On September 23 there will be a gathering of world leaders at a United Nations Climate Summit at UN head quarters in New York city. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society. On September 21, The non-profit environmental organization Greenpeace USA is organizing a “People’s Cimate March” in anticipation of the meeting of world leaders and to no doubt take advantage of the attention the meeting will bring.
Climate change, and whether or not it is happening and whether or not it is the result of what humans are doing to the planet, is an issue that should concern all of us, at least enough for us to understand the basics. If climate change is real and if it is in our power to prevent, it is the right thing to do, not only for us, but for our children and grandchildren.
And if we can prevent global warming what are the economic costs of doing so? Two recent reports suggest that preventing climate change would not be all that costly and could even lead to increased economic growth.
A brief article in Science magazine in 2004 claimed a scientific consensus in support of climate change being real. The article reviewed abstracts of 928 scientific journal articles and concluded that 75% of the articles accepted a consensus opinion that climate change was happening.
And in 2013 an article at slate.com reported on a National Science Board member James Lawrence Powell study that found that out of 13,950 articles on climate change in peer reviewed scientific journals, 13,926 found support for global warming. Phil Plait, the author of the Slate article, wondered why climate change deniers never publish in legitimate scientific journals.
Could it be that the Wall Street Journal has the answer. In an opinion editorial in 2006 entitled “Climate of Fear,” WSJ claims that scientists who dissent don’t get government research grants and are “libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency claims there is a scientific consensus on climate change. EPA cites U.S. government scientific agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on evidence ‘proving’ climate change is real, EPA cites NOAA data showing that the decade 2000 – 2010 was the warmest on record, changes in rainfall, more intense rain and more severe heat waves. EPA also cites climate models that suggest that warming is the result of human effects, including greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
One of the arguments that opponents of government policies to combat climate change use is that the economic costs would be too great and that it would lower potential economic growth. But in a recent column Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman cites a recent International Monetary Fund report and the 2014 report of The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate as concluding that a policy of taxing carbon emissions would not be costly on net for the economy and could actually contribute to increase growth.
If these reports are right, maybe we can get the best of both, a slowing of global warming and some increased economic growth. And we can save the planet as we know it, for our children and our grandchildren.