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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

February 21, 2010


Robert Frank, NY Times - Forecasts involving climate change are highly uncertain, denialists assert - a point that climate researchers themselves readily concede. The denialists view the uncertainty as strengthening their case for inaction, yet a careful weighing of the relevant costs and benefits supports taking exactly the opposite course.

Organizers of the recent climate conference in Copenhagen sought, unsuccessfully, to forge agreements to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. But even an increase that small would cause deadly harm. And far greater damage is likely if we do nothing.

The numbers - and there are many to choose from - paint a grim picture. According to recent estimates from the Integrated Global Systems Model at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the median forecast is for a climb of 9 degrees Fahrenheit by century's end, in the absence of effective countermeasures.

That forecast, however, may underestimate the increase. According to the same M.I.T. model, there is a 10 percent chance that the average global temperature will rise more than 12.4 degrees by 2100, and a 3 percent chance it will climb more than 14.4 degrees. Warming on that scale would be truly catastrophic.

Scientists say that even the 3.6-degree increase would spell widespread loss of life, so it's hardly alarmist to view the risk of inaction as frightening.

In contrast, the risk of taking action should frighten no one. Essentially, the risk is that if current estimates turn out to be wildly pessimistic, the money spent to curb greenhouse gases wouldn't have been needed to save the planet. And yet that money would still have prevented substantial damage. (The M.I.T. model estimates a zero probability of the temperature rising by less than 3.6 degrees by 2100.). . .


Anonymous wellbasically said...

There are major costs to curbing greenhouse gasses that will result in death and destruction of a different kind.

A massive increase in the price of energy worldwide and a massive increase in the price of food will cut growth and lead to starvation.

Another cost is simply the waste of spending on something that is not needed, cutting out the chance to spend on things that are needed. The cap and trade system for instance will increase prices on all goods, take a cut of that and transfer it to public projects such as destructive hydroelectric dams, disruptive wind farms and nuclear power plants.

5 billion out of 6 billion people on the planet Earth are living in total desperate poverty, and can't abide wasteful price increases in food and energy to pay contractors to dam up the Amazon.

February 21, 2010 4:08 PM  

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