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Tackling Global Warming Cheaper Than Ignoring It 586

Posted by kdawson
from the ounce-of-prevention dept.
Coryoth writes, "In a report commissioned by the UK government, respected economist Sir Nicholas Stern concludes that mitigating global warming could cost around 1% of global GDP if spent immediately, but ignoring the problem could cost between 5% and 20% of global GDP. The 700-page study represents the first major report on climate change from an economist rather than a scientist. The report calls for the introduction of green taxes and carbon trading schemes as soon as possible, and calls on the international community to sign a new pact on greenhouse emissions by next year rather than in 2010/11. At the very least the UK government is taking the report seriously; both major parties are proposing new green taxes. Stern points out, however, that any action will only be effective if truly global."
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Tackling Global Warming Cheaper Than Ignoring It

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  • Side Note: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ceribia (865793) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:10PM (#16636708)
    Also of some note is the fact that we are all going to die. ...but yeah, 5 percent, lets do something about that...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Firehed (942385)
      We'll all die eventually anyways. This is a case of Think of the Children! TM

      Of course, this time it's actually reasonable.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ArikTheRed (865776)
      Don't worry, the Rapture will come way before global warming kicks in. Its coming soon... anytime now... just a few more moments... hold on... it's a comin'... Oh! Is it now? I can feel it! No, no wait... that's just gas.

      But seriously, don't worry.
  • The American Way (Score:5, Informative)

    by Salvance (1014001) * on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:12PM (#16636732) Homepage Journal
    Ignoring problems is the new American Way. We're doing the same thing with budget deficits, social security, medicare, and solving the root cause of global terrorism. Since a politician's time in office is typcially short (2-8 years), it's always far less costly during their tenure (politically and economically) to push off problems than to tackle the issue and risk losing voter support.

    Unfortunately, global warming is a problem who's impact is even less tangible to Americans than problems like future social security shortfalls. As such, I doubt the government will support action until we're in the midst of cataclysmic environmental impact at a nationwide level.
    • by jmv (93421)
      Unfortunately, global warming is a problem who's impact is even less tangible to Americans than problems like future social security shortfalls. As such, I doubt the government will support action until we're in the midst of cataclysmic environmental impact at a nationwide level.

      You're optimistic. I say they'll just blame it on terrorism and the Axis of Evil(R).
    • by cperciva (102828) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:19PM (#16636800) Homepage
      Ignoring problems is the new American Way. We're doing the same thing with [...] solving the root cause of global terrorism.

      Nonsense. George Bush was very clear after 9/11 in saying that "terrorists hate the USA because it is a land of freedom".

      Assuming that George Bush was correct in this assessment, he has done far more to combat terrorism than any other US President in recent history.
      • by ClamIAm (926466) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @09:01PM (#16637150)
        "I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed," bin Laden said as the U.S. war on terrorism raged in Afghanistan. "The U.S. government will lead the American people in -- and the West in general -- into an unbearable hell and a choking life." linky [cnn.com]

        Of course, we should keep in mind that Bush is simply the symbol of this decay. The Administration as a whole is what scares the hell out of me. Add to this the people in Congress who support these shenanigans. And places like the UK have some nasty new laws as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by slughead (592713)
          The Administration as a whole is what scares the hell out of me. Add to this the people in Congress who support these shenanigans. And places like the UK have some nasty new laws as well.

          It's not just the UK and the US. here [cyborgcow.net] is a picture (chart) from the economist magazine with a world-wide view of freedoms lost after 9/11 around the world. It's an old picture, too (2003)--it's likely worse now.
  • What's the point of the UK political parties talking about all these green taxes when our prime ministers boss, George Bush (well at least he thinks he is), is out destroying bits of the world and the US culture in general is about wasting energy.

