Climate change believers will have you believe we are in peril from anthropocentric (human-related) climate change. Climate change non-believers will say its some sort of communist, socialist, fascist, environmentalist, (insert your favorite –ist here), plot to reduce (insert favorite cause here, such as freedom, democracy, etc).
I do not believe this is a useful debate, no matter how right or wrong scientists are about climate change. It is the simple nature of statistics, numbers, and beliefs, that no matter what you do, someone will always have an argument contrary to it. This is illustrated by an AP article in the paper today. In the name of full disclosure, I do believe climate change is occurring, has human-related causes, and that we have an ethical, and rational, responsibility to mitigate the impacts.
If we take action to correct this behavior, there are costs. Annual costs have been estimated at $20 trillion per year in 2100. The same study reveals that $3 trillion per year could reduce this damage to $8 trillion per year. Even counting the expenses (which has a history of being higher in estimate than they turn out to actually be), this saves $9 trillion dollars per year globally. (Article, p. 25) However, viewing these expenses in isolation, as those who argue against dealing with climate change tend to do, I believe is incorrect. There will be economic development and growth from installing measures, research and development, and other benefits as research leads to other valuable additions in the economy and research.
Also, ask anyone if they’d rather live next to a coal-fired power plant, or a wind farm, or solar plant, or even natural gas-fired plant, and I’d bet they’d choose anything but the coal-fired power plant. Also, looking at the numbers, I would rather risk $3 trillion and be wrong, than risk countless species, human lives, and even greater economic risk.
Putting it into perspective
Think of it as buying insurance. If you buy car insurance and never have a car accident, you’ve just wasted money. Car insurance costs me about 1.5% of my annual, pre-tax income. I do not consider this to be a waste of money however, for the risk to my finances if I get into an accident is far higher. Assuming just my car was totaled (no human or property damage), it would take about 50% of my annual income to replace the car. So, federal regulations and requirements aside, it behooves me to have some level of insurance on my car. It is the same reason why I buy renters insurance. It is “just in case”. Yes, I suffer some loss of income by purchasing it. However, I gain security. If everything in my house of stolen, or list by fire, I pay up to the deductible, and I can repurchase what was lost.
I encourage all readers to start thinking about climate change in terms of insurance. We can either run around without insurance and hope nothing bad happens, or we can be rational, and insure ourselves. As for me, I’ll take the insurance.
Even if its costs me a little bit out of pocket.