As Martin Parry, who supervised the impacts and assessments section of the massive Climate Change 2007 (Physical Science edition) IPCC report writes (here) in this weekend’s Guardian, it’s shockingly difficult to find moderates on the subject of climate change.
One tends to have scientists and advocates warning that if we don’t take drastic action immediately, civilization as we know it is doomed (such as Oliver Ticknell, who argues that if we allow the globe to heat by 4C, we may as well "prepare for extinction").
How does one prepare for extinction, by the way? Oh well, whatever, never mind, I don’t really want to know.
Or, on the other hand, we have deniers and delayers such as Bjorn Lomborg, who argues that to do anything serious about global warming would be a waste of money we would be better off spending on water treatment for the Third World or AIDS in Africa. Or something else — anything but climate change.
Parry rejects both these positions. He points out:
Lomborg believes that 4C of global warming "will not be a challenge
to our civilisation" and derides Tickell, whom he quotes as stating
that warming of this amount would bring "the beginning of the
extinction of the human race". Both of these are heroic conclusions,
since there has been no study of the limits to our adaptive capacity.
The climate change issue has never been about whether we can survive or
not, but keeping damages and costs to a tolerable level. The IPCC
concluded in 2007 that we risk billions more people being short of
water due to climate change, and hundreds of millions at risk of
flooding and hunger. That is a lot of suffering, but not the end of
There is a strong emerging view, proposed by the
IPCC in its latest assessment in 2007, that a careful mixture of
mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation will be necessary to
meet the challenge of climate change. And this is broadly accepted by
governments now striving for agreement by the end of next year. The
polarised views of both Tickell and Lomborg miss this completely.