October 31, 2006

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I for one was pleased to see the release of Sir Nicholas Stern's report on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. I have been a convert to the concept of the linkage between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming for some time, but I would like to pose a question to those head-in-the-sand, in-denial ostriches who are not (in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and an unprecedented, almost complete consensus in the scientific community).

Do you buy insurance? If you buy fire insurance, what do you think the chances are of a catastrophic fire destroying your home? To make my point more specific, even if you think that it is not a cast-iron certainty that we will end up having to give up 20% of our present GDP per year due to climate change, at what percentage of risk are you willing to pay out say 1% per year in environmental damage control 'premiums'? Particularly when every scientist that isn't a crackpot is willing to say that climate change is happening, and that the repercussions are likely to be completely disastrous. Even if you only think there is a 10% chance of disastrous climate change, it would be completely rational for you to support staving off potential environmental apocalypse.

Especially when every indicator points to that percentage being well over 50%. This is not a bet any insurance company would be willing to take on. Will you still sniff at the writing on the wall and say it's not happening?

posted by HK Dave on 10.31.06 at 10:58 AM in the China food/environment/health category.


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Category error, sorry, mate.

You confuse "the climate is changing" with "and if we do X, Y, and Z the climate will not change". The scientific consensus is about the former. The mob hysteria is about the latter.

What if the other influences on climate, such as human changes to land use, human changes to Earth's albedo, and solar and terrestrial climate cycles, are what's driving the current set of changes?

What if the "make the nasty carbon go away" movement is just really intense wishful thinking? We broke it, therefore we can fix it, and nature has no power over us that we don't let it?

What if the choice is between "spend $100 billion on failing to stop the climate changing" and "spending $100 billion helping people deal with the consequences of the climate changing"?

(Scale up amounts to taste.)

Or, what if the choice is between spending 50% of GDP on rolling back climate change or 20% on living with it?

What if some of that 30% difference was going to pay for feeding and housing you for the next year?

Only, oops, we've spent it on carbon credits from Russia and now that the sea's rising anyway, no funds left to help you and no-one else to borrow them from. But no worries, you'll have that warm fuzzy Kyoto-compliant feeling as you starve.

Or perhaps not. Maybe beating this straw man to death will prove to be an adequate substitute for critical thinking about the problem. At least for you.

posted by: Horatio Davis on 11.01.06 at 08:31 AM [permalink]

My post specifically is addressed to people like you Horatio! My point is that even if you believe there is only a 10% chance that greenhouse gas emissions lead to warming, it would still be worth spending the money to try to stop this from happening now. While there is certainly an economic cost to this, there is also a huge healthcare disbenefit to not helping, if only because a major push in greenhouse gas emissions is with dirty coal-fired power plants that make most of China's air pretty unbreathable.

You might be right, although chances are, you're not. I would also disagree with you and say that there is large-scale consensus on the warming being caused by CO2 emissions. In any case, the point of my post is that even if you think there is only a small chance of that linkage being there and proving a clear danger to our future, it is worth insuring ourselves against it. That is the only rational choice.

posted by: HK Dave on 11.01.06 at 10:02 AM [permalink]

Thanks for the ifnormation you provide. It's great to see an agency site

posted by: Ben on 11.27.06 at 01:28 PM [permalink]

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