quasi in rem

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Richard Alley on abrupt climate change..

I listened to Richard Alley on abrupt climate this morning on NPR and seemed to be a very knowledgable and reasonable fellow. His great concern is not man made global warming but abrupt climate change caused by normal geophysical changes in the earth's rotational axis, distance from the sun, magnetic field, volcanic activity etc. His research stems from samples taken from deep within Greenland's ice sheet documenting climate from tens of thousands of years ago. Most specifically he notes a period 12,000 years ago in which the climate changed dramatically over a period of 10 years going from cold dry and windy to warm, wet and placid. This resulted about a change of as much as "10oC during just 10 years in some places. to a new climate state that persisted for centuries. " What caused this change? It is unclear and more research is necessary, but it obviously was not caused by SUV's.

Nevertheless he recommends several "no-regrets" measures that should be taken to protect against such changes in the future: "No-regrets measures may include low-cost steps to: slow climate change; improve climate forecasting; slow biodiversity loss; improve water, land, and air quality; and develop institutions that are more robust to major disruptions. Technological changes may increase the adaptability and resiliency of market and ecological systems faced by the prospect of damaging abrupt climate change. Research is particularly needed to assist poor countries, which lack both scientific resources and economic infrastructure to reduce their vulnerabilities to potential abrupt climate changes. "

Note the focus on "low cost" steps and third world countries. Why? Because he noted that this morning abrupt climate change was not the most serious problem we face today, instead he stated that "getting along with one another" was significantly more important.

He is clearly correct. The bonus is that improving industrial and domestic conditions in third world countries, such as accesss to clean water, improved and cleaner energy production, may have an impact on global warming but it will definitely improve disease prevention and global market creation. He points to the phase out chlouroflourocarbons which may or may not have reduced their impact on global warming, but definitely reduced reduced future health risks, e.g. skin cancer, posed by ozone depletion.

By focusing on these types of win win solutions up front the "global warming" lobby could move legislation more quickly and easily through Congress.


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