Sunday, December 2, 2007

Climate change madness

Why people take celebrities so seriously, I have no idea. Case in point is Prince Charles and the Bali Communiqué that 150 major companies have signed to limit greenhouse gases.
An interesting feature of the communiqué is the statement that emissions reduction "must be guided primarily by science" (as opposed to economics). Excuse Me? Economics is about costs and benefits. If it is more costly to prevent climate change than to mitigate it, then surely mitigating climate change is the better deal. Unfortunately, much of the economics behind the communiqué stems from the Stern Report, which has some significant flaws.
This could mean that we are using a completely wrong-headed approach to deal with a crisis that may or may not materialize. Think of all the trillions we could be wasting, trillions that could go into anti-malaria initiatives, schooling for poor children, prevention of many childhood diseases and prevention of an AIDS epidemic in many parts of the world still at risk. Sadly none of these causes have a globe trotting hypocrite or two to champion them.
There is evidence for climate change (although there are still some important voices that are skeptical) and it could turn out that the most economic solution could be to prevent it from getting worse but I would think twice and do some more analysis before forsaking or committing trillions to deal with it. And sometimes, as this article at American.com points out, the cure could be worse than the disease.

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