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SE Speaker Series: Resilient investment decisions to mitigate risk and uncertainty in Paris Agreement energy system futures

November 25, 2021 at 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM

We explore the uncertainty in input assumptions and data to a global integrated assessment model (IAM) in a Monte-Carlo assessment (MCA). We outline the investment & policy risk blind spots which result from scenario analysis that does not systematically map the full solution space of plausible pathways to achieve the Paris Agreement.

We find that key uncertain input variables, that are difficult to explore across IAM model intercomparison projects (MIP), dominate the costs, feasibility and rates of climate mitigation. Probability distributions of climate sensitivity, assumed energy demand intensities, economic growth, discount rates, available geological CO2 storage, and climate damages dominate scenario outcomes beyond the key technology and behavioural costs typically explored in IAMS.

The probability of 1.5°C temperature overshoot by 2030 in our systematic ensemble of 4000 scenarios is ~70%. The annual energy system costs to achieve the Paris Agreement goals range from 28-180$Trn. The range is sensitive to the climate sensitivity (0.4°C to 9.8°C), the carbon budgets (-1TtCO2 to 5.8 TtCO2), the peak emissions year (2020-2030) and the level of climate damages. Delayed mitigation action of 10 years may result in 2°C mitigation costs being similar in magnitude with the 1.5°C case with immediate peak in emissions, and with a larger medium-term uncertainty.

Dr. James Glynn is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA, focused on energy systems modelling. He has over 15 years of experience within energy systems analysis and energy technology research, development and deployment, collaborating with governments, technologists and energy analysts in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Dr. Glynn’s research interests focus on developing and applying integrated energy systems models and their interactions with the climate, economy, and society to find resilient pathways to future sustainable development goals. He is an expert developer and user of the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Systems Analysis Programmes’ (IEA-ETSAP) TIMES source code, developing global and national energy systems models. These model applications have provided insights into Irish, European and International energy policy in collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders.

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