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Can the Economy Clean Up its Act?

Or is it too late? One researcher thinks that looking at the dollar figures might spur big companies (and big government) to ACT.

Researcher George Backus says, "Absent any idea of costs, the need to address climate change seems remote and has a diluted sense of urgency." His climate-change study that models the near-term effects that climate change is having on declining rainfall in each of the 48 US continental states makes clear the economic toll that could occur unless an appropriate amount of initial investment is made to forestall much larger economic problems down the road. The report estimates the range of precipitation conditions--from lows to highs--that could occur across the states. The study then presents the consequence of those levels of precipitation on the states' economies.

Backus says, "On the one hand, there's a lot of uncertainty in quantifying climate change. Everyone sees that. It's this uncertainty that presents the greatest difficulty for policy makers. If society knew how change would exactly unfold, we could undertake adaptation and mitigation responses."

There are many different KINDS of economic problems that can be affected by climate change. One of these is the movement of populations that are searching for jobs with livable wages. California, the Pacific Northwest and Colorado, for example, are the only states in the study that seem to benefit overall from the variation in precipitation that climate change might engender. That is because population would leave those states whose economy is hit hardest by reduced water availability, moving into and stimulating the economies of the less-affected states, reducing their population pressure. However, less people ALSO means less tax revenue.

Another industry affected by climate change is insurance, which has been devastated in recent years by fires and floods. In insurance, greater uncertainty means greater risk. In such cases, insurance companies merely reflect the higher risk in a higher insurance premium. For example, the rates for well-understood risks, such as taking a commercial airline flight, are far lower than those for less-understood risks, such as taking a privately funded rocket flight.

"One can emphasize the limitations of climate-change models, if one wants," says Backus. "But the real effect of that is to accentuate risk. To an insurance company, it would mean an area is more dangerous, not less. The proper action for those who want to halt government initiatives in climate policies is to reduce the uncertainty, not raise it. They need to demonstrate, if possible, that the future climatic conditions will remain below dangerous levels."

"Mankind is trapped. I want to help you spring the trap.""The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered country can become your backyard.""Your destiny, each of you, is to become all of God."Find out who said these provocative words and first alerted Whitley to the facts about global warming, which he then wrote about in his book which became the hit film The Day After Tomorrow.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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