under the Paris Agreement; nature of the policy instrument’s target; and the nature, along several dimensions, of each Party’s Nationally Determined Contribution. We consider such heterogeneity among policies, and identify which linkages of various combinations of characteristics are feasible; of these, which are most promising; and what accounting mechanisms would make the operation of respective linkages consistent with the Paris Agreement.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Today, as a species, we face two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Both stem from human origins. We need to fight both threats aggressively. There are many things we can and should do to tackle the climate threat, beginning with putting a price on carbon emissions, promoting market mechanisms that reward efficiency, leveling the playing field for all lower-carbon energy sources, and leveraging the Paris Climate Agreement into more effective international action. But even adding up all existing national commitments to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and assuming perfect execution, the world falls far short of the cuts needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. The expanded use of nuclear energy can make a major contribution to closing that gap and meeting our climate goals. But inherent in the use of atomic fission is the risk that the technology and materials can be diverted to terrorists or hostile nations.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Human Welfare, Markets, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Global Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Today, as a species, we face two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Both stem from human origins. We need to fight both threats aggressively. There are many things we can and should do to tackle the climate threat, beginning with putting a price on carbon emissions, promoting market mechanisms that reward efficiency, leveling the playing field for all lower-carbon energy sources, and leveraging the Paris Climate Agreement into more effective international action. But even adding up all existing national commitments to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and assuming perfect execution, the world falls far short of the cuts needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. The expanded use of nuclear energy can make a major contribution to closing that gap and meeting our climate goals. But inherent in the use of atomic fission is the risk that the technology and materials can be diverted to terrorists or hostile nations.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Human Welfare, Markets, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Global Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Today, as a species, we face two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Both stem from human origins. We need to fight both threats aggressively. There are many things we can and should do to tackle the climate threat, beginning with putting a price on carbon emissions, promoting market mechanisms that reward efficiency, leveling the playing field for all lower-carbon energy sources, and leveraging the Paris Climate Agreement into more effective international action. But even adding up all existing national commitments to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, and assuming perfect execution, the world falls far short of the cuts needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. The expanded use of nuclear energy can make a major contribution to closing that gap and meeting our climate goals. But inherent in the use of atomic fission is the risk that the technology and materials can be diverted to terrorists or hostile nations.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Human Welfare, Markets, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Global Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus