Could a multi-million dollar prize spur the next big innovation in sustainable climate technology?
Jonathan H. Adler, professor and director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University's School of Law, suggests that prize-based incentives could do just that.
"Technology-induced prizes have a long and storied history," writes Adler in his article, "Eye on a Climate Prize Rewarding Energy Innovation to Achieve Climate Stabilization," recently published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review.
Historically prizes have led to discoveries: James Maxwell's mathematical theory of Saturn rings; Heinrich Hertz's detection of radio waves; and the solution for deriving longitude by English clockmaker John Harrison, who invented the marine chronometer that revolutionized sea travel in the 1770s and continues to guide nautical travel. More recently, Richard Branson inspired inventors to strive for a $25 million prize in the "Virgin Earth Challenge" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Adler adds that a clear need exists for these new technologies that will make climate change costs for business and countries less expensive and more available.
With President Obama's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, "Global climate change is a terribly vexing environmental problem," Adler writes. "Its scope, complexity and potential costs are daunting."
Carbon emissions currently outpace available solutions to curb them. To achieve what climate experts call the stabilization goal would require reducing carbon emissions to between 450 and 550 parts per million. Those lower levels have not been seen in the U.S. for nearly a century, when the population was at 100 million people. Today, the population is approaching 400 million.
"Yet even reductions of this scale would not leave developing nations much room to increase their emissions," Adler notes.
|Contact: Susan Griffith|
Case Western Reserve University