Essay by Kip Hansen — 20 June 2023
The Hartwell House, in Buckinghamshire, UK, is where, on 3 April 1850, Mr. Lee, the owner, convened a meeting of ten gentlemen in the Library, including the future inaugurating President, Samuel Whitbread, which resolved to found a society that became the British (later Royal) Meteorological Society. And where, on the 2nd through 4th of February 2010, another meeting, convened by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), was held to consider the implications of certain developments in climate policy in late 2009. This Hartwell meeting was a private meeting, held under the Chatham House Rule. It included participants from various disciplines in the sciences and humanities, from academic and other walks of life and from around the world.
The Hartwell Paper [ .pdf file ] is a synopsis of the conclusions of this meeting.
[Note: The paper is available in English, German, French, Japanese, Italian, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese – links on this page. ]
Its co-authors were:
Professor Gwyn Prins, Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events, London School of Economics & Political Science, England
Isabel Galiana [.pdf], Department of Economics, McGill University, Canada
Professor Christopher Green, Department of Economics, McGill University, Canada
Dr Reiner Grundmann, School of Languages & Social Sciences, Aston University, England
Professor Mike Hulme, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, England
Professor Atte Korhola, Department of Environmental Sciences/ Division of Environmental Change and Policy, University of Helsinki, Finland
Professor Frank Laird, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, USA
Ted Nordhaus, The Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, California, USA
Professor Roger Pielke Jnr, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado, USA
Professor Steve Rayner (deceased), Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, England
Professor Daniel Sarewitz, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University, USA
Michael Shellenberger, The Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, California, USA
Professor Nico Stehr, Karl Mannheim Chair for Cultural Studies, Zeppelin University, Germany
Hiroyuki Tezuka, General Manager, Climate Change Policy Group, JFE Steel Corporation (on behalf of Japan Iron and Steel Federation), Japan
There were others that attended and contributed to the meeting via conference-calling which enabled the inclusion in the discussions of Indian and Chinese colleagues who were not able to be present in person.
Readers who have followed the climate debate and climate policy for the last several decades will recognize the names of many of the co-authors. (I have tried to include links to relevant information on each. – kh )
The Hartwell Paper is 42 pages (only 33 are significant text) and over 20,000 words. Every bit is well worth reading.
But, as the paper was written more than a decade ago, I emailed Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., one of the co-authors and today a major voice in in the Climate Policy arena. I asked two questions:
1) Would you say the analysis in the Hartwell Paper of the state of international climate policy remains the same, 13 years later?
2) Would you still make the same remedial recommendations today? If not, what would you modify?
This is his reply, written 12 June 2023, quoted in its entirety with his permission:
“The core of the analysis of The Hartwell Paper, and my book The Climate Fix, remains solid in 2023.”
“To some degree the real world has moved in its direction, such as with the focus of the Inflation Reduction Act on efforts to accelerate energy innovation via incentives rather than by imposing costs. This reflects the reality of the “iron law” of climate that says that climate policy has a greater chance of success if it goes with direction of prevailing winds rather than against them.”
“There has been little or no progress on our recommendation that innovation be supported with a low and rising carbon tax.”
A bit of history:
Saavy readers will recognize the significant date of the meeting: early 2010. What had just taken place that would have prompted these leaders in climate science, climate policy and governance to organize a meeting of this type?
1) “The first watershed is to be found within intergovernmental and international diplomacy. It was crossed on 18th December , a day which marked the confusing and disjointed ending to the climate conference in Copenhagen. The Accord which emerged from that meeting holds an uncertain status and it is not clear what the commitments under it might signify. Not only had no agreements of any consequence been reached, but the very process of multilateral diplomacy through large set-piece conferences had been called into question.”
2) “The second watershed is to be found within the science of climate change. It was crossed on 17th November . The climate science community has experienced an accelerated erosion of public trust following the posting on that date of more than a 1,000 emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. These emails, whose authenticity is not denied, suggested that scientists may have been acting outside publicly understood norms of science in their efforts to bolster their own views and to discredit the views of those with whom they disagreed.”
[ source – The Hartwell Paper Part 1 Page 6 ]
After three days, what did they conclude? Here I quote the Executive Summary:
“Climate policy, as it has been understood and practised by many governments of the world under the Kyoto Protocol approach, has failed to produce any discernable real world reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases in fifteen years. The underlying reason for this is that the UNFCCC/Kyoto model was structurally flawed and doomed to fail because it systematically misunderstood the nature of climate change as a policy issue between 1985 and 2009. However, the currently dominant approach has acquired immense political momentum because of the quantities of political capital sunk into it. But in any case the UNFCCC/Kyoto model of climate policy cannot continue because it crashed in late 2009. The Hartwell Paper sets and reviews this context; but doing so is not its sole or primary purpose.”
“The crash of 2009 presents an immense opportunity to set climate policy free to fly at last. The principal motivation and purpose of this Paper is to explain and to advance this opportunity. To do so involves understanding and accepting a startling proposition. It is now plain that it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal. However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable. Therefore, the Paper advocates a radical reframing – an inverting – of approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.”
“The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause may be.”
“It explains radical and practical ways to reduce non-CO2 human forcing of climate. It argues that improved climate risk management is a valid policy goal, and is not simply congruent with carbon policy. It explains the political prerequisite of energy efficiency strategies as a first step and documents how this can achieve real emissions reductions. But, above all, it emphasises the primacy of accelerating decarbonisation of energy supply. This calls for very substantially increased investment in innovation in noncarbon energy sources in order to diversify energy supply technologies. The ultimate goal of doing this is to develop non-carbon energy supplies at unsubsidised costs less than those using fossil fuels. The Hartwell Paper advocates funding this work by low hypothecated (dedicated) carbon taxes. It opens discussion on how to channel such money productively.”
“To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness –which has failed and will continue to fail. The Hartwell Paper follows the advice that a good crisis should not be wasted.”
Thirteen years ago, there was a call to reframe the climate issue “around matters of human dignity”. But the world’s governments, urged onward by the UN’s IPCC and the “Davos Crowd”, are enacting policies to enforce the rapid elimination of fossil fuels from the world’s economy and energy base in an all-out effort to bring about “NetZero” – doing this despite the known harms such policies are causing and will cause and in denial of the physical impossibility of the target, given the currently available technologies.
And while neither I nor many of you will find yourselves agreeing with everything in the Hartwell Paper, it is possibly one of the sanest and most well-reasoned policy alternatives to the madness that we see occurring in this arena today.
Download and read The Hartwell Paper – it is not scientifically technical, isn’t filled with obscure formulas. Most importantly, you will find why these eminent scientists, scholars and policy experts say:
“We begin by observing what was once controversial but which now seems inescapable: for progress to occur on climate policy, we must reframe the issue in a fundamental way: not simply in various procedural details. We must describe a different comprehensive approach for climate policy.”
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Nearly every reader will have objections either to parts of the content or some of the specific policy recommendations of this paper. I know I did. But objections to small details do not obviate its overall value and importance.
I cannot argue points of the paper, I was not a participant in the meeting nor a co-author. I am, primarily, a journalist, not a scientist, a climate scientist or a policy expert. That’s both my weakness and my strength. Or, as the fictious Adrian Monk would say “It’s a blessing….and a curse.”
I will be happy to discuss my viewpoint with readers who actually read The Hartwell Paper before commenting.
Thanks for reading.
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