Sivan Kartha

Senior Scientist


Somerville, MA
skartha@sei-us.org
skype: skartha
+1 (617) 627-3786 x5#

Sivan Kartha is a Senior Scientist at SEI and co-leader of the institute-wide research theme Reducing Climate Risk. His research and publications for the past 20 years have focused on technological options and policy strategies for addressing climate change, and he has concentrated most recently on equity and efficiency in the design of an international climate regime.

His most recent work has involved the elaboration of the Greenhouse Development Rights approach to burden-sharing in the global climate regime – an approach that places the urgency of the climate crisis in the context of the equally dire development crisis afflicting the world's poor majority.

Dr. Kartha has also worked on mitigation scenarios, market mechanisms for climate actions, and the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of biomass energy. His work has enabled him to advise and collaborate with diverse organizations, including the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), various UN and World Bank programs, numerous government policy-making bodies and agencies, foundations, and civil society organizations throughout the developing and industrialized world.

He is an author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group III), co-leading the chapter on Sustainable Development and Equity. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University in 1993.


Recent Publications by Sivan Kartha

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Fossil fuel production in a 2°C world: The equity implications of a diminishing carbon budget

SEI discussion brief

Author(s): Kartha, S. ; Lazarus, M. ; Tempest, K.
Year: 2016

Research Area(s): Climate Equity ; Climate Mitigation Policy

Description: This discussion brief examines the equity implications of constraining future fossil fuel production as part of efforts to limit the global surface temperature increase to 2°C. The brief begins with a short overview of the scientific and political context of fossil supply issues, before delving into the two broad equity perspectives. It then presents some quantitative insights into the financial implications (expressed in terms of rents) of historical fossil fuel extraction, and the anticipated financial consequences of constraining extraction. It also quickly reviews some explanations for the lack of deeper examination of these equity related issues in the scholarly literature and policy discourse. The closing section provides some final comments and directions for future research.
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The risks of relying on tomorrow’s ‘negative emissions’ to guide today’s mitigation action

SEI Working Paper No. 2016-08

Author(s): Kartha, S. ; Dooley, K.
Year: 2016

Research Area(s): Climate Mitigation Policy

Description: This paper focuses on the risks associated with “negative emission” techniques for drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing it in land-based sinks or underground.
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Assessing carbon lock-in

Environmental Research Letters, 10(8),084023

Author(s): Erickson, P. ; Kartha, S. ; Lazarus, M. ; Tempest, K.
Year: 2015

Research Area(s): Climate Mitigation Policy

Description: This paper presents a straightforward approach to assess the speed, strength, and scale of carbon lock-in for major energy-consuming assets in the power, buildings, industry, and transport sectors. The authors pilot the approach at the global level, finding that carbon lock-in is greatest, globally, for coal power plants, gas power plants, and vehicles. The approach can be readily applied at the national or regional scale, and may be of particular relevance to policy-makers interested in enhancing flexibility in their jurisdictions for deeper emissions cuts in the future, and therefore in limiting the future costs associated with "stranded assets".
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Leaving room for 'green growth': identifying near-term actions to avoid long-term carbon lock-in

SEI policy brief

Author(s): Erickson, P. ; Kartha, S. ; Lazarus, M. ; Tempest, K.
Year: 2015

Research Area(s): Climate Mitigation Policy

Description: Policy-makers increasingly aspire to a low-carbon future, yet many past development choices hinder a low-carbon transition. In just the past decade, we have invested trillions of dollars in coal-fired power plants, oil and gas supply infrastructure, extensive road networks and car-dependent travel, and inefficient buildings that are costly to retrofit. That is the essence of carbon lock-in: once certain investments are made, institutions are created, and development pathways are chosen, the behaviors – and carbon emissions – associated with them are more or less "locked in", and shifting to a new pathway becomes ever more difficult and expensive. This policy brief presents an approach for analyzing lock-in risks, then applies it to fossil fuel infrastructure at the global scale, suggesting the project types of greatest lock-in concern.
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Political implications of data presentation

Science 345(6192), 36-37

Author(s): Dubash, N.K. ; Kartha, S. ; Fleurbaey, M.
Year: 2014

Research Area(s): Climate Mitigation Policy

Description: This article, by three IPCC authors, examines the controversy over the approval process for the Summary for Policy-makers of IPCC reports, and proposes an alternative approach. What is the appropriate balance between scientific analysis and governmental input in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? Claiming government overreach and calling for greater insulation of the process, the authors argue, comes from a misleadingly simple interpretation. Such insulation would likely diminish the policy relevance of the SPM. An approval process is worth preserving, the authors argue, as it is precisely what makes the IPCC distinct from any number of technical reports.
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Free access via CPR
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