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Saturday, February 20, 2010

"A Small Price for a Large Benefit"

Robert Frank says climate change denialists are wrong when they assert that uncertainty translates into inaction: 

A Small Price for a Large Benefit, by Robert H. Frank, Commentary, 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. ...
The numbers — and there are many to choose from — paint a grim picture..., 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 ... would still have prevented substantial damage. ...

Moreover, taking action won’t cost much. ... In short, the cost of preventing catastrophic climate change is astonishingly small... The real problem with the estimates is that the outcome may be worse than expected. And that’s the strongest possible argument for taking action. In a rational world, that should be an easy choice, but in this case we appear to be headed in the wrong direction. ...

We don’t know how much hotter the planet will become by 2100. But the fact that we face “only” a 10 percent chance of a catastrophic 12-degree climb surely does not argue for inaction. It calls for immediate, decisive steps.
Most people would pay a substantial share of their wealth — much more, certainly, than the modest cost of a carbon tax — to avoid having someone pull the trigger on a gun pointed at their head with one bullet and nine empty chambers. Yet that’s the kind of risk that some people think we should take.

    Posted by on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 05:43 PM in Economics, Environment | Permalink  Comments (60)


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