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November 04, 2006


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Dan's Writings ›  



I began writing…

I began writing this monthly musing about Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on the economic impact of global warming but I couldn’t do it. The subject, and the report, is just too hard. I couldn’t read the entire report because it is 700 pages long and because what I did read was as cold and inhuman as, well, an economic report. I ended up Googling (or should I say that I got on The Google and found) “Sir Nicolas Stern on global warming”. After reading this Cliff notes version, the Earth shaking economic report on the cost of global warming came a lot more clear to this non-economic type. Stern is not a crack-pot, sentimental environmentalist. He is a past chief economist for the World Bank. That is why a lot off cornucopians are taking what he said seriously and probably why his report was un-readable for me. The Google search did a much better job of making Stern’s report real to me than almost anything I could have tried.

What the search told me was what most of us suspected: global warming is going to cost us a lot of money. A LOT OF MONEY. (Up to 20% of World Gross Domestic Product, trillions – whatever that is.) While the entire report was just too much literature for me, reading the Google-lite version of Stern’s report left me feeling cheated in a literary way. I mean, even though they are bulleted, shouldn’t there be, at least, an exclamation mark after phrases like:
  •     Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become extinct
  •     Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of “climate refugees”
It is a puzzle to me how we could lose 40% of species without losing the rest. I mean, what are the rest of us 60%’s going to eat? Can you remove all the spades and most of the hearts from a house of cards? And as far as the possible hundreds of millions of “climate refugees” are concerned, I suppose it makes a lot of difference if you are one of those refugees or you are not one of those refugees. It also makes a lot of difference if you are almost one of those refugees. Even if you escape refugee-hood and manage to hang onto the family artichoke farm, you might not like your new calling as a nomadic shepherd.

Farther down the Google listings I found the reaction to Stern’s report. Most of it was pretty sane, political stuff about the challenge and how it must and will be met. Most of the comments focused on Europe and very few concerned the places that are currently creating most of the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming. And almost none of the comments mentioned places that are currently trying as hard as possible to become contributors to global warming. There were a bunch of comments about what this statistic meant and how that percentage shown like me – guys that didn’t read the report.

My Google search was four days ago and today I noticed that little more has been said about the “story”. I have the sinking feeling that this “story” might go the way of the now forgotten “story” about catching all the fish on the Great Banks! That exclamation mark is mine.

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