The Economy of Climate Change

The New York attorney general has obtained an agreement with Peabody to disclose to the public and investors the risks of global warming associated with use of their coal. This came after a two-year investigation of Peabody by the New York attorney general revealing they had misled the public and investors regarding climate change risk. The New York attorney general will be applying the same scrutiny to Exxon, for the same reasons. Why do these companies do this? To keep stock prices up, of course, and maintain the viability of the business. Profit is paramount, especially when the denied catastrophe is sufficiently distant. I wonder whether this sort of slap on the wrist will really make any difference. These large companies are able to slide away from regulations and settlements with the ease of long practice, so I doubt that there will be any substantive change in their practices. Much stronger regulation is needed, more like wartime restrictions were in the ‘40s. If we do not make serious changes now, there will be serious repercussions.

One of those repercussions is presented in a study done by researchers at UC Berkeley who found that as temperature rises, the poor will become poorer while the wealthy will survive, at least for a while. They found also that there is an ideal temperature for human productivity, 13C or 55F. When the temperature goes too far above or below this, productivity drops off. The same researchers found in an earlier study that conflict increases with temperature. A different study predicts that in some areas heat could rise to temperatures incompatible with human life by the end of the century if nothing is done to change the current trends.   These studies focused only on human economy, but we know that the damage to other systems caused by climate change will be much greater than economic.

This flagrant disregard for life is simply criminal, and should be treated so. After World War II, trials were conducted for Nazi war crimes, and it seems to me that a climate trial should be conducted for these fossil-fuel companies. Climate damage should be treated like the holocaust; already billions of people are sick due to pollution and have been killed and injured by extreme weather, and likely even more will be killed by continuing climate change than happened in the holocaust. This is more criminal than anything anyone else has ever done, and should be treated accordingly.

We do have hope, though, because UC Berkeley has come to the rescue. They proposed in October ten solutions for the eventual achieving of carbon neutrality, but they didn’t stop there. California as well as the UC system plan to enact these solutions and serve as an example of how to move ahead in slowing and eventually reversing climate change. In doing this, they take the moral lead that is so sorely needed. It is heartening to see that someone, and someone so capable as the scientists at UC Berkeley, are taking serious steps to mitigate this coming catastrophe, and save us all.


Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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