The world’s scientists affirmed last week their increasing certainty—95% confidence—that humans are causing global warming by emitting greenhouse gases.
With human culpability all but certain and the potential for warming by 4.5°C in 100 years, economists can’t decide what should be done about it, or even whether any substantial effort should be undertaken to stop it.
In delivering a keynote address to a large group of economists this summer, Harvard’s Marty Weitzman described climate change as a hellish problem that is pushing the bounds of economics.
A year earlier, addressing an annual meeting of environmental economists, MIT professor Robert Pindyck suggested there was no strong economic argument for costly, stringent policies to halt expected warming. In contrast to the near certainty of climate science predictions, Pindyck said the economics of climate change is not well charted and that the case for aggressive climate policy relies on assumptions not supported by consensus. Read More »
Bloomberg Businessweek explores how firms are adapting to a future climate:
Investing in climate change used to mean putting money into efforts to stop global warming. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and other firms took stakes in wind farms and tidal-energy projects, and set up carbon-trading desks. The appeal of cleantech has dimmed as efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions have faltered: Venture capital and private equity investments fell 34 percent last year, to $5.8 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Now some investors are taking another approach. Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, they’re investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter. (The World Bank says the earth could warm by 4C by the end of the century.) Their strategies include buying water treatment companies, brokering deals for Australian farmland, and backing a startup that has engineered a mosquito to fight dengue, a disease that’s spreading as the mercury climbs.
Piet Dircke of the Dutch engineering and flood-prevention firm Arcadis says he was besieged with calls after Hurricane Sandy: “The climate is changing. Sea level is rising. That’s quite obvious. At the same time, the cities that are close to the waterline continue to grow and have more money and need for protection. It’s almost a natural growth market.”
Nate Silver first gained prominence for his rigorous analysis of baseball statistics. He became even more prominent for his rigorous analysis of elections, primarily via his FiveThirtyEight blog. (He has also turned up on this blog a few times.)
Now Silver has written his first book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t. I have only read chunks so far but can already recommend it. (I would like to think his research included listening to our radio hour “The Folly of Prediction,” but I have no idea.)
A section of Signal about weather prediction was recently excerpted in the Times Magazine. Relatedly, his chapter called “A Climate of Healthy Skepticism” has already been attacked by the climate scientist Michael Mann. Given the stakes, emotions, and general unpredictability that surround climate change, I am guessing Silver will collect a few more such darts. (Yeah, we’ve been there.) Read More »
Michael Specter has written a good and interesting New Yorker article about the history and current state of geoengineering, called “The Climate Fixers: Is There a Technological Solution to Global Warming?”
Let me rephrase:
Michael Specter has written a good and interesting New Yorker article about the history and current state of geoengineering, called “The Climate Fixers: Is There a Technological Solution to Global Warming?,” which is essentially a New Yorkerized version of Chapter 5 of SuperFreakonomics, all the way down to the Mount Pinatubo explosion and the reliance on scientists Ken Caldeira and Nathan Myhrvold. Read More »
The U.N. is holding its big annual conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa. For those of you still paying attention to global-warming news, you may want to add a couple of links to your reading:
+ There’s been a second round of “ClimateGate” e-mails, (the first preceded the U.N.’s climate-change Copenhagen conference in 2009); the Times‘s Andy Revkin becomes a more prominent character this time around, for which he is attacked, and which attack he promptly defends.
Well, it’s actually happening. An idea reported on extensively in SuperFreakonomics has come to fruition, and some mad scientists are getting their way (and a little government funding) to build a garden hose to the sky – and save the world by cooling it down.
A team of British researchers called SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering), is attempting to pump particles of water into the atmosphere as a test run before moving onto sulfates and aerosols that would reflect sunlight away from earth, mimicking a volcano effect. SPICE is building the garden hose at an undisclosed location, with £1.6 million in UK government funding and the backing of the Royal Society. Read More »
A new study out of the University of York shows that animals are moving to higher latitudes and elevations as a result of global warming. The research, which is a meta-analysis of previous individual studies, finds that about 1,300 species are shifting habitat faster than had previously been assumed. But they’re not all moving toward cooler temperatures. The data are mostly skewed toward Europe and North America. Here’s the abstract:
Read More »
The distributions of many terrestrial organisms are currently shifting in latitude or elevation in response to changing climate. Using a meta-analysis, we estimated that the distributions of species have recently shifted to higher elevations at a median rate of 11.0 meters per decade, and to higher latitudes at a median rate of 16.9 kilometers per decade. These rates are approximately two and three times faster than previously reported. The distances moved by species are greatest in studies showing the highest levels of warming, with average latitudinal shifts being generally sufficient to track temperature changes. However, individual species vary greatly in their rates of change, suggesting that the range shift of each species depends on multiple internal species traits and external drivers of change. Rapid average shifts derive from a wide diversity of responses by individual species.
In 2004, Princeton professors Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala introduced a strategy that made the large-scale reduction of carbon emissions actually seem feasible. Rather than looking for one big fix, their process, called stabilization wedges, broke the solution down into incremental pieces (increasing alternative energy, reducing energy use, improving efficiencies) that together could prevent billions of tons of new emissions over the next 50 years.