Thursday, April 12, 2007

More on Global Warming and Equity

Bradford Plummer takes on George Wills column today, which argued that it is too expensive to do anything to deal with global warming, and offers the latest cost estimate of what it would take to keep global warming below two degrees:


George Will writes today that any attempts to avert large-scale global warming would be absurdly expensive, while the "positive impact on the globe's temperature [would be] insignificant." He's also discovered--shockingly--that California can't reduce the world's CO2 emissions all by itself. So there you have it: No use trying. Nothing we can do. Give Bangladesh our regards.


Would it be too much to ask Will to offer numbers here? Yes, it would. (Although he does rattle off a bunch of facts about zinc mining in Canada.) Fortunately, though, Reuters just got its mitts on a leaked copy of the forthcoming IPCC report on mitigation--which deals with this exact subject--so we can put this discussion in context. The IPCC plans to report that it is perfectly possible to prevent global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (the "dangerous" threshold). It would cost about 3 percent of global GDP--roughly one year's worth of economic growth. Not cheap, but not exactly undoable, either.


Maybe Will would say that a year's worth of economic growth is still too high a price to pay. Or maybe he would start arguing about discount rates and the like. But why not have that debate, rather than rambling on about Ben & Jerry's and then accusing environmentalists of "fuzzy climate math"?

As I discussed in an earlier post, the theological implications of global warming go well beyond the biblical demand that we be good stewards of God's creation. The facts are emerging that the poorest of the poor will bear the brunt of the adverse effects of global warming, and our failure to takes steps to prevent this warming or to mitigate the effects cannot be reconciled with Jesus' comments about the care we must take for the "least of these".

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