Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Cost Benefit Analysis of listening to what the IPCC is saying

The reaction of the BBC and other rightist media to the publication of the IPCC report on impacts of climate change is profoundly depressing. The IPCC says that everyone on earth will be affected by climatic changes as a result of burning carbon. Heatwaves, extreme weather, floods, droughts and hunger are the chief effects.

However the BBC believes that it is right to  "balance" a compilation of 12,000 scolarly reports by giving airtime to a couple of non-scientist critics of the IPCC report. This is nothing short of outrageous.

Their game plan is clear: introduce uncertainty whenever climate change is in the news. That way, people get to think and talk about the uncertainty, rather than the reality of what the scientists are saying.

The root motivation for the hypercriticism of climatology is that decarbonisation will affect the profitablility of the coal, oil and gas industries. The critics (wrongly) claim that this will wreck the industrial economy.

Against this argument, we can set the Cost Benefit Argument.

Cost Benefit Argument

This can be seen as a case of the Precautionary Principle.

In the end, this is not an academic debate, because we and our children are part of the experiment. 
The consensus among scientists (with a few exceptions, as is always the case in science) is that we should decarbonise our economy as a matter of urgency.

Academics can debate ad infinitum, but politicians now have to make a choice, and every choice involves a degree of uncertainty.

Say we decarbonise our economy, and it turns out (unlikely as that may be) that IPCC view is wrong? Well, we will have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in insulation and renewable energy manufacturing and taken thousands out of fuel poverty by insulating their homes.

We will also have reduced the shock of Peak Oil and Peak Gas.

We will have reduced the acidification of the oceans. 

We will have addressed our energy security problems. 

We will have increased prosperity in hot countries, because they will be exporting electricity derived from solar energy. 

Not bad, not bad at all.

Say on the other hand, we give way to the denialists/skeptics, do nothing, and it turns out, as per all reasonable expectations, that they are wrong?

We will have problems with energy security, Peak Oil, Peak Gas, acidified oceans, acid rain, fuel poverty, unemployment, poverty, civil unrest and finally, massive, catastrophic climate disruption from droughts, floods, crop failures, disease, and war. With massive migration caused by environmental collapse. 

Not good.

Any sensible decision maker will put our money into decarbonising the global economy.  But, sadly, sensible is not a word that applies to the BBC and other rightist media outlets.

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