25 August 2017

Climate change: humility recommended

The Economist, in a long article about the US state of Louisiana's coastal erosion problem (much of which is caused by factors other than climate change) says:
The state’s impressive coastal policy illustrates America’s ability to adapt to a natural disaster that is already upon it. It does not seem to have nudged the state, or the Republican Party, any closer to policies that might slow the warming that is contributing to that disaster. (My emphasis) Louisiana fights the sea, and loses, the 'Economist' 26 August
I approve of the tentativeness implied by 'might', and it's good to see others implicitly question whether stopping greenhouse gas emissions is the best way of achieving whatever are our goals concerning the climate. I would argue that the fundamental question we should be asking ourselves is:
Are we more concerned about climate change, or about the impacts of climate change on human, animal and plant life?
Accepting that there is a climate change problem, and that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are responsible (to an uncertain degree) for it, we need, I think, to challenge the pervasive assumption that the most efficient way of mitigating its negative impacts is to reduce those same greenhouse gas emissions. With the word 'might', the Economist would seem to agree.

A Social Policy Bond regime would specify very clearly what we want to achieve. We would express our policy goal as a combination of physical, social, biological and financial measures that must fall within specified ranges for a sustained period. Only then would holders of Climate Stability Bonds be paid out. These bonds would, in effect, contract out the achievement of our multiple climate goals to the private sector, leaving it to respond to our ever-expanding scientific and technical knowledge. Current policy is rigid and arrogant, in that it is based entirely on current science and assumptions about future trends. It cannot adapt to new knowledge. We shall need a multitude of diverse, adaptive approaches to achieving our goals relating to climate change and its impacts - many of which will have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions. Climate Stability Bonds would encourage them. Current policy, as well as being politically divisive and imposing extremely high upfront costs, will not.

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