the cost of climate change

July 17th, 2011 in Change. Tags: ,

Climate Change Debate

Australia is currently engaged in (or suffering under?) a political debate on how we should address the issue of climate change. It isn’t so long ago that many conservatives did not believe the scientific evidence that earth is warming at an alarming rate, and this will have disastrous consequences within a century. Then the argument shifted to whether the predicted changes were human-induced. Now we seem to be arguing about how much we should change our way of life, and how much we should pay, to address the problem. But the fact remains that Aussies, per capita, are among the world’s biggest contributors to global warming.


The government has proposed to use market measures to reduce carbon emissions – first a tax on carbon emissions, at a rate which increases each year, later a carbon trading scheme. Most people seem to want to address the issue, but many object to the cost, whether to particular industries (such as the housing industry, mining, power generation, or the stock market generally) or on us all via the cost of living.

The Government estimates the cost of the carbon reduction scheme will add 0.7% to the cost of living, with most people paying lower taxes to compensate them. But many either don’t believe these estimates, or find this to be too much of an impost.

another way to look at it

At the same time, the newspapers are carrying stories of the drought in north-eastern Africa, with the UN estimating that 11 million people are facing a ‘catastrophe’. Photos show starving children carried by desperate and weary mothers. More than a billion dollars is needed. The European Union estimates that natural disasters have increased 5 times in the last 35 years, with the cost of meeting the needs resulting from these disasters rising 8 times.

Water shortages in Africa are one of the outcomes of climate change predicted by the computer models, and it seems we are seeing some of these effects now. (Of course the causes are complex, and this drought is not caused by climate change alone, but global warming is surely one factor.)

It puts our 0.7% increase in cost of living in perspective as trivial and our unwillingness to pay the cost to reduce our impacts on the world’s poor as selfish. We pay a small cost compared to the high human cost already being seen in Africa.

Effects of African drought
Photo from World Vision

You could donate to World Vision here.

One Comment

  1. Chem Flunky,So Let me get this straight, you have no idea how many hteads will occur or have occurred? So if this is the case, let me ask you how you would actually proceed. You have a trillion dollars. You can spend it on saving known lives at risk for any number of problems man faces or on reducing AGW, which do you spend it on? Listening to the scare-mongerers, it sounds like it will be billions. Is this realistic? DO you think a good risk assessment can be done, if we do not even know the risk? My answer to this question is simple. Since we do not know the risk, we go for solutions that will be beneficial outside of AGW causing hteads or not. Nuclear power is an example. We can make nuclear power cheaper than coal and it is already safer than coal. E-cars is another example. Not paying for gas would be awesome. If they can get the price of solar panels to a reasonable amount, it would be as well. Paying for half as much energy and not being totally reliant on the power companies would be great. Note that this solution without the constant scare-mongering, both addresses your issues and does not cause people to believe the world is going to end. Without the scare-mongering, do horrific things like denying third world countries, power plants become unthinkable. Also for your answer to Number 3, are you really suggesting that the earth will not naturally pull excess CO2 out of the air? We may disagree on the timeframe to do this, but your answer suggests that the earth will not pull excess CO2 out of the air at all.I understand why you say a thousand years. They have given the half-life of CO2 in the atmosphere at up to 200 years, meaning that taking out 97% of the CO2 would take about 1 thousand years. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the scientists trying to determine the length of time, this is not nearly an accurate way of measuring this. Imagine a sink where the drain is pulled, but water is coming in at a faster rate then it is going out. Now in this case, if you lessen the water coming in, then the time to for the level of water to go down has to do with the rate of water going in and going out. It has nothing to do with how long one molecule of water stays in the sink. In fact, the time of a molecule of water being in the sink will likely be much longer. Because of this, it is difficult to figure out rates, but it will be far less than 1000 years.

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