|This may become typical if sea level rises as expected|
The Conservative approach to enrolling climate change deniers into action is not to get into a battle, confronting the doubters. Instead it’s to say “Look, there must be, in the back of your mind, at least a little doubt. You might be wrong, so let’s all get together on an insurance policy.” According to a report in Scientific American, that’s what President Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, did to get backing on an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the
Ozone Layer, which is still standing today, and still providing environmental goodness. Today, Shultz and a cast of other U.S. Political Leaders have joined together in releasing a report about Climate Change, pointing to the extreme risks we all face, and calling for our governments and businesses to work together on what’s essentially a global insurance policy against climate change.
The report, RISKY BUSINESS: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, comes with a companion website, riskybusiness.org, and is an excellent overview of climate change risks.
Climate change effects are already causing problems – extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme rain, extreme storms, on and on, are caused by a climate system in flux. It’s not just an academic problem, it’s a real world problem with plainly visible effects. Some effects stand to cause huge economic losses, from lowered productivity, to farms that can no longer grow food, to destruction of the expensive highways, airports, and seaports that will be flooded once sea level rise begins in earnest.
This idea of taking action (or not) based on risk assessment is not new. A series of videos posted in 2007, the Manpollo Videos, made a similar argument, and even offered a risk assessment model to work with.
|Does it take Wall Street being flooded
in order for the money/investor class
to take climate change seriously?
Climate change effects effects, like increasing heat or coastal flooding, should have everyone worried, especially the Conservatives. Why, a Conservative should be asking, do we build an airport next to the ocean when it’s just going to be flooded? Why, a Conservative should ask, do we continue with actions whose effects will destroy economically valuable systems? In other words, investing money as if the climate won’t change significantly seems like a very bad risk.
The effects the Risky Business report focuses on include:
Large-scale losses of coastal property and infrastructure
Extreme heat across the nation — especially in the Southwest, Southeast, and Upper Midwest — threatening labor productivity, human health, and energy systems
Shifting agricultural patterns and crop yields, with likely gains for Northern farmers offset by losses in the Midwest and South
We’re already seeing these effects and others. Storm surges from extreme storms (Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy) have already caused huge havoc in two major cities in the U.S.
Climate Change warnings are often dismissed as environmental poppycock, just fluff in a scientific report that might be wrong. The Risky Business report is, instead, a serious business risk assessment put together by high ranking U.S. Political leaders from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum.
Here’s an especially telling paragraph:
Given the range and extent of the climate risks the American economy faces, it is clear that staying on our current path will only increase our exposure. The U.S. climate is paying the price today for business decisions made many years ago, especially through increased coastal storm damage and more extreme heat in parts of the country. Every year that goes by without a comprehensive public and private sector response to climate change is a year that locks in future climate events that will have a far more devastating effect on our local, regional, and national economies.
The Risky Business report isn’t dictating answers – instead it documents the risks, leaving it for business and government leaders to make sound decisions.
They don’t put it this way, but I see an analogy with 12 Step programs. The first step in a 12 Step program is recognizing you have a problem. That’s often the hardest thing to do, admitting you have a problem. Once you have admitted to the problem, you can work on solutions, but we all collectively have to take the first step.
Here’s a little something to help wake us all up:
This maps the ever-increasing heat as the climate warms. Specifically, what’s shown is the average number of days over 95 degrees F, averaged over a suitably long period of time.
We have to understand that the problem isn’t exactly the heat. Yes, the hotter climate means plants and animals (including us) will have a harder time surviving. The increasing heat also causes destructive weather patterns, storms, forest fires, etc. We’ve already seen plenty of extreme storms. Remember the extreme rain hammering England and extreme snowfall hammering the U.S. last winter? Remember extreme hurricanes hammering NY City and New Orleans the last few years?
This is going to become commonplace, and the longer we dither around before taking action the worse it will be.
The Risky Business report calls for action, making the case that it has to come soon rather than late.
Maybe, by couching the problem as a risk of destroying zillions of dollars of economic value, the investor class will wake up and smell the climate change?
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