    We need to encourage our allies to act sensibly, the UK is small and insignificant compared to the US.
    • "the UK is small and insignificant compared to the US." That right there is why Dubya thinks he can tell Tony how to run the UK. Have some national pride and start thinking like a sovereign nation. As an American I can tell you most of us won't do anything about global warming until DisneyLand sinks. I'm looking forward to it.
    • As far as the UK is concerned, the weather would actually get warmer there, same with Russia Siberia Scandinavia and Canada. The countries really in for it are places like Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, India, US, China, Japan, etc. Yet Russia was a prominent signer of the Kyoto treaty, Putin mentioning that for his country global warming would actually be beneficial, but still signed it, for probably complicated reasons, including having to care about the rest of the world too other than self somewhere amon
      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @09:15PM (#16637274)
        Not necessarily. The reason that the UK is fairly temperate is because of the gulf stream bringing warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. Global warming may cause the gulf stream to fail, causing the UK to become far colder. This kind of unpredictability of whether localities will get warmer or colder is why a lot of times people talk about climate change rather than global warming.
    • by Joey7F (307495)
      Since any time politics comes up there will be some inevitable Bush bashing, let us be clear that the US Senate (of which there are 100 members) voted 95-0 for a bill that said that

      (1) the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter, which would--

      (A) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties

  • Long term solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `kciw.nitsuj'> on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:14PM (#16636754)
    I am not an atmospheric scientist, but I have discussed this topic (and this exact issue) with an atmospheric scientist I used to work with when I worked for NASA. The bottom line is that global warming is very real, however we simply don't have good enough models yet to work out the necessary information for making informed policy information - we don't know what the impact on the human race will be if we keep doing what we're doing, because that depends on how well the earth's homeostatic mechanisms will compensate for the additional greenhouse effect. We know it will have a negative effect, that is sure, but we don't know how well cutting greenhouse emissions will help.

    Personally I think a long term solution to this will require technology on an unprecidented scale, not merely cutting back emissions. We should be investing in these new technologies and in general scientific and economic progress, and I am concerned that these short-term "band-aid" measures of reducing output could actually increase the amount of time it takes (and thus how bad it gets) before we have the appropriate technology and scientific understanding to regulate the climate of our entire planet.

    Of course, if all else fails, there's always controlled stratospheric particulate matter injection, and the US and Russia certainly have enough devices for that...
    • Agreed in many respects. Many people do not realize that although requiring green-spending will be a hit to the economy, it will also boost the economy in ways not foreseen. If a country is on the forefront of green-technology, that country will be able to rake in SUBSTANTIAL cash on intellectual property and the facilities to combat poor environmental management. One of the things this study encourages, though, is requiring massive cutbacks on emissions through taxation and governmental policy. This wi
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)

      Of course, if all else fails, there's always controlled stratospheric particulate matter injection, and the US and Russia certainly have enough devices for that...

      Apparently the cheapest way to put dust in the upper atmosphere is to shoot it up with big naval guns. But aside from that, my favored techniques involve providing tax incentives in cities to paint rooftops white. This results in an increased albedo, reflecting more sunlight (and heat) - not only reducing global warming directly, but indirectly i

      • by geobeck (924637) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @09:56PM (#16637532) Homepage

        ...my favored techniques involve providing tax incentives in cities to paint rooftops white. This results in an increased albedo, reflecting more sunlight (and heat) - not only reducing global warming directly, but indirectly in the form of reduced energy consumption for air conditioning and the like (the urban "heat island" effect). It's a simple, low-impact way to Do Something.

        ...and make the problem much, much worse. Increased albedo is a huge problem, from the light-gray scars that mark the existence of cities to the reduced dark green of the world's forests due to logging. Increasing the Earth's albedo leads to increased desertification--and the worst part is, this is a positive feedback cycle because increased desertification leads to increased albedo.

        The best solution for roofs is not painting them white, but turning them green. Cover as many flat roofs as possible with plant cover, and increase evapotranspiration. Stop paying farmers not to farm, and pay them to grow hemp instead. Use hemp to replace all wood pulp and wood fiber applications, especially paper, and save millions of acres of trees, not in tropical rainforests, but in temperate rainforests, where the problem is just as dire.

