Monday, March 31, 2014

Climate Impacts and Other Impacts

I am sure there are impacts of global warming, and the latest report suggests they are substantial. But I always wonder: Compared to what?

Locally we are quite capable of destroying our livelihoods: war is very effective, as is genocide, major local pollution sources, earthquake, etc. I include things like earthquake, because we choose where to live, and how prudently to build. There will be major surprises, but they are fewer than are the anticipated disasters.

As for food and fuel: Food and starvation are matters of market and logistics, and in general many of the famines have been a matter of the food not being available although it is there. Let us put aside Stalin and the Ukraine, or the Irish potato famine. The green revolution should make most famine much less likely, but again it is a matter of politics and market (the latter being a matter of whether those who are supported by government in their agricultural activities then have total say about how food is distributed).

As for fuel and energy, the usual observation is that the big consumers pollute and  send harm to poor, although poor countries can be very effective local polluters using highly-polluting heating stoves etc. I don't know if the current models include effects of scarcity on consumption and the modes of consumption. As for the dangers from nuclear power, given the possibilities of accidents, my suspicion is that many more people are killed in coal mining and other resource extraction activities.

I recall from elementary school the major concern being nuclear bomb catastrophe, the wonderful setup of mutual assured destruction without second strike capabilities, etc.  There was nuclear winter. There are the economic consequences not only of war, but of terrorism and fear thereof, etc.

I just need to know, Compared to what?  Surely, there may well be long term impacts, although one suspects that such longer term impacts will encourage invention  and innovation since the payoffs there are much surer than short-term impacts. And perhaps there will be major consequences in terms of shorelines, storms, etc. But I know that we have been very successful in doing ourselves in, albeit even the World Wars were not quite so overreaching as is global warming.

I do not find it helpful to think apocalyptically. I need to see particulars. And it is surely the case that these climate reports are detailed. I would love to see them professionally critiqued, to give me a sense of the reliability of their claims. I know they have been critiqued, but it would help me to know in detail where the uncertainties are.

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