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The economic conditions have never been more promising for decarbonization. The costs of solar cells, wind, and batteries dropped 85%, 55%, and 85% from 2010 to 2019 (IPCC, 2022); people are buying green; companies are investing in clean production; the E.U. is putting tariffs on carbon-intensive products, and the topic is active in the U.S.; air pollution from fossil fuels is increasingly a priority; the Ukraine crisis has made obvious that reliance on petrostates endangers national security; and the impacts of climate change – heat waves, droughts, floods – are increasingly real. But, despite all this, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise. For even a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5C, emissions need to fall almost 50% by 2030 (IPCC, 2022).
If the economic conditions are so promising, why are emissions not decreasing? The fundamental issue is simply that reducing emissions is hard – it presents enormous economic and political challenges. But within that context, there are important issues in the way that economic advice and analysis are making their way into policy making processes. This talk will discuss the current conditions surrounding decarbonization and highlight needs to improve the way that economic tools, analysis, and advice are supporting policy making around climate action.
Dr. Leon Clarke is the Director of Decarbonization Pathways at the Bezos Earth Fund. Leon joined the Earth Fund from the University of Maryland (UMD), where he served as the Research Director for the Center for Global Sustainability and Acting Director. He held a joint appointment with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Before UMD, Dr. Clarke worked for 16 years at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), a collaboration between PNNL and UMD. He led the Integrated Human Earth System Science Group at JGCRI for 10 years.
Dr. Clarke has served as an author and coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Climate Assessment, and the National Research Council. Dr. Clarke holds a Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University and a master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.
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