Roger Pielke, Jr.
Ph.D. University of Colorado, 1994
Professor, Environmental Studies Program
Roger A. Pielke, Jr. joined the faculty of the University of Colorado in 2001. He is currently Professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES). At CIRES Roger serves as the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. He also served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the University's Graduate Program in Environmental Studies from 2002-2004. Roger's current areas of interest include understanding the relations of science and politics, technology policy in the atmospheric and related sciences, use and value of prediction in decision making, and policy education for scientists. In 2000, Roger received the Sigma Xi Distinguished Lectureship Award and in 2001, he received the Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award by students in the University of Colorado's Department of Political Science. Before joining the University of Colorado, from 1993-2001 Roger was a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Current Research: The British Climate Change Act: A Critical Evaluation and Proposed Alternative Approach
The United Kingdom’s Climate Change Act of 2008 recommends reducing carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 and 34 percent by 2022, but these goals are just too ambitious to be met, according to a research paper I published in 2009 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
HISTORICAL AND IMPLIED DECARBONIZATI ON OF THE UNITED KINGDOM ECONOMY ASSUMING 2.0% ANNUAL GDP GROWTH FOR 2022 AND 2050 TARGETS
The paper argues that not only is the 2008 Act certain to fail, both in the short and long term, it is also fundamentally flawed in its design. I argue that the Act begins with a target and then only later do policy makers ask how that target might be achieved, with no consideration for whether the target implies realistic or feasible rates of decarbonization.
Both the 2022 interim and 2050 targets require rates of decarbonization far higher than those ever achieved by any large economy to date and would require seemingly impossible feats. For example, the UK would need to achieve a carbon efficiency equal to that of France—a relatively carbon-efficient economy due to reliance on nuclear power for electricity generation—in the next five years. Achieving this would require Britain to deploy some 30 new nuclear plants during this time to replace existing power stations fueled by coal and natural gas. I argue that this is just not going to happen, a prespective that was endorsed by the member of the UK Parliament who heads its climate change committeee. My paper was the subject of a question posed to each of the three leading political parties in a national debate over energy policy, part of the 2010 parliamentary elections.
I reached my conclusions by analyzing the targets in the Act using several different approaches and considering projections of future UK population, economic growth, and technology. The calculations show that the UK would have to achieve annual decarbonization rates of more than five percent, a figure that no country has ever attained. In other words, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by each individual in the UK would need to be reduced by as much as 85 percent in 2050 and 35 percent in 2022, from 1990 levels.
I suggest that setting targets and timetables for different energy sectors and expanding carbon-free energy supplies would be a step in the right direction. I have conducted similar analyses for Japan and Australia, with similar results, underscoring the need for alternative approaches to achieving emission reduction targets. My new book, The Climate Fix, will be published in 2010—and it presents a comprehensive critique of climate policy and suggests a new way forward.