Carbon Offsets in California: Science in the Policy Development Process

Communicating Climate Change and Natural Hazard Risk and Cultivating Resilience (Jeanette L. Drake et al., eds., 2016) (with Barbara Haya, Aaron Strong, and Emily Grubert).

Natural and social scientists are increasingly stepping out of purely academic roles to actively inform science-based climate change policies. This chapter examines a practical example of science and policy interaction. We focus on the implementation of California’s global warming law, based on our participation in the public process surrounding the development of two new carbon offset protocols. Most of our work on the protocols focused on strategies for ensuring that the environmental quality of the program remains robust in the face of significant scientific and behavioral uncertainty about protocol outcomes. In addition to responding to technical issues raised by government staff, our contributions—along with those from other outside scientists—helped expand the protocol development discussion to include important scientific issues that would not have otherwise been part of the process. We close by highlighting the need for more scientists to proactively engage the climate policy development process.