One of the big issues discussed in relation to climate change is the relative costs of ‘acting’ versus ‘not acting’. Basically the argument comes down to: If the cost of ‘acting’ exceeds costs associated with the impacts of ‘not acting’, then ‘not acting’ is the preferred course.
As outlined endlessly by highly credible experts such as former World Bank chief economist, Lord Nicholas Stern, the massive costs of inaction on our economic and social systems dwarf the much smaller costs of acting. According to Stern in his report to the British government, the cumulative cost of climate inaction in 2050 will be a startling 5 percent to 20 percent of global GDP, or 5 to 20 times as much as it would cost to take action.
The conservative fourth assessment report of the IPCC came to a similar conclusion (bringing carbon dioxide equivalents to safe levels would cost <0.1% of GDP per annum growth over 50 years, IPCC 2007 – the figure below table and figure from Bert Metz, Co-chair of IPCC WG III). The conclusion: the impact of responding to climate change, if taken across the board, will affect very few of us significantly.
And here is the Dorothy Dixer: why is it that certain industry sectors and their media associates continue to promulgate inaccurate and misleading viewpoints on the important issue of whether or not we should act decisively on climate change? The answer is, ‘special interest‘.
Eric Pooley, a Kalb fellow, has written a highly credible and clear account of the issues at stake in a discussion paper published through the Joan Shorenstein Centre on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. In particular, he focuses on the role of some elements of the media in confusing and often deliberately misleading the debate. I recommend reading his paper because it highlights the often devious nature of special interest (and its media associates) and outlines the challenges that we face in getting policymakers to adopt a rational and sensible policies with respect to the looming climate change catastrophe.
As Pooley outlines, the forces of special interest have created a hysterical atmosphere that has led with the argument that any action to reduce the current rates of climate issue would cause economic mayhem and is therefore irresponsible. I was stunned by the numbers involved. According to Pooley, in just one example, US$427 million was spent by the oil and coal industries on lobbying, advertising and eventually defeating the important and sensible Lieberman-Warner bill that attempted to pass through the US House of Representatives.
At the end of the day, Pooley points to where the showdown really lies. The argument is not about whether or not climate change exists or not (it exists – that debate is over), it is challenging the deliberate and unethical inaccuracies promulgated by the fossil fuel lobby. This lobby is bent on thwarting attempts to respond to climate change so as to protect its bottom line via any means possible. As a citizen of this wonderful planet, I personally wonder how these individuals can sleep peacefully at night knowing that they are imperilling the earth and its citizens through their irresponsible and selfish actions.