Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What would it really take?

On 3 Dec, Andy Revkin asked Are Words Worthless in the Climate Fight?, and posted comments from Tom Lowe of the Center for Risk and Community Safety in Melbourne, Robert Brulle of Drexel University and Roger A. Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado that are worth some attention. A response from Michael Oppenheimer, who "still thinks we’ll get [climate change] under control short of catastrophe", is also worth a look.

On 4 Dec, Martin Wolf examined Why the climate change wolf is so hard to kill off (so we have two rather different wolves here). It's subscription only, but here is an extract:
...as the [United Nations Human Development Report] spells out in compelling detail, the heaviest cost will be borne by the world’s poor. Among the most frightening consequences are those for rainfall and glaciers: water shortages could become severe across large swaths of the globe. Poor people are far less able to cope with climatic disasters than rich ones. But this, if we were honest, is why the rich are unlikely to make the huge reductions in emissions the report demands. The powerful will continue to act without much consideration for the poor. This, after all, is a world that spends 10 times as much on defence (much of it useless) as on aid to poor countries.

How might this change? The answer is that we must appeal at least as much to people’s self-interest as to their morality...

Two things are needed. The first is convincing evidence that the true risks are larger than many now suppose. Conceivable feedback effects might, for example, generate temperature increases of 20°C. That would be the end of the world as we know it. I cannot imagine a rational person who would not seek to eliminate even the possibility of such outcomes. But if we are to do that, we must also act very soon.

The second requirement is to demonstrate that it is possible for us to thrive with low-carbon emissions. People in the northern hemisphere are not going to choose to be cold now, in order to prevent the world from becoming far too hot in future. China and India are not going to forgo development, either. These are realities that cannot be ignored.
He concludes that if people are to tolerate radical change in energy use, they must first be frightened and then they must be offered a good way out. But no country will deliver radical cuts if the US does not do so, too, and no leaps forward in science and technology will occur if the US is not prepared to commit its resources to those ends.

But Simon Donner thinks scaring people is not the answer.

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