Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mitigating effects of global warming

Our choices are more than sit and suffer or let Albert Gore, Jr. shut down industry and force us into poverty. The earth is warming out of the last ice age, so it's not your fault. The effects include the sea level rising and shifting where rain falls. So let's think of what we can do about it. We can raise existing bulkheads and build new ones. It costs, but it doesn't put Gore in charge. We can install desalination plants where there will be less rainfall. Bjorn Lomborg in the Skeptical Environmentalist estimates the costs of avoiding the effects by such construction projects. Off the top of my head, his estimate is large in dollars, but tiny as a fraction of the world's economy. And, again, it does not require impoverishing everyone but AlGore' family. Today's New York Times recognizes that we can mitigate global warming:
Cities in Texas, California and Australia are already building or planning desalination plants, for example. And federal studies have shown that desalination can work far from the sea, purifying water from brackish aquifers deep in the ground in places like New Mexico.
[Henry I.] Mr. Miller, of the Hoover Institution, said the world should focus less on trying to rapidly cut greenhouse gases and more on helping regions at risk become more resilient. .... There are some hints that wealthier countries are beginning to shift their focus toward fostering adaptation to warming outside their own borders. Relief organizations including Oxfam and the International Red Cross, foreseeing a world of worsening climate-driven disasters, are turning some of their attention toward projects like expanding mangrove forests as a buffer against storm surges, planting trees on slopes to prevent landslides, or building shelters on high ground. Some officials from the United States, Britain and Japan say foreign-aid spending can be directed at easing the risks from climate change. The United States, for example, has promoted its three-year-old Millennium Challenge Corporation as a source of financing for projects in poor countries that will foster resilience. It has just begun to consider environmental benefits of projects, officials say.
Of course the NYT can't tell it straight; they have to make this another "evil whilte males" story. Update: Henry Miller at Hoover Institute has looked at the options for mitigating global warming. But his article is based on an article in Nature Magazine 2/8/2007 by Roger Pielke of University of Colorado - in PDF form. They explain that mitigating, that is, adapting for global warming overlaps with other sources of problems. But one big problem is that policy makers are so focused on CO2 that they ignore much larger problems.
For example, in the Philippines, policy-makers have begun to acknowledge the flood threats posed by the gradual sea-level rise of 1 to 3 millimetres per year, projected to occur with climate change. At the same time, they remain oblivious to, or ignore, the main reason for increasing flood risk: excessive ground-water extraction, which is lowering the land surface by several centimetres to more than a decimetre (4 inches) per year. As with Katrina, the political obsession with the idea that climate risks can be reduced by cutting emissions distracts attention from the more important factors that drive flood risks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to the presentation by Bjorn Lomborg at the TED conference, the consensus of economic experts is that global warming is the least of the world's big problems in terms of the cost effectiveness of what we can do. Lomborg points out that when seas rise a hundred years from now, the people in developing countries will be much more affluent than they are now and will be economically able to deal with the problems. And our best efforts could only delay the rising sea level by six years, at tremendous cost.