Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book review: The Climate Casino

Book review: The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2013
378 pages

I think Prof. Nordhaus has given us a remarkable achievement: a solid, sobering, stimulating, scientific, scary book on human-caused global climate change, that leaves no room for doubt about the prospect that climate change deniers are going to sweat more, like the rest of us, in coming decades. 

This is not a book about Apocalypse. If anything, the Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University writes with an even temper and drily matter-of-fact language that is a teensy bit annoying, given the massively dangerous, initial impacts of climate change and global warming that are already unavoidable.

I think the principal value of The Climate Casino is that Nordhaus lays out the economic (cost/benefit) framework of policy considerations and possible remedial steps that the nations of the world, and mankind, can take to deal with the fact that we’re putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In simplest terms, he says there are many things we can do to mitigate global warming….some are more costly than others and some are very expensive….some folks and some companies and some countries will have to pay more of the costs than others.

I was surprised to read his conclusion that humans can likely survive the initial moderate impacts of global climate change/warming without substantial social and economic disruption, if we start seriously working on it now—there is a big pricetag, but we can tolerate it.

(I mention, for the record, that Nordhaus carefully discusses the unpredictable, and more than trivially possible, catastrophic “tipping points” in climate disruption that might occur regardless of what we do or don’t do—think Dennis Quaid and “The Day After Tomorrow”).

We’re going to have to stop using coal around the world, or figure out how to burn it cleanly. And more generally, we’re going to have to figure out how to require companies and individuals to pay the true cost of burning fossil fuels, that is, the present and future cost of the damage those fuels cause to our environment and to our grandchildren’s prospects for survival.

It was remotely heartening to read Nordhaus’ estimate that we have a reasonable chance of dealing with global warming if we get the ball rolling now, and make sure everyone pays the price.

This is the only planet our grandchildren will have to live on. We must do the right thing for them.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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