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A "Wicked Problem": Controlling Global Climate Change
September 23, 2014Risk Management and Vulnerability

Global climate change caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been referred to as a “wicked problem” due to its complexity, severity, and apparent political intractability.

Global climate change caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been referred to as a “wicked problem” due to its complexity, severity, and apparent political intractability. It poses a serious threat to longer-term global welfare and poverty reduction. The adverse environmental effects result from globally ubiquitous but vital everyday activities, notably energy use. To reduce the scale of climate change risks to acceptable levels will require a very significant reduction in global emissions over the next few decades. Yet, significant increases in the utilization of energy services in developing countries also will be needed to achieve desired levels of output and living standards. The scale of the costs that may be borne to contain emissions, and how those costs will be shared globally, are major points of contention. Meanwhile, the benefits from containing emissions will be realized primarily in the medium- to longer-term future.

In this talk on controlling climate change, Mike Toman will first briefly sketch the nature of the policy challenge for cutting global emissions, drawing on economic and risk management perspectives. In the second part of the talk he will provide information on the policies for and costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and the implications for addressing both economic development and climate change. In the third and last part, Mike will discuss the underlying political-economy challenges in establishing credible and effective international agreements across a number of countries to control climate change. 

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    Mike Toman, Research Manager, Research Department

    Michael Toman (Mike) is Lead Economist on Climate Change in the Development Research Group and Manager of the Energy and Environment Team. His current research interests include alternative energy resources, policies for responding to risks of climate change catastrophes, timing of investments for greenhouse gas reduction, and mechanisms for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through reduced deforestation. During his career Mike has done extensive research on climate change economics and policy, energy markets and policy, environmental policy instruments, and approaches to achieving sustainable development. Prior to joining the World Bank in fall 2008, he held senior analytical and management positions at RAND Corporation, Inter-American Development Bank, and Resources for the Future. His teaching experience includes adjunct positions at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the School of the Environment, University of California at Santa Barbara. Mike has a B.A. from Indiana University, a M.Sc. in applied mathematics from Brown University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from the University of Rochester.
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    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Director of Research

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt is the Director of Research in the World Bank. After joining the Bank in 1989 as a Young Economist, she has held different positions, including Director of Development Policy, Chief Economist of Financial and Private Sector Development Network, and Senior Research Manager, doing research and advising on financial sector and private sector development issues.
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    Marianne Fay, Chief Economist for climate change at the World Bank

    Ms. Fay has served in multiple regions in the World Bank, including Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa, working on infrastructure, urbanization, and more recently on climate change and green growth. Her research has explored the role of infrastructure and urbanization in development, with a particular focus on urban poverty, climate change, and green growth, on which she has authored numerous articles and books. As chief economist for sustainable development, she led the World Bank’s flagship report for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development.
  • The Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the research department and their implications for World Bank operations. The goal of the monthly event is to facilitate a dialogue between researchers and operational staff, so that we can challenge and contribute to the World Bank's intellectual climate and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practices.