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Considering only first-order effects? How simplifications lead to unrealistic technology optimism in climate change mitigation

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  • Arvesen, Anders
  • Bright, Ryan M.
  • Hertwich, Edgar G.

Abstract

This article challenges the notion that energy efficiency and ‘clean’ energy technologies can deliver sufficient degrees of climate change mitigation. By six arguments not widely recognized in the climate policy arena, we argue that unrealistic technology optimism exists in current climate change mitigation assessments, and, consequently, world energy and climate policy. The overarching theme of the arguments is that incomplete knowledge of indirect effects, and neglect of interactions between parts of physical and social sub-systems, systematically leads to overly optimistic assessments. Society must likely seek deeper changes in social and economic structures to preserve the climatic conditions to which the human civilization is adapted. We call for priority to be given to research evaluating aspects of mitigation in a broad, system-wide perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Arvesen, Anders & Bright, Ryan M. & Hertwich, Edgar G., 2011. "Considering only first-order effects? How simplifications lead to unrealistic technology optimism in climate change mitigation," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 7448-7454.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:11:p:7448-7454
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2011.09.013
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Arvesen, Anders & Hertwich, Edgar G., 2015. "More caution is needed when using life cycle assessment to determine energy return on investment (EROI)," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-6.
    2. Hans Jakob Walnum & Carlo Aall & Søren Løkke, 2014. "Can Rebound Effects Explain Why Sustainable Mobility Has Not Been Achieved?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(12), pages 1-28, December.
    3. Edgar Hertwich, 2014. "Understanding the Climate Mitigation Benefits of Product Systems: Comment on “Using Attributional Life Cycle Assessment to Estimate Climate-Change Mitigation…”," Journal of Industrial Ecology, Yale University, vol. 18(3), pages 464-465, May.
    4. Bush, Ruth & Jacques, David A. & Scott, Kate & Barrett, John, 2014. "The carbon payback of micro-generation: An integrated hybrid input–output approach," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 85-98.
    5. Arvesen, Anders & Hauan, Ingrid Bjerke & Bolsøy, Bernhard Mikal & Hertwich, Edgar G., 2015. "Life cycle assessment of transport of electricity via different voltage levels: A case study for Nord-Trøndelag county in Norway," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 144-151.
    6. Capellán-Pérez, Iñigo & Mediavilla, Margarita & de Castro, Carlos & Carpintero, Óscar & Miguel, Luis Javier, 2014. "Fossil fuel depletion and socio-economic scenarios: An integrated approach," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 641-666.
    7. Rafael Laurenti & Jagdeep Singh & Rajib Sinha & Josepha Potting & Björn Frostell, 2016. "Unintended Environmental Consequences of Improvement Actions: A Qualitative Analysis of Systems' Structure and Behavior," Systems Research and Behavioral Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 381-399, May.
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:6:p:887-:d:99466 is not listed on IDEAS

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