Policy Approaches to Climate Change

Economist Philip H. Brown studies developing economies, identifying sources of poverty and ways to reduce it. A Ph.D. recipient from the University of Michigan, Philip H. Brown’s professional interests cover a broad range of topics, including global food prices, wind power, cost-benefit analysis, emissions trading plans, and dealing with climate change.

While advocates on both sides of the issue continue to argue passionately about the impact of human activity on climate change, policymakers must consider what steps to take, if any, with respect to the phenomenon. Significant areas of policy response to climate change include mitigation strategies, adaptation policies, and bioengineering.

Mitigation policies are designed to reduce or eliminate the discharge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In addition to regulating factory, automobile, and other emissions, mitigation activities include the development of renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and developing low-emission urban systems, among other approaches. Mitigation also includes changing consumer behavior as well as the way resources are managed.

Adaptation policy objectives are to help the population deal with consequences of climate change such as rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, and ocean acidification. Example strategies include building flood defenses, employing environmentally responsible forestry practices, and developing crops that can tolerate the greater ranges of weather extremes.

A third approach under consideration is geoengineering, which involves direct intervention in the planetary energy balance. This is a relatively new strategy, and involves massive manipulation of the global environment. Examples of geoengineering include such techniques as dispersing particles into the atmosphere to “whiten” clouds and thus make them more reflective of the sun’s rays, increasing the iron content of seawater to encourage the development of plankton, seeding clouds to force rainfall, and genetically engineering crops to make them better reflect sunlight.