Andrew Jarvis
Lancaster Environment Centre
Lancaster University
plus44 1524 593280

MSc Energy and Environment

LEC380 Energy, Climate and Society



Long-run growth and climate change

The climate system has little regard for the short-term volatility of the global economy but instead responds to the long-run evolution of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are largely determined by the global energy system whose long-run evolution is in-turn determined by investment in its core capital infrastructure. As a result, addressing the risks of climate change needs to focus on the financial instruments that back these long-run investments. Pensions play an important role in this dynamic. The importance of these have been largely overlooked because they only represent ~5 % or annual turnover. Not surprisingly the focus is generally on the remaining 95% that simply keeps the wheels of the economy running, but it is the judicious investment of this 5 % residual that is absolutely key to the evolution of the current system. Half of this investment appears to go on repairing stuff, leaving ~2.5 % for actual material growth, which is why global primary energy use has grown around this rate for at least the last 100 years. So if you are interested in limiting resource use and addressing climate change then pensions look like a good place to focus attention. And of course it is these long-run investments that are most exposed to the effects of climate change by virtue of the fact that they are in the ground for so long. I have an Integrated Assessment Model that is structured along these lines and it shows that if we retain the current ~40 year investment window then we never avoid dangerous climate change even when the global economy is in a state of collapse. However, relatively modest increases in the long-run investment window to ~60 years does. The Paris Agreement appears to be equivalent to a 70 year investment window i.e. returns on investment are not fully intercepted by the investor but provide significant benefits to future generations i.e. if we implement this it would mark a fundamental change in who we believe returns on investment are for.


Selected papers

Energy returns on investment and the growth of global industrial society. Jarvis AJ. Ecological Economics, (in review)

Resource acquisition, distribution and end-use efficiencies and the growth of industrial society. Jarvis AJ, Jarvis SJ and Hewitt CN. Earth System Dynamics, 6, 1–14, (2015) (pdf)

A New Method of Comparing Forcing Agents in Climate Models. Kravitz B, McMartin DG, Rasch PJ, Jarvis AJ, Journal of Climate, 28, 8203 - 8218 (2015) (pdf)

Dynamics of the coupled human–climate system resulting from closed-loop control of solar geoengineering. MacMartin DG, Kravitz B, Keith DW, Jarvis AJ, Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-013-1822-9 (2013) (pdf)

Climate-society feedbacks and the avoidance of dangerous climate change. Jarvis, AJ, Leedal DT and Hewitt CN, Nature Climate Change, 2 (9), 668-671 (2012) (pdf)

The geoengineering model intercomparison project: A control perspective. Jarvis AJ and Leedal DT, Atmospheric Science, (2012) (pdf)

The magnitudes and timescales of global mean surface temperature feedbacks in climate models. Jarvis AJ, Earth System Dynamics, 2, 213–221 (2011) (pdf)

The contribution of timescales to the temperature response of climate models. Jarvis AJ and Li S, Climate Dynamics, (2010) (pdf)

Long run surface temperature dynamics of an A-OGCM: the HadCM3 4xCO(2) forcing experiment revisited. Li, S; Jarvis AJ, Climate Dynamics, 33, 817-825 (2009) (pdf)

Stabilizing global mean surface temperature: A feedback control perspective. Jarvis, A; Leedal, D; Taylor, CJ, Environmental Modelling and Software, 24, 665-674 (2009) (pdf)

Are response function representations of the global carbon cycle ever interpretable? Li, S; Jarvis, AJ; Leedal, DT, Tellus, 61B,361–371 (2008) (pdf)

A sequential CO2 emissions strategy based on optimal control of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Jarvis AJ, Young PC, Leedal DT and Chotai A, Climatic Change, DOI 10.1007/s10584-007-9298-4 (2008)