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Climate change and oil use-I: Uncertain path
Jun 18: An interesting question within the environmental movement is whether you can prove in a court of law what the costs of carbon emissions are to society.
8The link between carbon buildup and the climate system is non-linear and so it is unclear at what level of carbon build-up geo-climate changes will occur, and by what magnitude and by when they will occur. Similarly, the relationship between climate and biological systems and the link between climate and the world’s economic system is likewise non-linear. It is unclear, then, how to put a value on future geophysical environmental changes.
8Consider two alternative scenarios. One climate scenario suggests that we will have devastating global warming, a melting of ice caps, a rise in sea levels, and very intense storms all of which will create huge human costs in terms of flooded cities, destroyed infrastructure and acidic seas.
8An alternative climate scenario suggests that global warming will melt glaciers causing fresher water in the seas that will alter the Atlantic Gulf Stream so that less warm ocean currents will thaw the North and South Poles, in which case, eventually, ice will build up at the tip of the Poles. The extra snow and ice reflect more sunlight which causes more cooling until the ice spreads towards the equator and a great ice age could ensue whereupon global oceans will recede. The eventual cold weather will hit normal bread baskets of the world reducing food supplies and causing starvation. The net economic effect of either scenario is hard to calculate. Cities may be flooded and then become high and dry without a port to use, kind of like ancient Ephesus.
8However, it is easy to imagine within these two scenarios a kind of tug-of-war between the warming effects and the cooling effects. In this third scenario, the warming occurs, the ocean current changes, the poles cool, but the carbon keeps an ice age at bay. In that case, the effects of the carbon on the physical-biological system are difficult to determine. Likewise, you cannot predict how much flooding will occur or if breadbaskets will be lost or gained, or how dry or wet regions will become, all of which makes estimating climate change economic damages a difficult challenge.
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