Political support for decarbonizing the global economy is at an all-time high. The good news is that about two-thirds of carbon emissions come from countries that have committed to reach ‘net zero’ by mid-century — they aim to cut their greenhouse-gas outputs and capture as much as they emit1. The bad news? The computer models that analysts use to assess routes to achieve such goals are missing a crucial factor: politics.
These ‘integrated assessment models’ (IAMs) combine insights from climate science and economics to estimate how industrial and agricultural processes might be transformed to tackle global warming. They’re encoded with knowledge about technologies, such as pollution-free power plants and the cost of electric vehicles. Thus IAMs enable researchers to probe, for example, how a carbon tax might induce big cuts in emissions2, or how a drive to decarbonize the transport sector could shift investments towards greener fuels and electricity.