Hexbyte Glen Cove Rethink 'cost-benefit analysis' to tackle climate crisis thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Rethink ‘cost-benefit analysis’ to tackle climate crisis

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

In a new paper, a group of leading researchers and policy experts argue that improving and enriching existing policy analysis methods – including costs and benefits among multiple other factors such as uncertainty, resilience and a better understanding of innovation – would lead to better decisions.

It addresses the recent amendment of the UK’s guidelines for policy analysis, which identifies the need for special treatment of policies that aim to drive systemic “transformational change,” including .

The paper’s authors say “inadequacies” in the way policies are devised might be hindering global climate action.

Ahead of the vital COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow later this year, they offer improved principles for policymaking during times of dynamic and transformational change.

The paper comes from the Economics of Energy Innovation and System Transition (EEIST) project, led by the University of Exeter.

“Calculations of the economic costs and benefits of policies, although they are considered alongside other considerations, have substantial influence on decisions,” said EEIST director Dr Jean-Francois Mercure, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.

“In periods of rapid change – like now – it’s extremely difficult to accurately estimate these costs and benefits, especially far in the future.”

“We don’t have enough certainty about the future to make sufficiently reliable predictions, so we need to consider how to use uncertainty to our advantage.”

“This is what our framework offers.”

As well as switching the focus away from an excessive reliance on costs, benefits and economic valuation, towards evaluating risks, opportunities and resilience, the new framework:

  • considers multiple interacting factors, acknowledging that changes will need to be made in light of changing circumstances.
  • analyzes processes of transformation instead of predicting outcomes at a moment in time.

Co-author Simon Sharpe, policy lead for COP26 at the UK Government’s Cabinet Office, said: “Policymaking on issues such as involves fundamental uncertainty, widely differing interests and the potential for structural change in the economy.”

“We make better decisions when these factors are the focus of our analysis, not assumed away or left on the sidelines.”

In one example of “static” hindering global climate action, such analysis suggested that replacing coal with gas would be the cheapest way to reduce .

However, this ignored the dynamic “feedbacks” (self-reinforcing chain reactions) that through a complex process of cumulative innovation and industrial development, eventually drove renewables to become the cheapest form of electricity generation.

During the COVID pandemic, governments have been forced to react quickly to rapidly changing situations, and this may offer hope for more agile policy in future.

The EEIST research team will further develop the framework and analyze its benefits for policymakers as they respond to the accelerating climate crisis.

The paper, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, is entitled: “Risk-opportunity analysis for transformative policy design and appraisal.”

More information:
Jean-Francois Mercure et al, Risk-opportunity analysis for transformative policy design and appraisal, Global Environmental Change (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102359

Rethink ‘cost-benefit analysis’ to tackle climate crisis (2021, September 14)
retrieved 15 September 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-09-rethink-cost-benefit-analysis-tackle-climate.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Stellar feedback and an airborne observatory: Team determines a nebula to be much younger than previously believed thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Stellar feedback and an airborne observatory: Team determines a nebula to be much younger than previously believed

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Multi-color Spitzer image of RCW 120, showing hot dust (in red), warm gas (in green) and emission from stars (in blue). The contours show the spectroscopic [CII] line of ionized carbon observed with SOFIA, which indicates rapid expansion of the region toward us (blue contours) and away from us (red contours). The yellow star gives the location of the central, massive star in RCW 120. Credit: Matteo Luisi, West Virginia University

In the southern sky, situated about 4,300 light years from Earth, lies RCW 120, an enormous glowing cloud of gas and dust. This cloud, known as an emission nebula, is formed of ionized gases and emits light at various wavelengths. An international team led by West Virginia University researchers studied RCW 120 to analyze the effects of stellar feedback, the process by which stars inject energy back into their environment. Their observations showed that stellar winds cause the region to expand rapidly, which enabled them to constrain the age of the region. These findings indicate that RCW 120 must be less than 150,000 years old, which is very young for such a nebula.

About seven from the center of RCW 120 lies the boundary of the cloud, where a plethora of are forming. How are all of these stars being formed? To answer that question, we need to dig deep into the origin of the nebula. RCW 120 has one young, massive star in its center, which generates powerful stellar winds. The stellar winds from this star are much like those from our own Sun, in that they throw material out from their surface into space. This stellar wind shocks and compresses the surrounding gas clouds. The energy that is being input into the nebula triggers the formation of new stars in the clouds, a process known as “” because the presence of the massive central star has a positive effect on future star formation. The team, featuring WVU postdoctoral researcher Matteo Luisi, used SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) to study the interactions of with their environment.

SOFIA is an airborne observatory consisting of an 8.8-foot (2.7-meter) telescope carried by a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. SOFIA observes in the infrared regime of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is just beyond what humans can see. For observers on the ground, in the atmosphere blocks much of the light from space that infrared astronomers are interested in measuring. However, its cruising altitude of seven miles (13 km), puts SOFIA above most of the water vapor, allowing researchers to study star-forming regions in a way that would not be possible from the ground. Overnight, the in-flight observatory observes celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions (like RCW 120), comets and nebulae. Thanks to the new upGREAT receiver that was installed in 2015, the airborne telescope can make more precise maps of large areas of the sky than ever before. The observations of RCW 120 are part of the SOFIA FEEDBACK survey, an international effort led by researchers Nicola Schneider at the University of Cologne and Alexander Tielens at the University of Maryland, which makes use of upGREAT to observe a multitude of star-forming regions.

The research team opted to observe the spectroscopic [CII] line with SOFIA, which is emitted from diffuse ionized carbon in the star-forming . “The [CII] line is probably the best tracer of feedback on small scales, and—unlike infrared images—it gives us velocity information, meaning we can measure how the gas moves. The fact that we can now observe [CII] easily across large regions in the sky with upGREAT makes SOFIA a really powerful instrument to explore stellar feedback in more detail than was possible previously,” says Matteo.

Using their [CII] observations from SOFIA, the research team found that RCW 120 is expanding at 33,000 mph (15 km/s), which is incredibly fast for a nebula. From this expansion speed, the team was able to put an age limit on the cloud and found that RCW 120 is much younger than previously believed. With the age estimate, they were able to infer the time it took for the star formation at the boundary of the nebula to kick in after the central star had been formed. These findings suggest that positive feedback processes occur on very short timescales and point to the idea that these mechanisms could be responsible for the high star formation rates that occurred during the early stages of the universe.

Looking forward, the team hopes to expand this type of analysis to the study of more star forming regions. Matteo says, “The other regions we are looking at with the FEEDBACK survey are in different stages of evolution, have different morphologies, and some have many high-mass stars in them, as opposed to only one in RCW 120. We can then use this information to determine what processes primarily drive triggered star formation and how feedback processes differ between various types of star-forming regions.”

More information:
Matteo Luisi et al. Stellar feedback and triggered star formation in the prototypical bubble RCW 120, Science Advances (2021). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe9511

Stellar feedback and an airborne observatory: Team determines a nebula to be much younger than previously believed (2021, April 13)
retrieved 14 April 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-stellar-feedback-airborne-observatory-team.html

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