The I.P.C.C. has released the new findings. The summary tells a nightmarish tale—one much worse than any of those in the I.P.C.C.’s previous reports—surveying the climate-change impacts we’re already experiencing with one degree of warming, and the severity of the impacts to come once we surpass 1.5 degrees of warming. Ten million more people would be exposed to permanent inundation, and several hundred million more to “climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty.” Malaria and dengue fever will be more widespread, and crops likelike maize, rice, and wheat will have smaller and smaller yields—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Security and economic growth will be that much more imperilled. “Robust scientific literature now shows that there are significant differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees,” Adelle Thomas, a geographer from the Bahamas and also one of the report’s lead authors, told me. “The scientific consensus is really strong. It’s not just a political slogan: ‘1.5 to stay alive.’ It’s true.”
New Yorker 8th Oct 2018 read more »
What are the limits to economic growth – and have we already recklessly exceeded them? Such questions were raised (again) this week by (another) alarming report about climate change. Many of my environmentalist friends are convinced that economic growth itself is the fundamental problem. It was a timely moment, then, to give a Nobel Prize to two economists who’ve tackled that question head on. William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have tried to find ways to understand the invisible and sometimes ineffable causes and consequences of growth. The modern world produces two things in abundance: carbon dioxide and ideas. Both swirl around, defying our attempts at control. We’d like more ideas but already have more than enough carbon dioxide. The future of humankind may depend on a st range race: can we keep living standards rising yet restrain consumption of resources and production of pollutants? Economics being economics, messrs Nordhaus and Romer received their prizes for technical achievements in economic modelling. Mr Nordhaus analysed the interaction between climate change and the economy; Mr Romer developed an elegant way to model innovation as an intrinsic part of the growth process, rather than falling from heaven. These are impressive intellectual accomplishments, but my fascination with both men concerns some of their more informal work. In one of the economics papers I truly love, Mr Nordhaus tracked the price of illumination over the millennia, from the days when people could create light only with a campfire, through the time when they would use beef tallow – or clean, bright-burning spermaceti oil from whales – to the invention and improvement of incandescent bulbs. Mr Nordhaus chopped and burnt wood, and tested antique lamp s with a Minolta light meter. He concluded that in Babylonian times, a day’s hard work would produce enough to light a room for 10 minutes. By the end of the 20th century, the return on a day’s labour had improved from 10 minutes of light to 10 years. That is the kind of progress that gives one hope for us all. The environmental toll paid for that light has also plummeted, which is good news for the whales and good news for us. Perhaps it really might be possible to enjoy the comforts of modernity without destroying the planet.
FT 12th Oct 2018 read more »