        The central problem with global warming is not the temperature in itself; it's the mechanism that is raising the temperature, which is primarily an increase in certain atmospheric gases. We don't need half-baked ideas involving producing millions of gallons of toxic paint, which will worsen the problem at every stage from the production of the paint, to its effect on albedo, to the contamination that will inevitably result from improper application and cleanup. We need to focus on reducing greenhouse gases. Period.

        For the record, IANAEE (Environmental Engineer), but I will be in nine months.

        • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @11:07PM (#16638066) Homepage
          ...and make the problem much, much worse. Increased albedo is a huge problem, from the light-gray scars that mark the existence of cities
          Are these worse than the dark black scars that mark them presently?
          to the reduced dark green of the world's forests due to logging.
          Well, this really has nothing to do with the proposed urban lightening.
          Increasing the Earth's albedo leads to increased desertification--and the worst part is, this is a positive feedback cycle because increased desertification leads to increased albedo.
          Increased desertification may be a problem in plant life applications, forests, grasslands, et cetera, but a city is not a grassland. It's already clobbering the environment around it, it's an urban heat island - an increased urban albedo is not going to cause desertification, but rather bring things back in line with the surrounding countryside.
          The central problem with global warming is not the temperature in itself; it's the mechanism that is raising the temperature, which is primarily an increase in certain atmospheric gases.
          This is ridiculous. The central problem with global warming is the the results of an increased temperature - glaciers melt, sea levels rise, ocean flows alter their direction wreaking havoc with weather patterns, et cetera et cetera. The mechanism responsible for it is relatively harmless: are there any problems inherent with an atmosphere with increased carbon dioxide levels aside from this warming? (Well, actually, there are a few secondary effects from this, but you're not identifying them, and they have to do with higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide allowing some sort of alternate version of carbon processing in plants to occur more efficiently, potentially rendering certain plant species more competitive relative to others, and aside from that, increased carbon concentrations generally leads to slightly lusher vegetation worldwide, which isn't a terrible thing). Moreover this scheme decreases carbon dioxide production, thus addressing the mechanism itself as well, because less electricity is used in air conditioning.
          We don't need half-baked ideas
          It's actually been fairly well baked. You can find a very large number of papers on geoengineering or climate change mitigation via albedo amplification, in a variety of forms.
          involving producing millions of gallons of toxic paint
          So use non-toxic paint, or use light colored shingles, or white vinyl siding, or use concrete pavement instead of asphalt where you can and mix in glass to make the asphalt more reflective when you can't (a measure already in reasonably common use). Besides, it's not like there isn't plenty of paint and such being produced to this and similar ends already.
    • by Coryoth (254751)

      We should be investing in these new technologies and in general scientific and economic progress, and I am concerned that these short-term "band-aid" measures of reducing output could actually increase the amount of time it takes (and thus how bad it gets) before we have the appropriate technology and scientific understanding to regulate the climate of our entire planet.

      Emissions reductions plans are not about reducing production, but about being more efficient, in terms of emissions, in the production we d

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 4tidude (919272)

      There has actually been quite a lot of research on how well the earth's homeostatic mechanisms will compensate for our waste. And those studies are not encouraging. Read Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce. He cites quite a few studies. The book was written in 1993, so I would assume there are more now as well.

      A few quotes are below because he says it so much better than me. Despite the somber tone of these quotes, Hawken's is remarkably optimistic and offers a long list of suggestions for reversin

    • by Morgaine (4316) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:12AM (#16639761)
      >> global warming is very real, however we simply don't have good enough models yet

      You are right on both counts. I am a scientist and an engineer, and I work enough with climate modelling to understand the problems and limitations in this area. And from this background, I judge that the esteemed economist is paying more attention to hype than fact.

      Global warming is very real. Without natural global warming, this planet would be about 33 C colder than it currently is, so it's an extremely important effect that keeps this planet liveable. The most important greenhouse gas that creates 95% of the greenhouse effect is water vapour (not CO2), and we have no control over the water vapour whatsoever, but we're damn glad it's there.

      What's more, there has been a gradual (though erratic) increase of temperature throughout the current interglacial period (18,000 years) [gcrio.org], which cannot be attributed to "advanced" civilization emissions, and this should be viewed against the backdrop of the longer current glaciation cycle (100,000 years) [gcrio.org] --- ie. we're at a perfectly normal peak in temperature, and it's not even a high one within the current interglacial.

      That's the background. Now let's see where current observations put us.

      Man's huge outpouring of CO2 has very significantly increased the CO2 ppm in the atmosphere, to levels unprecedented in recent glacial periods. While CO2 is not a primary controller of global temperature (the long-term paleoclimate record shows almost no correlation whatsoever [geocraft.com], the record through the last several glaciations shows a strong correlation [wikipedia.org] between the two.

      Of course, graphing CO2 and temperature from the fossil record doesn't tell us which is cause and which is effect, and we are not currently able to model the very complex biosphere nor the chaotic cloud formation processes well enough to make any sound judgements about this. However, that doesn't mean that we can ignore it.

      Two things we do know with total certainty:
      • Man-made CO2 *does* cause a tiny initial rise in the greenhouse effect (that's just simple physics), even if it turns out that its final effect is not the obvious one expected.

      • The climate is in the process of abrupt change, as noted from the extremely rapid melting of Greenland ice flows and polar ice cover, and the very dramatic observed [soton.ac.uk] slowdown in the Atlantic overturning that drives the Gulf Stream. And these processes are unstoppable, period, no matter what we do.
      So, what do we make of this, in respect of economics and public planning?

      Firstly, this is what we DON'T do: we don't conclude that the temperature is going to go through the roof. Not only is there no significant temperature excess in the record (the +0.6 C of recent times would be regarded as entirely within natural climate variation if it weren't for the hype), but more importantly, the trend cannot be stopped in the ways suggested because CO2 has a very long lifetime, and all the industrial age CO2 will continue having its effect for a good 800+ years.

      Secondly, this is what we DO do: we accept that the North Atlantic and polar melting cannot be stopped and that therefore the sea level will rise enormously in coming decades and centuries. This will have a collosal effect on Man, and we should plan for it, basically through gradual retreat from the shorelines.

      That would be economic planning based on scientific facts, rather than hype.

      Of course, reducing CO2 while we're at it is a great idea --- we should not polute the planet, FULL STOP, as it's the only one we've got, currently. But to believe that this is going to solve climate change is a complete fiction.
      • by Coryoth (254751) on Monday October 30, 2006 @01:16PM (#16643803) Homepage Journal
        There are, definitely, some facts in there, but you've put them together in a weird pastiche with some old data, and some outright false statements.

        The most important greenhouse gas that creates 95% of the greenhouse effect is water vapour (not CO2)

        This just isn't true. I've heard this claim a lot, and I am yet to be provided with one reputable source that actually uses this figure. Water vapour accounts for around 80% of greenhouse gases by mass, or 90% by volume. But even that's somewhat deceptive because what really counts is how effectively it acts as a greenhouse gas to trap heat. In terms of percentage input to the warming effect of greenhouse gases, water vapour is somewhere between 36% and 70%, though most studies tend to find it to be around 65%.

        Still, 65% is a very significant portion, the difference is that water vapour, unlike carbon dioxide or methane, has a very short residence time in the atmosphere (around 10 days). This means that water vapour will very quickly find an equilibrium point and can only act as a feedback rather than a forcing with regard to climate change. None the less water vapour represents an important feedback and you'll find no shortage of scientific papers detailing its effects on climate change. You'll also find that tropospheric water vapour is a vital component in IPCC climate models, while stratospheric water vapour is treated specifically in IPCC reports.

        What's more, there has been a gradual (though erratic) increase of temperature throughout the current interglacial period (18,000 years)

        You link to a very rough chart (looking at the plot style it is a qualitative rather than hard quantitative) that shows - well not a gradual and erratic rise, but a certain amount of erraticness and variation with current temperatures being plotted as a momentary low. The chart is old, over 16 years old, however, and we have many more recent studies that compile together many sources of proxy data. Here is a chart showing several such proxy data reconstructions, which sompiels together the different methods [wikipedia.org]. Note that the general trend is far more down than up, and that the recent rise is completely obscured due to the scale of the chart (as with the chart you provided). The author of this chart, however, conveniently denotes the 2004 temperature level, and provides a subchart of recent proxy data. All of a sudden the recent rise is more clear, and far from natural looking.

        To stem off the the claims that the individual lines in that plot (as opposed to the averaging over all of them) show much greater natural variation - most of those represent data from a single location such as an ice core from Greenland, and ice core from Kilamanjaro etc. There is plenty of variation in local climate, and no one denies this, however it is global warming that is the issue and the average global temperature, which is far better expressed by the averaging over the various local data sources spread around the globe, is far less given to such dramatic fluctuation (and we know this - compare instrumental temperature data for local sources versus averaged globally: in the global average there is much less dramatic variation).

        and this should be viewed against the backdrop of the longer current glaciation cycle (100,000 years) --- ie. we're at a perfectly normal peak in temperature, and it's not even a high one within the current interglacial.

        We are, indeed, currently in an interglacial. We have, however, been in one for the past 11,000 years or so, and via most modern temperature reconstruction we reached the temeperature peak for that interglacial near the beginning, and shouldn't be expecting further rises within this interglacial. The current sudden upsurge of temperature really isn't a normal peak - it is anomolous within this interglacial. Moreover, it actua

  • by foobsr (693224) *
    Valuable footage is given by the WWF [panda.org]. One scenario is that with a "business as usual" approach the planet is eaten up by appr. 2050. So, keeping in mind that there is a time lag from thinking over action until implementation until effect, we may conclude what?

    CC.
  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:16PM (#16636766)
    The primary method of fighting global warming suggested in this article is to increase taxes! Globally! It staggers my mind to think how many people might think this is a good idea. Giving politicians more money will save no one.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      The idea is generally referred to as a Pigouvian tax [wikipedia.org]. Note one issue with such a tax:

      Perhaps the biggest problem with the Pigovian tax is the "knowledge problem" suggested on page 6 of Pigou's essay "Some Aspects of the Welfare State" (1954) where he writes, "It must be confessed, however, that we seldom know enough to decide in what fields and to what extent the State, on account of [the gaps between private and public costs] could interfere with individual choice." In other words, the economist's blackbo

    • by linuxci (3530)
      Some ways taxation may help as long as they reward the responsible as well as punish the irresponsible. e.g. now some councils in London are putting up proposals to double the residents parking permit fees for inefficient 4x4's (nicknamed Chelsea tractors in London) and those with energy efficient cars will have their fees halved. Users with normal cars will pay about the same.
      • by drsquare (530038)
        What if you have a 4x4 but hardly use it, and you end up paying more taxes than someone with an efficient car who drives it 10 hours a day, emitting far more carbon dioxide?

        This isn't about global warming, it's about revenue generating, nothing more. The council proposing this is over a million pounds in the red, just says it all really. People with expensive cars are an easy target.
        • by grahamsz (150076)
          Well if you aren't actually using your 4x4 then you are going to be making above average use of your parking space, so i say you should be charged more :)
        • Well, considering this is parking permit fees--which you won't be paying when you're not using the vehicle--you're full of shit.
    • by argoff (142580) * on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:41PM (#16636996)
      What the hell's wrong with you, the government needs those taxes to be proactive about things.

      if not for taxes to pay for public education, our kids would be the dubmest in the free world, wiat..... never mind .... well anyhow
      if not for taxes, our social security and medicare programs would be bankrupt. wait ..... never mind ..... ok lets try .....
      if not for taxes to fight the war on drugs, we would have drug problems in every inner city, uh ..... scrap that one....
      if not for taxes, the government would need to go into debt, .... oops, hold on here I'm working on it .....
      if not for taxes our medical and college education costs would be out of reach, ..... shit, scratch that ....
      if not for taxes to pay for war, we'd be loosing the war on terror, .....@#@#$#$%%%^

      Well, FU! you're just not trying hard enough to see how valuable all these taxs are for everyone. We NEED the government to be "proactive"
    • by Mr_Tulip (639140)
      As it stands, there is currently no competition between green and polluting means of production. Pollution costs nothing, and is already implemented. Green methods, on the other hand, require research, implementation and arguably greater running costs.

