Monday, October 16, 2006

Hard Rain Journal 10-16-06: Climate Crisis Update - The Cost of NOT Coping with the Challenges of Global Warming

Speaking out on the Climate Crisis in your professional life, in your homes, and among your circle of friends is of paramount importance. It is unfortunate that the debate, for some of us, has not already moved on to how to mitigate and adapt to global warming rather than on whether or not it is happening and what is causing it, but that's still where some of us are...Of course, it does not help the situation that most of Beltwayistan (although many state and city governments are taking action now, independently) and the Pollyannas of the US mainstream news media are still largely in denial.

Here are three recent stories, one on the cost of NOT coping with the challenges of the climate crisis, and two on the issue of fresh water, particularly in Australia. Sustainability, particularly water-related, would have been one of the three or four most significant issues of our time even without global warming; but with it, sustainability has become a matter of survival both for our economies and for the next generation. Please review these excerpts, follow the links to the full text and share the information with your friends and colleagues:

Global warming deniers frequently fall back on the following argument: even if global warming is real, it’s too expensive to mitigate. For example, the National Review’s Jason Steorts said it would require “economic castration.” Such arguments, however, ignore the costs of inaction.
A new study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University reveals the severe economic consequences of doing nothing. From the report:
[I]f nothing is done to restrain greenhouse gas emissions, annual economic damages could reach US$20 trillion by 2100 (expressed in U.S. dollars at 2002 prices), or 6 to 8 percent of global economic output at that time (Kemfert 2005). The same study found that immediate adoption of active climate protection policies could limit the temperature increase to 2° and eliminate more than half of the damages…If, however, climate protection efforts do not begin until 2025, the same model estimates that it will be impossible to limit warming to 2° by 2100 — and climate protection in general will be more expensive, the later it starts.
Even that estimate “necessarily omit[s] some of the most troubling potential consequences of climate change.” Importantly, the study found that the cost of mitigation is about one quarter the cost of doing nothing.
REPORT: The Cost of Ignoring Climate Change Is $20 Trillion A Year, Think Progress, 10-13-06

The world's glaciers and ice caps are now in terminal decline because of global warming, scientists have discovered. A survey has revealed that the rate of melting across the world has sharply accelerated in recent years, placing even previously stable glaciers in jeopardy. The loss of glaciers in South America and Asia will threaten the water supplies of millions of people within a few decades, the experts warn.
Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, who led the research, said: "The glaciers are going to melt and melt until they are all gone. There are not any glaciers getting bigger any more."
Loss of land-based ice is one of the clearest signals of global temperature rise, and the state of glaciers has become a key argument in the debate over climate change....Dr Kaser said that "99.99% of all glaciers" were now shrinking. Increased winter snowfall meant that a few, most notably in New Zealand and Norway, got bigger during the 1990s, he said, but a succession of very warm summers since then had reversed the trend.
David Adam. Water for Millions at Risk as Glaciers Melt away · Crisis threatens parts of South America and Asia · Decline accelerates as global warming takes hold, Guardian/UK, 10-13-06

Australia is confronting its worst drought in a century with rampant fires devastating agricultural areas, rivers drying up, crops failing, and farmers forced to sell off their livestock. The bushfire season has begun months early and the government has pledged financial aid for despairing farmers, already laden with debt after five straight years of drought. Some may earn no income at all this year, and there are fears that the suicide rate in the countryside, which is already high, will soar further.
The federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, said the countryside was facing a "rural recession"....Australians are among the world's biggest energy consumers, and the country is one of the top per capita producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Nonetheless, it is one of only two industrialised nations, along with the United States, that has refused to sign the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, arguing that it would harm the economy. Now the economy looks likely to get a good shaking, as a result of the unseasonably high temperatures and pitifully low rainfall in recent months. In New South Wales alone, 92 per cent of the state is officially in drought, and farmers have begun offloading stock before the hot, dry summer sets in, forcing them to buy feed and water. Sheep sales in the state are 70 per cent higher than last year, and at one saleyard last week, a record 67,000 sheep were sold in one day. Agricultural economists, meanwhile, have slashed their winter crop forecasts by more than a third, and wheat exports have been suspended to meet domestic demand.
While some farmers are braced for their first total crop failure in half a century, consumers in urban areas are being warned to expect significantly higher food bills.
Kathy Marks, Fires and worst drought in 100 years wake Australia up to the reality of climate change, Belfast Telegraph, 10-14-06

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