In Memoriam: Paul Baer (1962 – 2016)

pbaer-smThis morning, while preparing for a meeting, I learned that Paul Baer, my friend and EcoEquity’s co-founder, had just committed suicide.  If you’re also a friend of his, you may know part of the story, which was long and often agonizing.

Paul and I met in late 2000, just before the dramatic 6th Conference of Parties in The Hague.  I was giving a brown bag talk up at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, one called “After the Kyoto Protocol.”  Afterwards, we talked and talked, and it turned out that we agreed on a very great deal indeed. What better way to celebrate such accord than to found an organization?  Thus, EcoEquity was born.

The tragedy of Paul’s death is underscored by the fact that it occurred just before the Paris Agreement enters into force.  When it does, it’s going to thrust us into a world of new complexities, and new possibilities.  And, no doubt, new infamies.  It’s a world he should have lived to see, and to work within.

Back in 2002, Paul and I wrote a book together, one called Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming.  (We were trying for a broad audience, so we used the J word).  It’s still a nice piece of work, though we were at the time too heavily influenced by per-capita approaches to global climate equity. I know Paul would agree with this judgement, because he was a co-developer, along with myself and Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute, of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework (archived here), which went on to have a considerable influence on the global fair-shares debate.  GDRs, in case you don’t know, evolved into the Climate Equity Reference Project, and Paul’s fingerprints are all over it.

Here, from a 2015 grant proposal, is Paul’s last bio:

“Paul Baer is an internationally recognized expert on issues of equity and climate change, with training in ecological economics, ethics, philosophy of science, risk analysis and simulation modeling.  Paul has been the Research Director for EcoEquity since 2000, when he co-founded the group with Tom Athanasiou, with whom he also co-authored the 2002 book Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming (Seven Stories Press). Together with Tom and colleagues at the Stockholm Environment Institute, he is a co-author of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework, an influential equity-based proposal for sharing the costs of global climate policy. His work has been published in a number of interdisciplinary journals and several published anthologies, including Fairness in Adaptation to Climate Change (Adger et al., eds. MIT Press 2006), Climate Change Science and Policy (Schneider et al., eds, Island Press 2009) and Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Gardiner et al., eds, Oxford University Press, 2010).

From 2009-2013 he was on the faculty of the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he taught statistics, climate policy, environmental policy, and ecological economics. He holds a PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, as well an MA in Environmental Planning and Management from Louisiana State University and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.”

Bye Paul.  I am so sorry for your trouble.  Really sorry.

Tom Athanasiou