20 May 2014

Climate change IS happening now

Just another day in paradise
[This post spells out some unwritten thoughts behind my post yesterday, which may have given the wrong impression of my thinking on the impacts of climate change.]

There's been a long-running debate over (1) whether global warming is happening, (2) whether that's leading to climate change, (3) when climate change will lead to "novel" weather, (4) how damaging that weather will be, and (5) what we should do about it.

Most of the debate has focussed on (5), since changes in habits are costly for individuals who prefer business as usual and VERY costly for businesses that would lose money from a shift in habits (using less oil, for example). In contrast, the science in (1) and (2) is settled.

What's interesting to me, is that the models behind (3) and (4) may have been too optimistic, in terms of predicted intensity and frequency of impacts.

Three years ago (if not earlier), I claimed that we need to reform our institutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change arriving in greater fluctuations in the water cycle, to defend ourselves against "death by a thousand cuts, but I have not seen very much action in that regard. Some companies are changing their business models, and some investors are divesting from fossil fuels. Many insurance companies are raising prices, but few governments are changing policies.

My guess is that the smart money is now looking VERY hard at how current events will translate into future options, especially when the vast majority of people are sleep walking into greater danger. For me personally, that means moving to Amsterdam, which both a pretty place and one of best-defended cities in the world. The contrast with Riyadh, a city in the desert that depends on water from 500km away and 24/7 air conditioning when temperatures are above 40C (104F) for months, is stark.

Bottom Line: Don't wait for climate change. It's happening now. If you think that's wrong, then compare the benefits of action from the costs of inaction.

1 comment:

David Foster said...

Hi David,

Like you, I have long recognized that Global Climate Change is a serious problem and that anthropogenic Green House Gas emissions are a major cause of this problem but I also tend to agree with Bjorn Lomborg that the kind of benefit/cost analysis that you recommend could likely point to other far more serious problems, particularly when we factor in the time value of money and the opportunity cost of neglecting those other problems. I am interested in knowing what you think of Bjorn's arguments.

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