The Importance of the Development Pathway in the Climate Debate

May 16th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Today I am testifying before the House Committee on Science and Technology of the U.S. Congress. In my testimony I argue that we should pay attention to development paths in addition to the mitigation of greenhouse gases. You can see my testimony in full here in PDF.

A full reference:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2007. Statement to the House Committee on Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives, The State of Climate Change Science 2007: The Findings of the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change, 16 May.

6 Responses to “The Importance of the Development Pathway in the Climate Debate”

  1. Dale Says:


    Your contention that those looking to reduce the negative effects of climate change need to focus on more than simple GHG reduction is a point that far too many will miss. It seems fairly clear from the information presented in the IPCC and in your articles that a comprehensive approach that includes both mitigation and adaptation ought to be undertaken, and I would think that those who are serious about this would be well aware of such things, but if they are it isn’t clearly noticeable. And even if policy makers are fully aware that both mitigation and adaptation must be undertaken concurrently, good luck getting the public to follow along with it. It seems difficult enough just trying to get the climate scientists to agree publicly with you on this.

    Furthermore, looking beyond whether or not policy makers are aware of this, the task of implementing any substantial policy that comprehensively addresses this is enormous. Even now, with the focus solely on GHG reduction, progress that can have any discernible and positive impact is distant at best. Once adaptation policies are added to this, the complexity of the issues will most likely make any efforts more futile than successfully building a perpetual motion machine. I know progress is possible, but this one may require a bit more ingenuity and thoughtfulness than what we are collectively capable of.

    I hope I am completely wrong about this. Your attempts to educate our country’s policy makers and public may very well prove fruitful. In any case, keep up the hard work.


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  3. Jonathan Gilligan Says:


    I have similar concerns to Dale’s, above.

    In the big picture I agree that what we need is a comprehensive sustainable-development path rather than a narrowly focused GHG-mitigation one, but in the US, it’s much more feasible to address problems piecemeal (a carbon mitigation act here, a coastal land-use restriction act there, foreign aid to help Africans deal with drought caused in part by US emissions in yet another act, etc.) and grand comprehensive programs tend to generate a lot of hearings and no legislation.

    By telling Congress that they should focus on grand sweeping programs instead of piecemeal legislation, don’t you run a great risk of promoting inaction by providing an excuse that we should do nothing until we have a comprehensive sustainable-development program that covers all bases?

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  5. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Hi Jonathan- Thanks for your comments. I agree with them! Nowhere will you see me recommending any large-scale comprehensive policy approach for anything. The reality is that incrementalism rules in practice, and indeed this is what we are starting to see develop on mitigation — which is a good thing. But as the Proverb on the wall behind the members in the Science Committee hearing room says, without a vision, the people will perish. And I am calling for a little bit broader vision than tuning the atmosphere to a specific ppm target.


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  7. Jan Curtis Says:


    I received this email from Dr. John T. Everett, President of Ocean Associates, Inc., and thought your readers would find it of particular interest.


    Through a confluence of factors, including key roles of Jim O’Brien and Gary Sharp, I was invited to testify before the US Congress House Resources Committee on the effect of climate change on oceans, polar regions, coastal zones and the resources therein (areas I led for IPCC). I submitted the follow-up response yesterday.

    Since I had to get lots of information together and get it organized, I created a web site that I will keep balanced as a source for all views. My oral statement has become widely distributed on the internet, and was translated into Spanish within a couple hours. My English version is here:

    My written statement is here:

    Questions asked by the Representatives are interesting because they reveal the level of knowledge and concerns. Follow-up questions and answers, for example, about me tinkering while others work to transform society, and the future of fisheries, oceans, coral reefs and polar bears are here:

    I also just participated in a climate change production of Univision (the largest Spanish network in the Americas). The production crew flew from Miami and la journalista interviewed me for 3 hours, in English and Spanish, including filming us walking through the neighborhood. The formal questions and answers (and picture) are here but we only used the Spanish version:

    This new data and all the above and much more are available on my site, which I will try to keep objective. Anyone is welcome to link to it and use the materials:

    I have included the Association Policy Statement along the left margin.

    Best wishes!


    Dr. John T. Everett
    Ocean Associates, Incorporated
    4007 N. Abingdon Street
    Arlington, Virginia USA 22207
    Tel: 703-534-4032
    On the web at and and

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  9. Steve Milesworthy Says:

    It is remarkable what can be proved with economic theory.

    The comment in your testimony regarding the 1-5% reduction in global GDP alerted me to the actual quote from the IPCC WG2 SPM:

    “while developing countries are expected to experience larger percentage losses, global mean losses could be 1-5% GDP for 4C of warming.”

    In other words the US and Europe can breathe a sigh of relief as the 3rd world is going to take the brunt of it (until the 4C warming causes the inevitable melting of the Greenland ice sheet).

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  11. Mark Bahner Says:

    “while developing countries are expected to experience larger percentage losses, global mean losses could be 1-5% GDP for 4C of warming.”

    Well, that doesn’t say much, since the odds of the world ever being 4C warmer than in 1990 are essentially zero (probably less than 1 in 100).