Essential Reading: Updated

Whew, it’s harder to maintain a blog when you are working than when you ain’t…

Anyway, a couple of bits of essential reading from the blogroll today: Samadhisoft points to this BBC report which suggests that

  • There is a global migration crisis
  • climate change will make it worse

Yep.

It’s not a matter of climate change, all else being stable. It’s a matter of throwing an unprecedented problem into an increasingly volatile mix. I think people should be talking about the big picture more. I see this in science as well as in politics. Everyone’s wrapped up in their niches. Thinking about the big picture is discouraged.

Dennis at Samadhisoft calls the confluence of population and technology driven global problems a “Perfect Storm Hypothesis”. I’m not sure it’s a hypothesis, strictly speaking, but that’s whistling past the graveyard, isn’t it?

UPDATE: IS THIS TRUE? YOU’D THINK THERE WOULD BE MORE TALK ABOUT IT.

ANOTHER UPDATE: YES I THINK SO, SO WHY ISN’T EVERYBODY TALKING ABOUT IT?

Meanwhile Eli points to John Fleck, (who gratuitously invokes the Framing Meme in) pointing to the joint position of the various national science academies of:

Brazil
Canada
China
France
Germany
India
Italy
Japan
Mexico
Russia
South Africa
the United Kingdom
the United States of America

surely representing the great majority of contemporary scientists worldwide, stating:

  • “Our present energy course is not sustainable.”
  • “Responding to this demand while minimising further climate change will need all the determination and ingenuity we can muster.”
  • “The problem is not yet insoluble but becomes more difficult with each passing day.”
  • G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption and the associated climate change. Newly industrialized countries will share this responsibility in the future.”

Nicely done. Hopefully this will have an impact on most people’s thinking. It’s a great relief to see the academies making such strong and unequivocal statements.

Update: Also, be sure you catch up on the last of Jeffrey Sach’s Reith lecture series. In the final installment, Sachs suggests that defeating severe poverty and inequity, globally, in the very near term (a decade or so) is a necessary and plausible first step in our escape from our quandary. I think he has a point.

Finally, I suggest you wander over to the Global Change List which is getting very interesting these days.

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Economists

Economist William Nordhaus , among the best of the breed, is giving a talk entitled Measuring the Economic Effects of Global Warming. It will be presented to the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies (US) in Washington DC on May 10, 3 PM Eastern time. It will be webcast.

Here is a related Policy Forum letter in Science from 2004.

Though I find economists interesting, and I am gratified to see the cost/benefit approach I advocated in the 90s get some traction, I think they are approaching long time scales in a way that is fundamentally wrong.

I have made some progress in identifying and explaining my discomfort with their approach. Here’s a contributing event to my new understanding.

Now that I am living a car-based existence in a sprawly and ugly (albeit strangely lovable) town, I get to listen to NPR again. (By the way NPR has a plethora of climate stories on their website.)

Anyway, All Things Considered had some climate stories a couple of evenings ago. One economist stated “in order to deal with the greenhouse problem, we would have to change the entire economic structure of the world!”

Well, duh. The implication that this means we are doomed escapes me altogether. Economics are software, the control system of our society, not its infrastructure.

Maybe a couple of analogies will give you the idea of what I am thinking.

In order to keep our boiler from exploding we’re going to have to replace the entire thermostat!

In order for our car to get back on the road we’re going to have to replace the entire alternator!

Yeah, and…?

In short, economics should be a branch of engineering, not of science. The pretensions to pure science are confused and counterproductive.

I’ll have more to say on this, so stay tuned.

Update – I just had a look at the WGIII SPM,as I ought to do if I’m going to talk about this stuff. It is much better than I expected.

(The WGII muddle didn’t leave me expecting much, frankly, but I’m pleasantly surprised with WGIII.)