Today I was reading a slightly older piece that could have been written just after Rio. I couldn’t have said it better, so I just post a selection below. The question for today is who wrote it and when?
Although apparently important information may be amassed—and there is now a vast literature on climate science and endless analyses of emissions reduction policy proposals—an inappropriate framing of the problem can lead science, followed by policy, down a blind alley. In fact, the sheer volume of knowledge production can be self-reinforcing to the point that reassessment of the starting assumptions becomes almost impossible to contemplate. The investment has been too great to feel able to discard it; and there is no incentive to do so because unlike economic theory, where it is rational to walk away from sunk costs, in politics, these represent political capital.
Although the rational thing to do in the face of a bad investment is to cut your losses, get out, and try something different, there are many obstacles that may prevent this, ranging from administrative inconvenience, to psychological and emotional barriers. It is difficult to abandon profound investments not just of capital, but also of effort and conviction, or of reputation and status. Therefore, as well as it being administratively inconvenient, politicians and diplomats who have invested much personal effort and conviction in creating the Kyoto regime may simply find it psychologically and emotionally impossible to walk away from an entrenched community of understanding and action to which they feel that they belong and that belongs to them. Meeting inside the special bubble and breathing the rarefied air of international summitry reinforces both sorts of feelings.