One commonly repeated argument for doing something about climate change sounds compelling, but turns out to be almost fraudulent. It is based on comparing the cost of action with the cost of inaction, and almost every major politician in the world uses it. . .I wonder if Roger Ebert is listening?
Of course, politicians should be willing to spend 0.5 per cent of GDP to avoid a 20 per cent cost of GDP. This sounds eminently sensible, until you realise that [European Commission president Jose Manuel] Barroso is comparing two entirely different issues.
The 0.5-per-cent-of-GDP expense will reduce emissions ever so slightly (if everyone in the EU actually fulfills their requirements for the rest of the century, global emissions will fall by about 4 per cent). This would reduce the temperature increase expected by the end of the century by just 0.05C. Thus, the EU's immensely ambitious program will not stop or even have a significant impact on global warming.
In other words, if Barroso fears costs of 20 per cent of GDP in the year 2100, the 0.5 per cent payment every year of this century will do virtually nothing to change that cost. We would still have to pay by the end of the century, only now we would also have made ourselves poorer in the 90 years preceding it. . .
The inaction argument makes us spend vast resources on policies that will do virtually nothing to deal with climate change, thereby diverting those resources from policies that could actually make an impact.
We would never accept medical practitioners advising ultra-expensive and ineffective aspirins for gangrene because the cost of aspirin outweighs the cost of losing the leg. Why, then, should we tolerate such fallacious arguments when debating the costliest public policy decision in the history of mankind?
(via Planet Gore)