Sunday, February 11, 2007

Its getting hot in here - Do you think we should turn off the furnace?

Now that even George Bush believes in global warming, it appears we're going to treat it like a terminal illness, skipping past 3 of the 5 stages of grief, from denial, straight to acceptance. Everyone has tossed up their hands and decided, its done, we can't do anything to stop it now.

Fareed Zakaria writes the latest entry in this theme, telling us we cannot stop it, we have to get used to it.

Three years ago the Pew Foundation sponsored an excellent study, "Coping With Global Climate Change," which focused on the role of adaptation. The report found that moving in this direction would be costly and fraught with uncertainty and error. Yet, the authors point out, humankind's long history has shown it's possible; we have adapted as the environment around us has changed. The costs of relocating seaside communities are extremely high, but they will be even higher if we wait 20 years. The most important conclusion of the Pew study was that early planning is far more effective than managing the consequences of a breakdown. In other words, strengthening the levees in New Orleans costs much, much less than rebuilding the city.

He's right as far as he goes. But, unfortunately, he plays straight into the hands of those who claim we should do nothing at all (why stop smoking if you have terminal lung cancer?)

We're now virtually certain that human activity is driving climate change, but this isn't a zero sum game. If we attack the problem now, the Earth will still get warmer, but manageably so. If we ignore it, things will be catastrophically worse.
The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2100, temperatures will have risen by somewhere between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees, and as a result, sea levels will rise by 18 to 59 centimeters. The trouble is, if you accept all these facts and theories about global warming, it is difficult to see how any human response launched today can avert it.
Whether the temperature rises 1 or 6 degrees depends on what we do now. Whether sea level rises 18 or 59 centimeters is something we control. Our first focus needs to be on containing the damage not on getting used to it.

No comments: