Meet the IPCC: Interview with Professor Carlo Carraro, Vice-Chair of IPCC Working Group III

Carlo Carraro is President Emeritus and Professor of Environmental Economics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and President of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) for the biennium 2018-2019. He has worked as an IPCC Lead Author since 1995 and has been a Vice-Chair of Working Group III since 2008. In this post, he speaks about his research, the role of economics in the IPCC, and the challenges of meeting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement.

 

What is your research focus and how does that feed into your work at the IPCC?

My research focuses on modeling the interactions between climate and economic variables. Economic, social, technological and demographic dynamics determine climate change, whereas climate change has relevant impacts on economic and social systems. Understanding and modeling these interactions is crucial to design cost effective policies to control climate change and minimize its impacts.

What policy-relevant questions do economics models help us answer?

Economics models help prioritizing choices and identifying the crucial elements that can make climate change control possible and affordable. Economic models tell us how many resources should be invested in technological innovation, and/or in mitigation, and/or in adaptation. They tell us how to allocate these financial resources over time, across economics sectors, and in different world regions.

What is the distinctive contribution that economics can make to IPCC assessments?

Economics is the main pillar of IPCC assessments. Without an economic assessment, climate change would be considered as irrelevant by business leaders, policymakers and most citizens. Without an economic assessment, it would be difficult to identify the policies to be implemented to control climate change and its impacts. Without economic, technological and demographic scenarios, it would be impossible to predict future climate change.

What do you think is the greatest challenge in meeting the long-term aim of the Paris Agreement?

The greatest challenge is the development of technological innovation at a pace faster than climate change. We need a quick development and diffusion of energy efficient solutions in most sectors and all countries. We need affordable and large-scale solutions for energy storage and above all for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Climate is changing rapidly, more rapidly than expected by science in the past years. We need an even more rapid technological development, otherwise the Paris Agreement, and its subsequent revisions, will not be sufficient to limit temperature increase below 2°C.

How can the IPCC increase the policy relevance of its reports?

By using a different language and different communication tools. IPCC reports are largely incomprehensible to policymakers and to the large public that shape, through elections, policy decisions.

What is your favorite thing about being part of the IPCC, and what is most challenging?

My favorite thing is working in a very interdisciplinary, international, and diverse environment. There is always something new to learn. The most challenging one is to make IPCC work policy relevant and policy effective, where the word “policy” also refers to business strategies and decisions at all levels: cities, regions, sectors….

What is your best memory of your work with IPCC?

The scoping meeting of the Fifth Assessment Report that took place in Venice in 2009. Five days of good work and fun with outstanding colleagues.

What would you tell researchers who are thinking of getting involved in the IPCC?

To fight against IPCC rules and traditions. IPCC is a very conservative organization.

What is your favorite book?

One hundred years of solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez.