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Isn’t the current distribution of climatic impacts across the planet already “horribly” unequal?

After all monsoons do not impact me here in Western, NY nor is drought something that I think I’ll have to reasonably worry about in Rochester. Someone in Turkey is at far more risk for earthquakes than me; someone in New Zealand at far greater risk of destruction by volcano; someone in Missouri at far greater risk of death by tornado and there are already parts of the planet that are utterly uninhabitable due to extreme heat (e.g. Death Valley, CA) or extreme cold. What is to be done about these?

It appears that a warming planet will generate changes in local environments across the globe (over 100 years). Now, no one can take seriously any precise estimate of what exactly those changes will be, but changes no doubt will occur. Some will be good of course. Others will be “bad.” Even if we did have a good idea as to what the consequences would be, we certainly have little idea about to whom they would be felt by and what kind of a burden they’d really be imposing. In fact, what if something that now appears to be a cost will become a benefit? This is a ludicrous thought experiment, but suppose that for some places rising sea levels turn out to be a good thing? Or if mosquitos turn out to be important for aesthetic reasons (I purposefully chose idiotic possibilities)?

We know that currently all kinds of prices adjust to reflect the relative benefits and risks of living in various places across the globe, and as I understand it, there is no serious proposal in play to compensate me if I decide to leave Rochester and end up in a tornado zone. Similarly, if what we understand about changes in the planet is almost certain, then wouldn’t we already be seeing prices adjust around the globe to reflect these changes in risks? If the prices do change, would that suggest a different role for policy than if prices, for whatever reason, do not?

More to say, but there’s college hoops to watch.

One Response to “This is Not the Question to Be Asking If You Want to Stay Invited to Sunday Dinner”

  1. Harry says:

    Somewhere (several places) I have read that UN officials (did not want to call them bureaucrats, minding my words) are worried about U.S. fossil fuel consumption diminishing the West African anchovy harvest.

    I think this is a setup, laying the groundwork for calculating how much money should flow from CO2 consumers to West African governments, who are supposed to take that money and plow it into a state agriculture program that is supposed to feed the starving people.

    This must be what the OWS folks and the Sierra Club mean when they talk about saving the planet, OWS handling the financial end and the Sierra Club the engineering.

    Yet at the same time it seems everybody goes bananas over GM food. It would seem if one is predicting famines, whatever the cause, one might be interested in improving crop yields.

    Wintercow could use his before and after Zimbabwe pictures to illustrate at his next dinner party.

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