Evidence based climate change policy: six tricky challenges

Roger LevettRoger Levett of Levett-Therivel sustainability consultants led the presentations at the Observatory’s State of the Region Climate Change event. Roger laid down six tricky challenges to delegates.

He stressed that the evidence is already overwhelming that unless we cut greenhouse emissions deeply, fast, soon, irreversible catastrophic climate change will almost certainly become unpreventable. Delaying action to improve the evidence is no longer necessary.

Roger was also keen to lay down challenges to the Observatory in how we present and use the data to influence policy makers in the region. How we tackle these challenges will be key to the development of the State of the Region dialogue.


Roger distilled the argument and focussed his presentation on his six tricky challenges:

  1. Urgent need to act on what we already know
  2. Important points are often hard to prove
  3. Environmental limits are not just scientific
  4. Monetisation appears necessary but is illicit
  5. Efficiency of what outcomes and what inputs
  6. Coping with interconnectedness and complexity

Roger highlighted some of the problems with the existing evidence base but also was able to offer some direction as to how progress could be made. His illustration of how to make transport more efficient was particularly effective and his thoughts on the interconnectedness of the impacts of choices was hugely informative. The far reaching impacts of more or less car journeys towards the end of the presentation make extremely persuasive reading.

Roger expanded his presentation to cover life satisfaction and what we should mean by efficiency

View Roger’s presentation (with accompanying audio) below:

In summarising Roger left the delegates with some food for thought. We should all acknowledge complexity: everything is connected, so don’t mistake micro ‘efficiency’ for macro and don’t expect to measure anything important precisely! Money can only measure a bit of what matters.

But we also need to rediscover simplicity and stop making things worse. Particularly, policies shouldn’t provide for increases in traffic and emissions. Simple actions to are needed to enable policies and processes that are good and to discourage actions that are bad.

And finally amongst Roger’s conclusions was a point that should act as a guide to all researchers in the field. Don’t downplay important points because they are hard to measure!

Other speakers at this event included:

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