November 22, 2013

Charles E. Young Research Library Conference Room 11360


Long-Term Political Sustainability of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policies: An Agent-based, Evolutionary Approach

Robert's talk is cosponsored by the Institute of the Enironment & Sustainability, International Institute, and the Department of Public Policy.


Robert Lempert is a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation and Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. His research focuses on decision-making under conditions of deep uncertainty, with an emphasis on climate change, energy, and the environment. Dr. Lempert and his research team assist a number of natural resource agencies in their efforts to manage uncertainty in their long-range plans, including: helping the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to identify indicators for the adaptive management component of its Integrated Resource Plan, the State of Louisiana to develop its master plan for a sustainable coast, Ho Chi Minh City to evaluate integrated flood risk management strategies, the California Department of Water Resources to develop the state water plan, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to study management plans for the Colorado River. Dr. Lempert is a co-PI of SCRiM (Sustainable Climate Risk Management Strategies), an NSF-funded Sustainability Research Network. Dr. Lempert is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Panel on Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Political and Social Stresses, a lead author for Working Group II of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, and a lead author for the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Dr. Lempert was the Inaugural EADS Distinguished Visitor in Energy and Environment at the American Academy in Berlin. A Professor of Policy Analysis in the Pardee RAND Graduate School, Dr. Lempert is an author of the book Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Longer-Term Policy Analysis.


A significant gap exists between the greenhouse gas reductions needed to address climate change, and what current policies seem able to deliver.  It is clear that limiting climate change will require transformation of energy, transportation, and other systems. To encourage such a transformation, climate policies need to persist for decades, because greenhouse emissions result from generally slow-changing infrastructure, technology, and human behavior. But current climate policy literature – largely focused on optimal long-term paths, the implications of various long-term targets, or the efficacy of near-term policies -- provides little guidance on how near-term policy actions can shape long-term emission reduction paths. To address the long-term sustainability of climate policies, we employ new agent-based, game theoretic integrated assessment models within a robust decision making framework to compare how alternative architectures of near-term climate policies influence their long-term evolution. In particular, the model tracks the co-evolution of an industry sector, its technology base, and the shifting political coalitions that influence the future stringency of the government’s emission reduction policies. The framework envisions that policy makers have a brief window of opportunity to implement a climate policy that will subsequently evolve along paths no longer under the control of those initial policy makers. We examine how policy makers might use such a window of opportunity to choose a set of initial actions that increases the chances that their long-term goals will be achieved, in part by causing transformations that will yield future conditions supportive of these goals. This general framework offers additional tools and insights to help tackle a policy challenge that heretofore has resisted much significant progress.