The Economist Embraces Climate Pragmatism as "Next Steps" for Climate

October 27, 2011 | Alex Trembath,


The "next steps" to restart climate progress should revolve around emissions strategies that don't have to be centrally motivated by climate concerns, according to a recent article in The Economist. The approach resonates strongly with the recommendations of this summer's "Climate Pragmatism," a report authored by a collection of 14 international scholars and analysts, including Breakthrough's Jenkins, Nordhaus, and Shellenberger. From the article:

The "going right" strategy also benefits from the fact that it's possible to address climate change without making it primarily or even overtly about climate change. There are a lot of policies and developments afoot that have climate benefits without being framed as such. The mercury regulation is one. The EPA's action focuses on the impacts to human health, but one result of the regulation will be to raise the costs of burning coal, a major climate culprit. Another example comes from Texas, the nation's leading wind-power state and not a particular friend of the environment. Last week in Fort Worth, I met a wind executive from Amarillo. I asked whether he supports wind for the environmental benefits or for strictly business reasons. Business, he said.

The paradigm-shifting framework of "Climate Pragmatism" prioritizes technological innovation, extreme weather resilience, and no-regrets pollution reduction as viable policies with clear climate benefits. As we wrote in the report,

The new framework now emerging will succeed to the degree to which it prioritizes agreements that promise near-term economic, geopolitical, and environmental benefits to political economies around the world, while simultaneously reducing climate forcings, developing clean and affordable energy technologies, and improving societal resilience to climate impacts. This new approach recognizes that continually deadlocked international negotiations and failed domestic policy proposals bring no climate benefit at all. It accepts that only sustained effort to build momentum through politically feasible forms of action will lead to accelerated decarbonization.

For a similar take, see Bryan Walsh's Time Magazine column on "Climate Pragmatism."