Global Warming Fatigue

The Everyday Economist links to Gary Rosen writing in the New York Times Magazine:

I have to confess to a serious case of global-warming fatigue. I know
that the planet is heating up and that fossil fuels are the likely
culprit. But I’m tired of the sanctimony and the alarmism that surround
the subject. Every temperature spike is not a portent of the
apocalypse, and the need to see it that way keeps us from dealing
rationally with the problem itself. The issue is climate change, after
all, not weather change. What scientists worry about isn’t the
occasional winter scorcher but the long-term shift in average


As Cass R. Sunstein of the University of Chicago argues in his book
“Laws of Fear,” a critique of the precautionary principle, a
single-minded focus on particular environmental dangers excludes too
much. “A better approach,” he writes, “would acknowledge that a wide
variety of adverse effects may come from inaction, regulation and
everything between.”

If “precaution” is to make sense, it must be tempered by the logic of
cost-benefit analysis, with its trade-offs and estimates of relative
risk. Taxing carbon consumption is a fine idea — it would create
incentives for new energy technologies — but if pushed too far it could
depress economic growth. Resources might be better invested in
adaptation — that is, in developing new crops and water supplies for a
hotter world. Nor can we let climate change divert attention from more
pressing human needs. The social scientist Bjorn Lomborg persuasively
argues that the Third World suffers more from malnutrition and
H.I.V./AIDS than it is likely to suffer from global warming.


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