What happens when bad data drives sustainability policies?

(Eco Business, 20 Jul 2018) Data and progress have largely been seen as synonymous, but speakers at a recent carbon forum cautioned against the potential of data to distract attention from the real problems facing the environment.

Data allows cities to track their progress, highlight areas for improvement, and set ambitious targets for the future, said panellists at the 2018 Asia-Pacific Carbon Forum in Singapore last week. 

But does more data always mean more progress, or should policymakers discern between good and bad data, asked Assaad Razzouk, chief executive officer of renewable energy company Sindicatum Sustainable Resources.

“The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) exhausts the 1.5-degree carbon budget by 2023. What kind of a scenario does not even take the Paris Agreement into account?” he said, referring to IEA’s most ambitious global energy transformation scenario, released in its 2017 World Energy Outlook publication.

However, a study by Oil Change International and Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis suggests that the SDS predicts a future in which oil and gas remain a major source of energy, and that the world fails to meet the targets set out by the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise to under 2 degrees.

“Governments assume that these numbers are authoritative, and start building policies based on them. The problem comes when these numbers are wrong,” said Razzouk. “We can’t look at these numbers, this is dangerous data.” 

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Eco Business, 20 Jul 2018: What happens when bad data drives sustainability policies?