April 22, 2010

Will we prevent climate change?

I see huge amounts of disinformation in the media that discourage recognition of the seriousness of Climate Change. Most people seem to be in denial, and polls show that in the US that action to prevent CC is losing support.

Will we prevent climate change in time?

No, I'm pessimistic that we will. Basically, those who stand to lose because of change (either jobs, careers, or investments) fight change very, very tenaciously. They buy media outlets, they create think-tanks, they buy advertising, they buy politicians, etc, etc. The potential losers fight change with an intensity that is much, much stronger than the energy that comes from people who want change.

I see dramatic change to prevent AGW as pretty unlikely. OTOH, I'm a bit encouraged by this article:

"If you looked merely at the realm of politics, it would be easy to believe that the question, “Is climate change really happening?” is still unresolved....A spring Gallup study found that Americans’ concern over global warming peaked two years ago, and has steadily declined since.

But there’s one area where doubt hasn’t grown — and where, indeed, people are more and more certain that climate change is not only real, but imminent: The world of industry and commerce.

Companies, of course, exist to make money. That’s often what makes them seem so rapacious. But their primal greed also plants them inevitably in the “reality-based community.” If a firm’s bottom line is going to be affected by a changing climate — say, when its supply chains dry up because of drought, or its real estate gets swamped by sea-level rise — then it doesn’t particularly matter whether or not the executives want to believe in climate change. Railing at scientists for massaging tree-ring statistics won’t stop the globe from warming if the globe is actually, you know, warming. The same applies in reverse, as the folks at Beluga Shipping adroitly realized: If there are serious bucks to be made from the changing climate, then the free market is almost certainly going to jump at it.

This makes capitalism a curiously bracing mechanism for cutting through ideological haze and manufactured doubt. Politicians or pundits can distort or cherry-pick climate science any way they want to try and gain temporary influence with the public. But any serious industrialist who’s facing “climate exposure” — as it’s now called by money managers — cannot afford to engage in that sort of self-delusion. Spend a couple of hours wandering through the websites of various industrial associations — aluminum manufacturers, real-estate agents, wineries, agribusinesses, take your pick — and you’ll find straightforward statements about the grim reality of climate change that wouldn’t seem out of place coming from Greenpeace. Last year Wall Street analysts issued 214 reports assessing the potential risks and opportunities that will come out of a warming world. One by McKinsey & Co. argued that climate change will shake up industries with the same force that mobile phones reshaped communications.

More here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/04/climate-desk-corporations-risk

No comments: