Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Don't See No Stinkin' Climate Change

Post op-ed writers knee-deep
in rising waters

What can I say? Writing to the Washington Post just makes my day, even if they don't return the love. This is letter to the Post #25.

Two recent columns on the cost of reversing global climate change suffer from the same weakness—an unwillingness to consider the complete picture that leads the writers, Bjorn Lomborg (“Costly Carbon Cuts,” Sept. 28) and George Will (“Cooling Down the Casandras, Oct. 1”), to rather polemical denunciations of the costs of addressing climate change while ignoring the full range of anticipated consequences. (Also, see Dean Baker's comments on Lomborg's column here.)

Will’s column, in fact, makes simple fun of the climate change threat, noting that the average annual change in global temperatures is not relentlessly upwards. But Will, who has consistently denied that climate change is upon us, does not cite any scientific evidence that the threat is not real in the short- or long-term. Instead, he resorts to ridicule. Though Will is an amusing writer, he has long since disqualified himself as a reasonable contributor to a discussion of climate change and what to do about it.

Lomborg, whom Will has actually cited in the past, does not challenge basic assumptions about climate change, but claims that the cost of addressing it will far exceed the benefits. To come to this conclusion, Lomborg cites a high-end estimate of the cost of reducing greenhouse gasses ($46 trillion) and a low-end estimate ($1.1 trillion) of the benefits from avoiding the “expected climate damage.”

Of course, the economic model Lomborg relies on places no valuation on human life, biodiversity or other nonquantifiable damage. But the economic damage to, say, Bangladesh, where rising seas will wipe out 80% of the country’s GDP [and cause enormous social dislocation], will have little impact on the global economy. Lomborg and economists who rely on such calculations are clearly unconcerned that Bangladeshis will suffer grievously from a problem they have not created. The rest of us ought not be so sanguine about the effects there or anywhere else.

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