      As a government, they have to make pollution undesirable to companies, and basically have 2 ways doing it:

      1. Create legsitlation to prohibit undesirable actions.
      2. Place taxes on undesirable actions.

      I prefer option 2.

      • by Abcd1234 (188840)
        Option 2 is also more economically sound. These environmental costs are referred to as negative externalities [wikipedia.org]. A tax helps by placing the burden of these externalities back on the originator (in this case, the polluter), and allows the market to operate in a more honest and efficient way, because the cost of pollution is more accurately reflected in the cost of the end product.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 29, 2006 @09:03PM (#16637166)
      I didn't see it mentioned in that article, but what Stern is actually proposing is a shift in taxes rather than a tax increase. Taxes would be increased on polluters, but that would be offset by tax breaks on low emission or energy efficient technology. It's a pretty common idea among the world's Green parties, so it's interesting to see it moving mainstream.
  • Twofer against (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Varitek (210013)
    This needs extensive scientific research and international co-operation. Unfortunately, the Bush administration is openly hostile to both.
  • Assuming global warming is true (a point I will neither defend nor oppose), the money spent on preventing global warming is a waste. The full implementation of the Kyoto treaty will result in a decrease in global warming by 0.07C [cei.org]. That's right, less than a tenth of a degree Celcius, with all the economic and humanitarian harm that Kyoto would impose. And that harm is real: the EU nations are already trying to figure out how to not do Kyoto while still claiming some kind of adherence to the treaty because th

    • by darylb (10898)
      Yeah yeah. It's Celsius, not Celcius as I have above. So much for previewing.
    • by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @08:59PM (#16637126) Homepage Journal
      Our money is far, far better spent learning to cope with a warmer planet, assuming again that things are getting warmer and staying warmer.

      That's an interesting assertion. The point of the report is that this precise question was studied in great depth by a well respected economist (Stern was a former chief economist for the World Bank), and that the results of all that detailed anaylsis is that, in fact, it is far more expensive to learn to cope with a warmer planet. I fail to see how you dismiss that result quite so easily - especially given that you have not read the report (it is not officially released till tomorrow).
    • by chazwurth (664949)
      This only makes sense if it is possible to cope with a warmer planet. If a global warming 'tipping point' exists, this may not be the case.

      You're also ignoring the possibility that even without said tipping point, the cost of coping with a warmer planet may be higher than the costs required to halt climate change. Add to that the fact that the planet we'd have to cope with could be a very unpleasant place to live -- which itself must be considered as a cost -- and I'd say that whether or not man-made global
    • by B.D.Mills (18626) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @09:14PM (#16637254)
      Assuming global warming is true (a point I will neither defend nor oppose), the money spent on preventing global warming is a waste.

      Not true.

      The majority of the energy that the world consumes today is from non-renewable sources - coal, oil, uranium and so on. These sources of energy will be depleted eventually. In 100 years oil will be scarce, easily-extractable uranium may be in short supply and coal, although still plentiful, may not be used as widely for energy as it is now.

      Even if one believes the most optimistic view (against all available evidence) that increasing the CO2 concentration from the preindustrial level of 280 ppm to a much higher level has no effect on the planet's climate and the ecology, one cannot deny that we will need new sources of renewable energy. If global warming provides us with an opportunity to implement renewable energy, it would provide economic stability for future generations.

      Thus, the money would not be wasted. Instead, it should be considered as an insurance policy.
    • by Profound (50789)
      >> Our money is far, far better spent learning to cope with a warmer planet

      I'm sure a strong economy will be consolation to the plant and animal life that will be lost forever. Sorry Mr Polar Bear - you don't have any habit left, but look around you - the economy has never been stronger!

