On the political feasibility of climate change mitigation pathways: Is it too late to keep warming below 1.5° C?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change (WIRESs). 2020, 11:e621. 10.1002/wcc.621
Keeping global warming below 1.5°C is technically possible but is it politically feasible? Understanding political feasibility requires answering three questions: (a) “Feasibility of what?,” (b) “Feasibility when and where?,” and (c) “Feasibility for whom?.” In relation to the 1.5°C target, these questions translate into (a) identifying specific actions comprising the 1.5°C pathways; (b) assessing the economic and political costs of these actions in different socioeconomic and political contexts; and (c) assessing the economic and institutional capacity of relevant social actors to bear these costs. This view of political feasibility stresses costs and capacities in contrast to the prevailing focus on benefits and motivations which mistakes desirability for feasibility. The evidence on the political feasibility of required climate actions is not systematic, but clearly indicates that the costs of required actions are too high in relation to capacities to bear these costs in relevant contexts. In the future, costs may decline and capacities may increase which would reduce political constraints for at least some solutions. However, this is unlikely to happen in time to avoid a temperature overshoot. Further research should focus on exploring the “dynamic political feasibility space” constrained by costs and capacities in order to find more feasible pathways to climate stabilization.