A Way Out of the Politics of Climate Change, Part 4

Evaluating Solution Effectiveness and Translating Analysis into Policy

This is the fourth article in a five part series.

To date in this series, we’ve looked at objective measures of how to frame a problem, how to determine the causes of that problem, and consider implementing a robust solution to the problem. In the last article, we examined what to do about risk in an environment of uncertainty both from the standpoint of the problem and in the effectiveness of our solutions. In this article, I am going to discuss how we could form policy in a non-political fashion when given that kind of situation.

The last article provided a list of potential solutions to address each cause we outlined in the second article. In keeping with the spirit of this series, they were all made up, although most are at least plausible. The goal here, again, is to walk though a decision making process using risk assessment and other techniques to show how a solution could be arrived at without political argumentativeness.

True cost analysis and probability analysis of these kinds of solutions would be a lengthy affair, but let’s assume that we have done our homework. The following table shows an ordered list of our solutions by their cost effectiveness considering both the likelihood of the cause being present and the effectiveness of the solution itself. In this case, we are also making the assumption that all causes will result in the same severity of the problem in the end. If that was not true, we would have to take the worst case damage assesment for each cause into account as well.

Table of the Effectiveness of Potential Climate Change Solutions

Now, we have already established that just because there is some probability that the problem might not occur at all does not mean that we should not act. In considering options to act to reduce the risk posed by climate change (again, not saying whether that is warming or cooling, since both could be damaging to civilization), we should investigate not only the total cost and total effectiveness of a solution, but also partial implementation of each solution. As in some cases up to 75% or more of the benefit can be obtained in the first 25% of the expendenture. In others, a solution’s only option is to be fully implemented to achieve any benefit.

    -As described in this article on root cause analysis, our solution package ought to act against several causes of the problem to provide robustness.
    -We ought to select and implement solutions first, to bound the potential consequences of the problem. Rather than decreasing global risk by 70% of any kind of event, it would be better to eliminate global risk to any catastrophic event. Remaining funds would be used to reduce the overall probability of the event.
    -The cost of the solution(s) including “side effects” must be in line with the cost of the undesired event and it’s probability.
    -Continual monitoring is required to both evaluate predictions on the causes as well as the effectiveness of the solutions as the costs of changes increase over time.

The subject of this article could continue, but the objective was to outline just a few of the science and engineering-type criteria that could be used to evaluate potential solutions to climate change, which are contentious since they are all very long term and expensive. The next and final article in this series will focus on the big picture and ensuring a problem solving program like this one can be effective.