Climate Change Ethics Workshop in Delft, June 19, 2014

Climate change: economics, policy and ethics
Workshop 19 June, 10-14 hrs, TU Delft
Faculty of TPM (building nr 31 on the TU Delft campus map), room J

Political philosopher Idil Boran (York University, Canada) will attend UNFCCC Bonn climate conference in June. She will visit TU Delft afterwards and discuss her observations at an interdisciplinary workshop with additional presentations by ethicists, economists and climate experts, followed by a panel discussion. The workshop will try to identify the main policy challenges that climate change poses from an economic, methodological and ethical perspective.

Program (provisional):
09.30-10.00 Coffee/tea
10.00-10.05 Welcome and opening by Sabine Roeser
10.05-10.45 Idil Boran
10.45-11.15 Servaas Storm
11.15-11.45 Jeff Powell
11.45-12.15 Lunch
12.15-12.45 Rafaela Hillerbrand
12.45-13.15 Phil Robichaud
13.15-14.00 panel discussion, chair: Sabine Roeser

Participation is free. In case you wish to attend the workshop, please register before June 17th with Monique Pijls: M.M.A.Pijls@tudelft.nl

Abstracts and links to the websites of the speakers:

Idil Boran (philosophy, York University)
The post-Kyoto phase of international climate negotiations and the difficult balance between fairness and political stability
The goal of this paper is to give an account of the latest stage of the international negotiations on climate change, with a focus on the issue of fairness. Fairness has always been central to climate treaty negotiations. Yet, the specific way in which the Kyoto Protocol was structured, with the intent to secure fair terms of cooperation, also ended up being its Achilles Heal. Central to the Kyoto Protocol was a two-tiered structure, put in place to capture a powerful moral intuition about fairness. In retrospect, this structure came to be criticized for being deeply polarizing, politically destabilizing, and unable to secure agreement and compliance.
The new phase of negotiations known as the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action adopted in 2011, is regarded as an opportunity for the international community to have a fresh start for a new era of climate agreements. The Durban Platform distances itself from a two-tiered structure and seeks to establish the terms of the new treaty on a truly universal platform, where all will play their part in some capacity. The challenge in this new phase is that it is still unclear which conceptions of fairness are to guide the new agreement.
In light of the insights from the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Conference, June 2014, the presentation will provide an account of where the deliberations are heading. The focus will be on the tension between fairness and the dynamics of political agreement, where decisions have to take into account probabilities. Some of the most current topics under consideration will be taken up, including the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage. The goal will be to understand the normative challenges, catalyze a high-level scholarly discussion, and set the agenda for future research.

Idil Boran is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Core Faculty Member at the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) at York University, Toronto, Canada. Dr. Boran is part of the York University Delegation to the UNFCCC since Doha 2012. She is currently working on a series of papers based on her observations as delegate to the UNFCCC, as well as a book project on ethics and the challenges of decision-making in multilateral climate negotiations. Her research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as well as the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University.

Servaas Storm (economics, TU Delft)
Can the Invisible Hand Adjust the Natural Thermostat?
Can climate change be stopped while fossil fuel capitalism remains the same? What has to be done and what has to change to avoid the worst-case consequences of global warming? This presentation reviews the economic literature for answers to these questions. I will first briefly point out a few problems with the conventional cost-benefit approach to analyzing climate change. Next, four widely diverging approaches are discussed along two axes of debate. The first axis (‘market vs. regulation’) measures (prior) faith in the invisible hand to adjust the natural thermostat. The second axis expresses differences in views on the efficiency and equity implications of climate action. I will argue based on this classification that to avoid dangerous global warming, capitalism’s institutions need to be drastically reformed and reoriented toward a non-fossil fuel economy. Carbon-pricing will not do the job.

Jeff Powell (economics, LEI / Wageningen University and Research Center)
Measuring the Effects of Extreme Weather Events on Yields
Extreme weather events are expected to increase worldwide, therefore, anticipating and calculating their effects on crop yields is important for topics ranging from food security to the economic and social viability of biomass products. This paper examines the effects of extreme weather events on Dutch wheat yields at level of the farm, after having controlled for other variables affecting yields. It applies econometric and data analyzes to a panel data set of 319 farms over a period of 11 years. Analyzes show that the number of days with extreme high temperatures in wheat growing regions has been increasing since the early 1900s, while the number of extreme low temperature events has fallen over the same period. The number of days with extremely high amounts of precipitation has increased. Importantly, while average high temperatures were found increase yields, extreme high temperature events reduce yields. The evidence of the effects of weather variables on yields is robust, holding even when economic data are removed from the analysis and suggesting that yields can be adequately forecasted using just weather variables.

Rafaela Hillerbrand (philosophy, TU Delft)
Certainty about Uncertainty. Climate Models and Probabilistic Reasoning
Climate modeling has been known since long to be fraught with high uncertainties. Particularly between the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC in 2007 and the current Fifth Assessment Report that will be finalized in 2014, climate scientists have devoted considerable attention on the question as to how to deal with various types of uncertainties. Not only within the scientific community, but also in the political discourse on uncertainty there have been significant advances so that now probabilistic statements are taken into account.
This paper argues that non-propositional knowledge takes center stage in present day climate modeling and thus uncertainties associated with climate predictions cannot be fully quantified despite any attempts to associate, for example, probabilistic estimates with the projected temperature increase.

Phil Robichaud (philosophy, TU Delft)
Is ignorance about climate change culpable?
In this presentation I outline several approaches to culpable ignorance and apply these reflections to the context of widespread ignorance about climate change and its effects. I discuss the possibility that most cases of such ignorance are blameless from which it would follow that there is a problematic lacuna of responsibility for many of the present and forthcoming harmful effects of climate change. I conclude with some suggestions from the field of social moral epistemology about how we should react to this innocent, yet potentially catastrophic ignorance.

The workshop is organized by Sabine Roeser and supported by the Risk and Security Taskforce of the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology