Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Real Questions We Should Be Asking About Global Warming

I keep hearing about global warming and what may or may not happen as a result and how much humans may or may not be causing the problem and what we should or should not do about it. What I am not hearing is if we should do something about it, what is the cost and is that a cost that makes sense to pay?

I do not know if human activity is causing global warming and if your job title is something other than God, neither do you. There is plenty of evidence that the sun has been sending more heat our way recently. Regardless, let's assume we are the one and only cause of global warming and let's assume that we can do something that would slow or stop or reverse global warming. Should we pay that price? That is the question that needs to be asked and answered. Because the cost might be we all need to stop driving vehicles and we all need to stop using electricity and we all need to stop heating our houses. Would you willing to live in a non heated mud hut to stop global warming? That maybe the price that needs to be paid.

George Will has an excellent article on the subject:

We do not know how much we must change our economic activity to produce a particular reduction of warming. And we do not know whether warming is necessarily dangerous. Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?

It could cost tens of trillions (in expenditures and foregone economic growth, here and in less-favored parts of the planet) to try to fine-tune the planet's temperature. We cannot know if these trillions would purchase benefits commensurate with the benefits that would have come from social wealth that was not produced.

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