      >> Frankly, the technological advances on our planet are going to decrease greenhouse gas emissions without any kind of treaty or government mandate.

      If that's true, why haven't emissions decreased with technology
  • Environmental solutions are often stigmatized as being incompatible with economic issues--that for every spotted owl you save, you put a lumberjack out of work and so on. Similarly, there is an ongoing misconception that money spent on environmental issues does not pay forward in a meaningful way, and that it just means less money for improving education, the economy, or a myriad of other governmental concerns. Finally, we have evidence that a nation need not sacrifice economic growth for the sake of envi
  • The way to tackle global warming is not through using less fossil fuels.

    If we're going to tackle global warming, we need to do it the smart way: Huge man-made carbon sinks. This is an engineering problem, folks. Solving the problem can be done on the cheap.
  • All of the companies we pushed to those "other" nations where labor and emissions laws were significantly weaker are definitely going to listen to us now.

    Sure amigo, we are producing less green house gases today! Whatever you say homes.

    Muahaha
  • Even if the future consquences of AGW were shown to be minimal, the UK would have to reinvent them as catastrophic in order to fulfill its insatiable desire to raise taxes.
  • "Stern points out, however, that any action will only be effective if truly global."

    In other worlds, it doesn't matter, because China and India don't give a damn, and will poison as much of their air/water/land as they have to to make a buck.

    At least that is self-correcting, they seem to have reached the point where they are killing themselves off with the toxins at an exponential rate...
  • Global warming will melt ice caps, screw up ocean currents, destroy biodiversity and costal cities, and maybe even toast most of us. But is it possible that having a massive problem that forces humanity to work together as a whole could promote a lasting unity and perhaps end a lot of the problems we currently have with war and poverty in the very long run?
  • ... to just do nothing and let nature take its course.

    When the isostatic rebound [wikipedia.org] from the melting global ice jiggles the Yellowstone caldera into erupting and takes out the neocon infestation in America, it will rid the planet of a dangerous meme reservoir that might otherwise require untold expenditures to pacify. The loss of the declining "liberal" population will have to be regarded as unavoidable collateral damage.

    The injection of ginormous volumes of dust into the atmosphere will block enough sunlight

  • Stern points out, however, that any action will only be effective if truly global.

    That's cool, as long as we Americans don't have to do anything!

    • That's cool, as long as we Americans don't have to do anything!

      the problem with "we Americans" is that far far too often we ask the government to do for us instead of us doing for ourselves. No wonder legislation like the patriot act passes without any real resistance when "we Americans" are too stupid/lazy/fearful to do for ourselves. "we Americans" need to take the initiative in doing what we can under our own roofs and in our own backyards before we go crying to the government.

      Lots of people won't cat
  • Give grants to scienrists to study global warming: $5,000,000.00
    Pass legislation to Remove CFC pollution from atmosphere: $10,000,000.00
    Tackle global warming: $100,000,000,000.00

    Human species continues to survive on planet Earth: Priceless.

    Seriously, anything is cheaper than death.

    lrn2tckle
  • hasn't been published yet, now isn't it?

    I am a bit suspicous that the news article claims "could be 5-20%". This makes me think that this is the cost under the worst-case GW, which is highly improbable. Also, other cost-benefit analyses of this issue that I have seen have had much lower returns - something like break-even to 200%, not the 500-2000% implied by the news article. Something seems a bit fishy.

    Also, just for reference, fighting AIDS and malaria have 50-fold returns, blowing even this GW
  • It's good that such a study is FINALLY being done. We can't even seriously address solutions to global warming without knowing whether or not it makes economic sense to do so.

    However, we should not take this ONE study as the final word on the subject. More studies are needed. This study needs to be reviewed to check for possible flaws and caveats, such as:

    1. What timeframe was considered, for both the cost of doing something and the cost of doing nothing? Multiple timeframes need to be projected.

