The history and politics of the carbon budget
Bård Lahn (CICERO Center for International Climate Research)
Paper short abstract:
This paper traces the history of the concept of a global "carbon budget". It illustrates how the IPCC process engages scientists directly in modifying how climate change is framed as a political issue, and explores the implications of this modifying-work.
Paper long abstract:
In the ten years since it first reached the public spotlight, the concept of a global "carbon budget" of allowable CO2 emissions has proven to be a productive conceptual innovation in climate science and policy. It has given rise to a large scientific literature as well as new policy discourses and activist approaches. It has however also sparked controversy, with regard to both its scientific merit and its policy relevance - with some commentators arguing that the concept should be abandoned altogether. Drawing on document analysis and interviews with IPCC authors, this paper traces the historical origins of the carbon budget as a concept at the intersection of climate science and policy, from its origins in Earth system science and European climate governance ideals of the 1980s, through to the most recent reports of the IPCC. It focuses in particular on how the assessment process of the IPCC offers means for scientists to modify how climate change is framed as a political issue, and explores the implications of this modifying-work.
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