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In the previous diary, I argued that skeptics of global warming held themselves to different working standards than the scientific community. Skeptics produce virtually no raw data or field research themselves, do not come up with their own climate models, their predictions are not detailed. They do not try to clarify things better, but sow confusion wherever they can.

Here I consider two reports from the skeptical camp, which at least have some predictions in numbers. The first article, of July 20, criticizes Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) Climate and Economy Act, now under consideration in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It claims that Bingaman's measures would avert at most 0.008 C of global warming by 2050, and would cost $331 billion. The second report from Lombard Street Research predicts $18 trillion price of preventing global warming, 45% of the global GDP.

When you see these statements, the questions arise:
  1. What exactly does it mean that some measure would cost those billions of dollars?
  2. What would be the damage costs (in similar units) of the climate change if we take no measures?
  3. What does it mean to stop or prevent global warming? If Bingaman's measures alone can decrease temperature, can we say that the warming is stopped?
  4. What are realistic measures and goals we can pursue?
In honesty, the last question does not have to pop up by itself from those numbers. It is the question I wish to answer first.

The hard data is that the CO2 concentrations rose by 40% in the last 150 years, and now it is 30% higher than it ever was in the preceding 420 millennia. How exactly greenhouse gases and the climate interact, we do not know much. But the prospects are not favorable. The point is that we still keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere more than the nature can cope with. The CO2 concentration is increasing, and the risk exists that higher temperatures will result in massive forest fires and methane instability in oceans, which would mean a run-away hell on Earth.

I propose a simple immediate goal for dealing with the climate change: stabilize the CO2 concentration. This has to be done sooner or later. Delay can only increase eventual costs of requisite measures, it seems. Certainly physical and moral damage of the warming would be greater. Along the way, we should learn as much as possible about climate dynamics, which means more active research than just speculations, so that we would know better whether we need to do more.

In the light of this articulation, the two cited reports do not tell much (if anything) what should or should not be done. They cite some vaguely specified high costs for ambiguous measures or obscure goals. At this point all sides - skeptics, politicians, scientists - can be more specific what should be achieved and which costs should be avoided.

Regarding the cost balances, one may distinguish the following details:

  • government spending;
  • affected industries;
  • decrease of economy versatility;
This should be compared against:
  • damage of climate change;
  • availability of natural resources;  
  • economy lift from advanced energy technologies.
With more specific numbers we may have more interesting debate then.

Again, the problem of climate change deserves diligent attention. Skeptics should contribute as much objective knowledge as scientists. To get some inspiration, one may consider the work of Dr. George Divoky. He already devoted 30 years to study black guillemots (birds) on the Artic Cooper Island. That study gave one of the first undeniable indications that the climate is warming. Click on the picture to read a story published more than 3 years ago.


Originally posted to ray z on Tue Aug 23, 2005 at 01:12 AM PDT.

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