"Challenges and new directions in risk analysis, decision making and policy advice for climate change"

TiPES WP6 Online-Workshop March 11, 2022, 10am - 1pm, CET


The aim of the workshop is to address problems and challenges in the interaction of science with climate policy and discuss new perspectives and possible future directions for research.

Traditionally, policy making relies heavily on cost-benefit analysis. However, concerns have been raised that the application of these techniques outside their appropriate realm, e.g. to inform climate policy via economists' Integrated Assessment Models, may create a bias to inaction.

Severe critique has also been raised against economists' estimates of the damages which are to be expected from climate change. The addressed problems range from methodological flaws to misrepresentation of the scientific literature on climate tipping points.

Meanwhile, climate scientists have (mostly) focused their efforts on getting the science right: They have developed sophisticated models and data analysis and with those made projections of what is to be expected if certain emission or concentration scenarios are followed. The communication of the implications of their results is complicated by the need to maintain a balance between scientific accuracy and effectiveness in addressing policy makers and public.

Another difficulty in the context of climate risk management is the treatment of the different kinds of uncertainties that need to be taken into account. It has been argued that the IPCC approach of assigning confidence levels to scenario-based predictions rather focuses on avoiding false alarms, thereby raising the prospect of missed warnings.

In response to these problems, new approaches have been proposed in recent years. A paradigm shift from cost-benefit to risk-opportunity based frameworks has been advocated. For the treatment of uncertainties, the storyline approach has emerged as a more informative supplement to the classic ensemble-based analyses.  

It seems promising, that interdisciplinary efforts are being made to understand a big variety of elements and processes that will be affected by climate change - not only concerning the interaction of physical, chemical and biological processes in the Earth system, but also with socio-economical mechanisms.

Against this background, the workshop is intended as a venue to discuss challenges, chances and important research objectives for responsible and accountable decision making in climate policy and risk management.

Invited Speakers

  • Steve Keen (Honorary Professor, University College London and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategy Resilience & Security)
  • Simon Sharpe (Policy Associate at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London)
  • Ted Shepherd (Grantham Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading)
  • Thomas Stocker (Professor of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern, President of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research)

Organisation & Attendance

The workshop will take place on March 11, 2022, 10am - 1pm, CET as an online event under the EU Horizon 2020 funded project "TiPES – Tipping Points in the Earth System".

For TiPES members, the access information will be circulated on the TiPES mailing list.

We also invite non-TiPES members to participate - if you are interested in attending, please contact nuria.brede[at]pik-potsdam.de.

The workshop is organised by the TiPES WP6 team:  


The workshop will consist of four talks of ~20 min + 5 min questions each, and a discussion session with ~5 min input by each of the speakers, followed by an open discussion.

Time (CET)Speaker

Michel Crucifix (TiPES WP6 Lead): Welcome and introduction


Simon Sharpe - How to give better climate change advice to governments


Steve Keen - Framing an existential crisis as an optimisation problem: how economists have prevented action on climate change


Coffee Break


Ted Shepherd - Storylines as a way of representing climate risk


Thomas Stocker - tba


Discussion Panel guided by the question

Which are currently the most urgent research questions at the intersection of climate science, economics and policy advice to support responsible and accountable decision making? Where do you think more attention and/or effort is needed?

12:10-12:15pm Introduction to the discussion
12:15-12:20pm Input by Simon Sharpe
12:20-12:25pm Input by Steve Keen
12:25-12:30pm Input by Ted Shepherd
12:30-12:35pm Input by Thomas Stocker
12:35-01:00pm Open discussion with all participants

Abstracts, slides and videos

Simon Sharpe - How to give better climate change advice to governments 

If we want to see stronger political will, we need to focus less on science assessment, and more on risk assessment. Focus on the worst case instead of the most likely, and prioritise relevance over confidence or originality. If we want to channel the political will that there is more effectively, we need economics to focus on how to bring about change, instead of assuming that things stay the same. Policy advice based on the assumption of equilibrium tends to be unhelpful when the aim is transformational change. And if we want to decarbonise the global economy five times faster over this decade than we managed in the last, we need diplomacy to focus on coordinating action for system transitions, instead of assuming that unilateralism with peer pressure will somehow be enough.

Material slides   video

Steve Keen - Framing an existential crisis as an optimisation problem: how economists have prevented action on climate change

Politicians care about economic growth uber alles, and economists have provided plenty of numerical estimates of damages from climate change that are minor, with major costs needed to attenuate them. Politicians do not look behind the numbers to see whether their foundations are sound, and trust peer review to filter out poor research. Peer review in economics leads to confirmation bias and herding, while the numbers are based on absurd assumptions and utterly inappropriate functional forms to project damages forward from largely irrelevant current data.

Ted Shepherd - Storylines as a way of representing climate risk

Physical climate storylines have emerged as a way of navigating the cascade of uncertainty within physical aspects of climate change, and allowing a more effective connection to decision-making contexts. Yet the question inevitably arises of their subjectivity, and of whether they are just stories --- perhaps, even, ‘Just So Stories’. In this talk I will offer my thoughts on these topics.

Thomas Stocker - tba