From heat domes in the Pacific Northwest to floods in Henan, China, 2021 has been a year full of extreme weather events. Identifying appropriate ways to tackle climate change is more important and faster than ever.
As climate talks conclude at the United Nations General Assembly, the world’s eyes turn to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the outcomes of which will be critical for the world’s climate future.
Decisions made at the conference will be based, in part, on findings from scientific papers using what is known as Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which “combines different strands of knowledge to model human society along with parts of the Earth system.”
Existing IAMs have integrated the economic, technological, and biophysical processes that produce greenhouse gas emissions. While politics plays an important role in shaping climate-related policies and trajectories, political scientists have not been actively involved in developing integrated assessment models and, by extension, the scientific basis for climate policy-making. This needs to – and could – change.
The missing contribution of political science to climate modeling is likely due to two main factors: the lack of exposure and meaningful interaction between political scientists and climate scientists and the great difficulty in modeling political phenomena. In fact, when I was a PhD student at Stanford University taking classes on climate modeling in 2017, I was told to be the first political science student to do so.
While some have already expressed concern about the lack of realism in the model’s representation, actual design and implementation to address these concerns have been scarce. After all, it is very difficult and time-consuming, and requires – at the very least – an intimate knowledge of the political world, knowledge of models and knowledge of what can be included in practice, and the technical expertise needed for implementation.
I think political scientists can contribute to climate modeling in specific regions. Mine Recently Posted Workout, which conceptualizes and implements internalization of a key political concept – human security – offers lessons on how to achieve this.
Making reasonable assumptions about political behaviors can provide key insights into alternative future climates. A critical step toward achieving this goal is to conceptualize and measure basic political science ideas such as power, violence, and preferences so that they can be incorporated into IAMs. Not all basic ideas are embeddable, but some recently published econometric studies – which “turn theoretical economic models into useful tools for economic policy making” to me International Monetary Fund – they are paving the way. I suppose political scientists have much to contribute to answering two basic questions.
First, what is optimal? Policy scientists can improve estimation of optimal carbon price The price at which the net social benefits of carbon emissions will be maximized – By absorbing the costs of important social impacts that were not previously considered.
An example is the cost of climate violence. Mine recent study It uses econometric estimates of the costs of human violence, the relationship between climate and violence, and a well-established model called Merge. find it This uptake can significantly affect the optimal carbon price. The impact can be significant, and it is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa is the biggest beneficiary in terms of averted harms related to climate-induced violence. When future researchers modify the study’s approach, they can incorporate other missing, but potentially significant, social harms. It could be one of the most promising candidates of climate-induced migration.
Second, what could be possible? Climate policies are about distribution policies, so tThe second area is to introduce and modify representation of political constraints in IAMs on the basis of Constituency preferences, the incumbent’s electoral incentives, the incumbent’s ideology or party orientation, and the presence of strong interest groups, among other factors.
In democracies, voters will support climate policy if they think it is in their interest and oppose it if otherwise. However, voter preferences are not equally accommodated by professionally-minded incumbents who, when eligible for re-election, will pursue a set of policies that can maximize their electoral returns. Moreover, governments generally value a core set of voter welfare more than they do with opposing groups, and will be more inclined to accommodate the preferences of powerful interest groups. The goal of modeling will be to represent these considerations to arrive at a possible set of alternatives.
While none of this is easy, incorporating political science into climate modeling is useful and long overdue. As a statistician, George Box He once saidAll models are wrong, but some are useful. Political scientists can help make climate models more realistic and useful and contribute more to climate policy-making.
Dr. Sheeran Victoria Shen is a political scientist and environmental engineer, a National Hoover Fellow, and an assistant professor at the University of Virginia.