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Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

The Science May Be Settled, But the Economics Isn’t

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.

Investing in a Warmer Future

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.”

Bring Your Questions for FiveThirtyEight Blogger Nate Silver, Author of The Signal and the Noise

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.)

The New Yorker Geoengineers Itself

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.

The Latest News on Global Warming; Weirdness Still Prevails

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.

+ A new study in Science argues with the accepted wisdom on climate sensitivity. From the website of Oregon State University, home to lead researcher Andreas Schmittner:

Finally: A Garden Hose to the Sky

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.

Study Shows Animals Starting to Move to Higher Latitudes, Elevations

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:

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.

Did Princeton Prof's "Wedges" Theory Oversimplify Cutting Carbon Emissions?

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.
But in a new National Geographic article, Socolow is quoted saying that the wedges approach oversimplified the problem in the minds of many:

Cholera: More Complicated Than You Think?

Cholera, long considered “a disease of filth carried in sewage,” is a little more complicated than that, writes the science journalist Sonia Shah. “[R]esearch on cholera’s natural habitat and links to the climate have revealed a revolutionary new understanding of the disease as one shaped just as much by environment, hydrology, and weather patterns as by poor sanitation,” writes Shah. “And as temperatures continue to rise this century, cholera outbreaks may become increasingly common, with the bacteria growing more rapidly in warmer waters.”

The Biggest Bang for the Climate-Change Buck?

The world is full of efforts and estimates toward reducing carbon emissions. A new paper by David Wheeler and Dan Hammer argues that the best bang for the climate change buck may lie in family planning and girls’ education: $1 million spent could save 250,000 tons of CO2.

Matthew Kahn Answers Your Climatopolis Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Matthew Kahn, the author of Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future. His answers, covering everything from water scarcity to Moscow’s recent heat wave, are below. A big thanks to Matt – and to everyone who participated.

How Cities Adapt: A Q&A With Climatopolis Author Matthew Kahn

There are plenty of dire predictions about what will happen to our cities if the worst predictions about global warming were to come true: flooding, droughts, famine, chaos and massive death. But Matthew Kahn, an economist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, sees a different future. He tells that story in his new book Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future.

Explosive Climate-Change Video a Bit Too Explosive

The British environmental group 10:10, devoted to cutting carbon emissions 10 percent each year, created a message video that was a bit too explosive for its own good. The gist: any poor sap who fails to go along with the 10 percent cut, be it a schoolchild or a soccer star, is blown to smithereens.

Geoengineering: "The Horrifying Idea Whose Time Has Come"?

In Washington, D.C., this morning, the New America Foundation (in partnership with Arizona State University and Slate) is holding a “Future Tense Event” called “Geoengineering: The Horrifying Idea Whose Time Has Come?”

Horse Manure: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

A story told on pp. 8-11 of SuperFreakonomics – about the plague of horse manure, the introduction of the automobile (an “environmental savior”), and the resulting carbon emissions — has been turned into (of all things) a Mercedes-Benz commercial.

Global Warming Vs. Street Crime

In the Wall Street Journal, Jean Guerrero writes an interesting article about how cities are fighting street crime by the simple act of leaving the lights on deeper into the night. (Other cities have tried Barry Manilow music, with some success.) But leaving the lights on all night doesn’t always jibe with a city’s budget plans — or its global-warming conscience.

The Arctic in Pictures

A few months ago, Dubner snapped some iPhone pictures of the Arctic from an airplane. If you’re hankering for some professional photos, check out FP’s photoessay “The Ice Kingdom.”

What Is China Saying in Copenhagen?

Climate officials from around the world have assembled in Copenhagen for two weeks to address global warming. Here’s an interesting article from today’s Guardian. Highlights:

ClimateGate as Rorschach Test

In the 10 days since we first blogged about “ClimateGate” – the unauthorized release of e-mails and other material from the Climate Research Unit (C.R.U.) at East Anglia University in Norwich, England – it’s become strikingly clear that one’s view of the issue is deeply colored by his or her incoming biases. No surprise there, but still, the demarcation is clear. One of the best indicators: when you stumble onto a blog post about the topic, you can tell which way the wind is blowing simply by looking at the banner ad at the top of the site: if it’s for an M.B.A. in Sustainable Business, you’re going to hear one thing about ClimateGate; if the ad shows Al Gore with a Pinocchio nose, meanwhile – well, you get the idea.

The Global Warming Email We've All Been Waiting For

I got a good chuckle out of this piece by George Monbiot in the Guardian about the recent global warming e-mail controversy.
My view is that the emails aren’t that damaging. Is it surprising that scientists would try to keep work that disagrees with their findings out of journals?

A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic

We have a chapter in SuperFreakonomics about global warming and it too will likely produce a lot of shouting, name-calling, and accusations ranging from idiocy to venality. It is curious that the global-warming arena is so rife with shrillness and ridicule. Where does this shrillness come from? Some say that left-leaning activists have merely borrowed their right-leaning competitors from years past. A reasonable conjecture?