Tuesday :: Oct 20, 2009

Open Thread


by Mary

One of the classic economic global warming denier arguments has centered around how it is better to spend today's money on anything else but addressing climate change. Here's how Bjorn Lomborg put it:

Future generations will be much richer than current ones, and it thus makes no sense to make current generations 'pay' for the problems of future generations.

Levitt and Dubner seem to have absorbed this lesson as this is what they say about the economics:

Do the future benefits from cutting emissions outweigh the costs of doing so? Or are we better off waiting to cut emissions later — or even, perhaps, polluting at will and just learning to live in a hotter world?

The economist Martin Weitzman analyzed the best available climate models and concluded that the future holds a 5 percent chance of a terrible-case scenario ...

In this piece, Paul Krugman clarified the position of Weitzman, who Krugman asserts would not agree with Levitt and Dubner at all, because in looking at the effects of global climate change the uncertainty of risk (how bad it could really get) compels us to do more not less.

The problem for Levitt and Dubner is, the risk for catastrophic climate change isn't a simple 5%, it is more like the risk for a magnitude 8 earthquake hitting the San Francisco in the next 20 years. If you live in San Francisco, you darn well hope that someone is going to spend some of "your money" on retrofitting the buildings and bridges even if you don't get the full benefit because the chance that there will be a catastrophic incident isn't maybe, but when.

Levitt and Dubner aren't in Bjorn's camp yet because they do agree that global climate change is a problem. They just think some future high-tech solution might work better. But unfortunately, they truly do not understand that we have to begin addressing the risk right now (and we have many, many tools that can be used right now), and we cannot afford to wait for some magical future time when planet-wide geoengineering technical solutions are ready to rescue us all.

Levitt and Dubner really do need to go back and rewrite this chapter before they find themselves being suborned as acolytes of Bjorn Lombord and his ilk.

Mary :: 12:00 AM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!