Wednesday, September 19, 2007

While We're Talking Economics, Let's Throw Some Climate Science Into The Mix ...

A comment on my last little toss-out post, which listed a couple of articles on economics that I found interesting, pointed the way to this post by John Tierney, pitting economists against ecologists as predictors of climate change. Not a fair fight? Well, the match-up may surprise you. By Tierney's reckoning, economists have the shinier resume when it comes to examining potential global crises. He gives some track record comparisons that certainly lend credence to his point of view. The really good news there is that the economist crowd also seems to be a lot more optimistic:

The classic example is the “population crisis” of the 1960s and 1970s, when biologists like Paul Ehrlich were convinced humanity was about to suffer massive famines and devastating shortages of energy and other resources because the growing population would exceed the planet’s “carrying capacity.” This concept seemed obvious to biologists who study ecosystems, but economists realized there’s a big difference between animals and humans: Humans are remarkably adaptable and creative. When confronted with shortages and environmental problems, they have a long history of coming up with solutions — new methods of farming, new and cheaper sources of energy, cleaner technologies — that leave them better off in an environment that’s less polluted.

Of course, population sustainability and climate are clearly different animals, but the point remains the same. Humans adjust, and even manage to think about the rest of the ecosystem occasionally. Now, if you read the Meow at all, you probably know that while a thermometer (and common sense) can tell you that the climate has changed over time, and will continue to change, I'm a pretty big skeptic of the idea that human beings can be pegged as the source of that change. (Click on the climate science label below to get a Kat-centric view of the topic.) Nonetheless, since there are plenty of folks out there determined to blame humanity, and determined to find a solution to the weather, I'm glad to see some other disciplines chiming in on this debate. They may not have the scientific background of the "experts," but just might have a valuable word or two to contribute as the global powers mull our future. Have a look.

Note: Thanks for the link, Rich.

Update: Thought I'd throw this one out there for fun...