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The Coming Global Climate-Technology Revolution

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  • Scott Barrett

Abstract

Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases can be reduced significantly using existing technologies, but stabilizing concentrations will require a technological revolution--a "revolution" because it will require fundamental change, achieved within a relatively short period of time. Inspiration for a climate-technology revolution is often drawn from the Apollo space program or the Manhattan Project, but averting dangerous climate change cannot be "solved" by a single new technology, deployed by a single government. The technological changes needed to address climate change fundamentally will have to be pervasive; they will have to involve markets; and they will have to be global in scope. My focus in this paper is not on the moderate emission reductions that can be achieved using existing technologies, but on the breakthrough technologies that are needed to reduce emissions dramatically. The challenges are formidable. Indeed, it is possible that the revolution needed to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will fail. Should the climate change abruptly, the incentive to "engineer" the climate will be strong. There will be a climate-technology revolution, but its nature will depend on the institutions we develop to address the challenge we face.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Barrett, 2009. "The Coming Global Climate-Technology Revolution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 53-75, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:2:p:53-75
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.2.53
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.2.53
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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