Sunday, January 13, 2013

Considering the cost/benefit equation of accepting AGW consensus science

I received the following comment from a character who has yet to be impressed with an extreme weather event. Thinking instead that economic considers are paramount and that if recognizing the seriousness of climate science and its implications means spending money and changing some expectations, he's against it... at least until we know for sure how bad it's going to get.

It's pure crazy-making, sure everyone is scared of having to spend money and changing priorities - but when waiting to answer every last uncertainty means forfeiting every opportunity to fix the situation - well, it's crazy not to take action.

What's so upsetting is that Earth Observations are pretty damned clear, big changes are afoot and we know why.  Worrying about their exact magnitude, as Fake Skeptics do, is like focusing on whether we're driving directly towards a tree at 55mph or 65mph - rather than getting to the brakes.

It's true mitigation and solutions keep getting tougher as we collectively keep refusing to accept responsibly for what we're doing to our planet's global heat distribution engine.  But that's no excuse for willful ignorance or worse fictionalizing the reported science.

I got no answers, but I know for certain that the worst thing we can do continue ignoring the science and the observations and the reality of the situation.  Until collectively face up to the reality of our physical impact on the atmosphere, climate, Earth we will only continue wasting irretrievable time while increasing civil divisiveness, all the while watching the situation spin totally out of our control.

{* "The situation" being increasing the insulating ability of our atmosphere, with its cascading consequences!}
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With that introduction I share a virtual discussion I had with a Fake Skeptic.
Fake Skeptic wrote:
The effect of climate change attributable to fossil fuel use on this stuff is marginal (in the sense of "marginal" familiar to economists), yes. In other words, fossil fuel use can only account for extreme weather on the margin. Hurricanes would clearly be occurring without fossil fuel use, so attributing all damage done by hurricanes to fossil fuel use is clearly nonsense.
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You limit yourself to a one dimensional debate focused world-view and tactically avoid what is happening in our real four dimensional physical world.  

No one's claiming "all" damage can be attributed to global warming.  Even framing the question that way leads to misunderstanding the situation we have.
{Besides, it's the upper end that does catastrophic damage - as witnessed by that "perfect storm" of dynamics that came together in the landfall of Hurricane Sandy.
incidentally, within a couple months no longer the biggest freakiest cyclone anymore:

The point is, our planet's climate had achieved a delicate balance that made the advancement of humanity and society possible.  Sure, it was a dynamic balance destined to change.  But holy molly, the amount of GHGs we have knowingly injected into our thin atmosphere is staggering when considering the range of fluctuations over geologic time scales, it's as though we're injecting steroids into our weather patterns.  

{ Gilbert Plass ~ July 1959}

You know, our planet lives because of it's global heat distribution engine and it operates by simple physical laws and the simple truth is that we are increasing the throttle, there is no simpler way to put it.  It's no longer conjecture, it's observed fact.

Create all the contrived distractions you want, change is usual disruptive and the radical change to our climate system is what we have set in motion, can't be any less than catastrophic to a world built within a gentler climate regime.  

It may take a few decades for momentum to build but than we do keep adding more steam into that climate engine.

Earth works at a slower pace than most appreciate.  But, given our experience of the past three to four decades, we can tell changes are going to be hard.  
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FS wrote:Even if I take seriously claims that an increase in something as nebulous as "extreme weather" is measurable and that a portion of this increase is unequivocally attributable to climate change that is unequivocally attributable to fossil fuel use, we're discussing only a marginal increase in costs associated with extreme weather.
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Any good faith curiosity will show you that this assertion is a decades old myth, that hold absolutely no weight in light of the past decades of escalating temperature and extreme weather events.

Climate change is already damaging global economy, report findsEconomic impact of global warming is costing the world more than $1.2 trillion a year, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP ~ ~ Extreme Weather Threaten Insurers' Risk Models, New Report Shows

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FS wrote:The effect of fossil fuel use on economic development is also marginal, but any economist worth his salt will tell you that the margin is huge, so if you want to reduce fossil fuel use to ameliorate effects of climate change, you must at least compare the costs of reducing fossil fuel use to any expected benefits of less extreme weather.
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And round and round we go.  The benefits would be less disruption to our children's lives.

Besides the sad truth is that the damage inflicted will far exceed profits being protected right now.  Fortunately, some do have hope:

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New Anthropocene
"It's silly to play victim when we are the instigators of Change"
Over the previous two centuries, the human race has proven itself a force of nature. So radical are the impacts that it only remains logical to state that we have moved out of the Holocene and into a new geological era; the Anthropocene. 
We seem to relish in the notion that we are a force of nature, but deny the necessary responsibility that should go with it. We must face the fact that we are now the true custodians of the world around us and have great potential to both destroy and more interestingly produce. 
The sooner we acknowledge this, the greater the remaining gene pool and remnant biota and easy energy supply. In other words, the sooner we admit to our new role, the easier we can provide guidelines for something we can truly be proud to hand on to future generations. 
The limited conversations desperately required and flat out rejection of all things unpleasant will only make us look foolish in the history books and that’s something many of us simply cannot accept.

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