Accepted paper:

Perspectives on the science and politics of negative emissions in integrated assessment models


Sean Low (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, we engage members of IAM groups involved in the creation of low emissions pathways, as well as critical experts from a variety of disciplines, in order to gauge shared or diverging understandings on the shaping role of modeling scenarios in policy-relevant scientific assessments

Paper long abstract:

Negative emissions technologies (NETs) - in particular BECCS - have emerged as a speculative but sustained research agenda, exemplified by their inclusion in integrated assessment modeling (IAMs) in low emissions pathways (RCP2.6 in AR5). Already, this artifact underpins the UNFCCC Paris Agreement's 2C target. Critics - most of them non-modelers - argue that the scale of NETs in modeling unjustifiably props up low climate targets with unproven technologies; bringing the intents, processes, results, and transparency of integrated assessment modeling in IPCC assessments, as well as the role of the climate IAM community, into question. In this paper, we undertake interviews amongst members of the IAM modeling groups involved in the creation of low emissions pathways. We supplement and contrast their responses with those of experts of a variety of disciplines in the role of modeling activities in policy-relevant scientific assessments. Our intent is, firstly, to generate qualitative data that will reveal shared or diverging understandings that underpin how members of modeling and other research communities conceive of the shaping role of modeling scenarios in climate change assessment and policy, and secondly, to put these understandings into conversation with each other. By engaging directly with integrated assessment modelers as a community of practice whose work revolves around forward-looking assessments under conditions of uncertainty, the process of exploring future pathways for addressing climate change can be subjected to critical reflection.

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The politics of negative emissions