The Oxford Martin Programme on the
Modern human civilisation has been built upon energy from carbon-intensive fossil fuels. We are now on the cusp of a once-in-a-civilisation transition to a post- carbon society.
The outcome of this transition could be a world that is cleaner, safer, smarter, more technologically advanced, and more prosperous. But the transition will necessarily involve structural transformation in many economic sectors. Doing more of the same will not achieve this.
In contrast, identifying positive ‘tipping points’ could help move global economic development firmly onto a zero carbon path. While there has been a great deal of research on catastrophic tipping points in the climate system, there has been relatively little on the positive tipping points in the potential societal response to climate change that might deliver accelerated action.
This highly interdisciplinary programme seeks to overcome the limitations of past analyses, complementing economic reasoning with methods and insights from complex systems science, history, geography, social psychology and philosophy.
A richer understanding of complex socioeconomic systems could help policy makers and business leaders to find intervention points in these systems that are sensitive – where a modest action might trigger an outsized response and accelerate the achievement of global net-zero emissions.
Our core research question is how do we identify, model, and trigger sensitive intervention points to rapidly transition to a post-carbon society?
These sensitive intervention points might be identified in the technological, psychological, socio-political or economic domains, among others. A core part of the research will be a suite of simulation models that will help identify these points and enable richer explorations of the various possible routes to the post-carbon society.
We have described the new models that are needed as “A Third Wave in the Economics of Climate Change”. This programme aims to make significant progress in developing the ideas in this domain. We will aim to found our analysis on a vision of the economy that may have periods of growth and prosperity, but may also have unemployment, crises, ‘far from perfect’ markets and realistic human behaviour. To be useful to policymakers, such models must be able to analyse policy tools beyond carbon pricing.
The potential of this programme is for a dramatic acceleration of the transition to a post-carbon society, through evidence-based technology policy, astute social interventions that are grounded in realistic psychology and a greater awareness of sensitive intervention points. The research will seek to provide a positive vision for those most likely to fear and attempt to resist or delay the transition, including governments, businesses and workers at risk of being ‘stranded’.
A new approach to climate interventions
Connie Hedegaard - former European Commissioner for Climate Action, Achim Steiner - Administrator of UNDP, James Cameron - Chairman of the Overseas Development Institute, Jules Kortenhorst - CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, and Eric Beinhocker - Executive Director of INET Oxford, comment on the importance of the Sensitive Intervention Points concept.
UK net zero emissions commitment: ‘Humanity can’t afford not to adopt such targets’ say researchers
Climate experts and economists at the Oxford Martin School have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.
Why protesters should be wary of ‘12 years to climate breakdown’ rhetoric
‘Economic butterfly wings can create a climate action tornado’
COP24: UN talks have an opportunity to align rules with their long-term temperature goal
New Director for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment
Natural capital: preventing the economics of mass extinction
International conference on future of low-carbon economy: how will our resource needs change?
"Navigating knowledge: new tools for the journey" with Dr Penny Mealy
Sensitive Intervention Points: How can economic butterfly wings can create a climate action tornado?
"How useful and reliable is a simplified perspective on Technological Change?" Prof Chris Magee
"Planetary warming: is a 1.5 degree target achievable?" with Prof Myles Allen
Measuring progress towards the Paris Agreement: aligning policy and science in global stocktakes
"Tipping points to the post-carbon society" with Prof Doyne Farmer & Prof Cameron Hepburn
Professor of Geosystem Science
Director, Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme and Associate Professor
Professor of Mathematics
Associate Professor of Global Public Policy
Professor of Environmental Economics
Emeritus Professor of Economic History
Senior Research Officer
Senior Research Associate
Research Associate in Complex Systems Economic Modelling
Senior Research Fellow
DPhil Candidate in Environmental Economics
Deputy Director of Economics of Sustainability
Sensitive intervention points in the post-carbon transition
Interpreting economic complexity
Carbon Lock-in Curves and Southeast Asia: Implications for the Paris Agreement
A Complementary Understanding of Residential Energy Demand, Consumption and Services
Making carbon pricing work for citizens
Fossil Fuel Divestment and Engagement on Climate Change: advice for investors