From Chaotic Complexity to a Controlled Climate -- the Anthropocene’s Challenge

Paul David , Stanford University & All Souls College, Oxford & UNU-MERIT

This presentation illuminates the potential opportunities and requirements of exploiting the currently emerging and economically effective class of “negative carbon technologies” (NCTs) — in particular, those based on chemical direct air capture (DAC) and useful sequestration of CO2 from the ambient atmosphere.  That affordable capability, like other technical aspects of the global energy sector has remained entirely unacknowledged in the integrated policy assessment models (IAMs) that economic researchers in the environment and energy field have developed to provide guidance for climate policy-makers.

 The same can be said regarding the disjunction between the representations of the climate system in most of the economists’ models of the dynamics of the coupled climate-economy system, making it especially important to set the hopeful emergence of NCTs against the worrisome realities exposed by the paleoclimate record that climate scientists have been able to reconstruct, and the still far from full understanding that has been gained in regard to the complex forces shaping the behavior of the Earth’s climate system. An effective technology for removing carbon from the atmosphere should be seen as a means by which humanity has acquired the potential capability of adjusting the atmospheric concentration of CO2, which (as climate physicists are generally agreed) is the dominant, energy-efficient “control signal” in the Earth’s complex chaotic climate system.

Time permitting, attention also will be given to identifying possibilities of problematically perverse interactions, as well as beneficial complementarities between commitment to a global program of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) involving rapid deployment of DAC technology and the policy instruments already comprising the portfolio of “tech-fix” options for stabilizing our planet’s climate – while there still is time.  



About the speaker

Paul David is Professor (Emeritus), Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He holds Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research Interests include the economics of technological, demographic, and institutional change, and other areas of theoretical and empirical research on the nature of path-dependence in economic processes; economic history, with special reference to long-term productivity growth and development in the US and the North Atlantic economies since 1790.



Venue: Conference Room (0.16 & 0.17)

Date: 20 June 2017

Time: 12:30 - 13:45


UNU-MERIT