Adapting to catastrophe

October 24th, 2002 § Comments off

Diplomats are meeting right now in New Delhi to discuss global warming. They’re not talking about how to prevent it from happening; they’re talking about how to adjust to its effects. And an anonymous United States negotiator is pleased: “‘We’re welcoming a focus on more of a balance on adaptation versus mitigation,’ said a senior American negotiator in New Delhi. ‘You don’t have enough money to do everything.’”

Okay, let’s look at some of the predicted effects of global warming that we’ll have to “adapt” to. For starters, there’s the likelihood that harvests of wheat, rice, and corn will drop up to 30 percent. If starvation doesn’t worry you, perhaps property damage does. In addition to deforestation and mosquito infestations, Alaska has already suffered enormous property losses caused by the thawing of permafrost; houses in Fairbanks must be supported on jacks, and engineers worry that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline may become unstable.

As for the claim that mitigation is too expensive, I would note that in the United States, companies nearly always complain about costs when they’re told to implement new regulations. It does not appear that American capitalism has collapsed as a result. (If that’s too flip for you, I’ll offer an example: Would it really bankrupt American car companies if they were forced to improve the abysmal fuel economy of sports utility vehicles?)

My hope is that it’s not too late to prevent massive, worldwide disaster. Just in case, though, I’m stocking up on shorts, T-shirts, and plenty of Soylent Green.

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