Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Climate for Change:  America Should Not Wait While the World Warms - Washington Post Editorial

Some 300 environmental activists yell their support for stricter pollution rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.  (Credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP) Click to enlarge.
For more than a century, scientists have understood the basic physics of the greenhouse effect.  For decades, they’ve realized humans can affect the climate by burning coal, oil and gas.  But the country’s leaders remain divided on the need to curb greenhouse emissions, let alone how to do it.

Among mainstream scientists, this paralysis is mind-boggling.

The most reasonable climate skeptics accept these findings but point to two areas of continuing uncertainty.  First, scientists are unsure precisely how much the Earth will heat up in response to a given increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations — the climate’s sensitivity to carbon.  The experts have offered a range of possibilities.  Second, it is hard to predict exactly what a given increase in global temperature will do to human society.

Waiting to deal with carbon emissions until the effects are clearer or technology improves is not a wise strategy.  The emissions humans put into the atmosphere now will affect the climate in the middle of the century and onward.  Technological change, meanwhile, could make a future transition away from fossil fuels cheap — or it might not, leaving the world with a terrible choice between sharply reducing emissions at huge cost or suffering through the effects of unabated warming.

Businesses that do not hedge against the threat of uncertain outcomes fail.  The world cannot afford such recklessness on climate change.

A Climate for Change:  America Should Not Wait While the World Warms - Washington Post Editorial

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