    2. Were
  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @10:29PM (#16637766) Homepage
    If you'd like to run your own NASA Global Climate Model (GCM) on your own computer, the EdGCM [columbia.edu] project has ported a GCM to Mac & Windows and wrapped it in a GUI so you can point-and-click your way around. Turn the sun down or add some nitrogen, whatever you want...

    We don't have an economics model attached so it isn't 100% relevant to TFA, but it will let you see the physical effects different CO2 and GHG scenarios will have on our planet.

    Disclaimer: I'm a developer on the project.
  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday October 30, 2006 @01:02AM (#16638631)
    This guy's views on the energy problem resonate strongly with my own. and I recommend that everyone take a look [jerf.org].

    For convenience (and posterity) I've copied the article below. The emphasis is mine, but please read the whole thing.

    Technological sustainability is one of the pressing issues of our time. Should we continue to use our natural resources with wild abandon, or should we try to be more careful with them so we don't lose them?

    Since the answer to that question is basically a foregone conclusion when stated that way, how should we be more careful? What's the optimal strategy?

    The two basic extremes are:

    * Legislate sustainability, right now. The situation is so dire that we must deliberately bend as many resources as possible to the problem.
    * Let the market take its course. As resources become rare, the price of that resource will rise, creating economic incentive to create alternatives. Eventually the Invisible Hand will sort things out.

    My own thoughts on the subject are probably extreme enough in their own ways to guarantee that nearly everybody will find something to object to, but I think if you think about them they start to make more sense then most of what constitutes "debate" on this topic today.

    First, there is much truth on both sides. Running out of resources is an issue, the more so because there are some resources for which a suitable replacement may never truly exist. (Petrochemicals come to mind as the big one here. Helium, oddly enough, is another, and it's even more fundamental then petrochemicals because it's actually an element and therefore can't be replenished with anything less then large-scale fusion (which may never happen) or cheap and easy space travel (ditto).)

    On the other hand, the "Big Resource Crisis" that wacko environmentalists secretly (or not-so-secretly) hope will "teach us a lesson" is never going to happen because there are effectively no resources that have a big step function in them. There will never be a day where we wake up and the top news story of the day will be "There Is No More Oil". Instead, as the argument says, the price of resources will indeed increase over time, and we will seek out alternatives, possibly including simply going without (with all the attendant misery and death that statement euphemistically obscures).

    How to harmonize these two points of view? The easiest way to think of it is with an overarching metaphor. (Yes, I've often spoken out against using metaphors, but this is the good kind: I use it to communicate an idea, not to reason with.)

    Basically, we are in a race. In lane one, we have ever-increasing technological efficiency, and as we learn more we can more effectively place the upper bounds on how far that technology can go. The bad news is that a lot of science fiction is looking impossible: No teleportation, no faster-then-light travel, no magic propulsion. The good news is that the upper limits of nanotechnology are most likely higher then any 1960's science fiction author would have dared write about. I'd summarize it as "the ultimate limitation of technology's ability to manipulate matter will be limited solely by the minimum chemical energy required to do the manipulations". If our technology reaches its endgame, constructing petrochemicals will mostly be a matter of sticking in the right chemicals on one end, and applying the proper energy. (Of course, it's more likely that you will just go straight to the final product like plastic.)

    In the other lane, we have ever-depleting supplies of resources that are currently unreplaceable, and without which we can not power the society we need to reach this technology level. If we run out of resources first, we lose.

    Literally, the fate of the planet is at stake. Some people like to say that an entire other technological civilization like ours could have existed in the distan

  • by darekana (205478) on Monday October 30, 2006 @02:08AM (#16638977) Homepage
    Doctors know about the value of preventive medicine...
          it's a lot harder to fix someone when they have lung cancer than to stop them from smoking in the first place.

    Engineers know the value of tests...
          all that "test first" design and building models, it saves having to repair crazy legacy code on live servers... or fix the bridge while cars are driving over it.

    Unfortunately what we've got now is the latter situation...
          the patient is sick and cars are driving over him.

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.

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