NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Actions Speak Louder than Words

November 13, 2012

Since New York was besieged by Hurricane Sandy recently, the focus once more is back on global warming and how humanity should overcome this environmental challenge, says Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, a research fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

Global warming has become part of the mainstream policy dialogue since Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." Despite this constant talk, urbanization continues to stream into the coastal areas. Indeed, people's words underscore fear of global warming, yet their wallets hint no fear. 

  • Population is booming and property prices are rising in all old coastal cities around the world, including Mumbai and Chennai.
  • Beachfront properties are affordable only to the millionaires.
  • Residents are aware of the danger; nonetheless, cities within the hurricane belt are booming.
  • U.S. population is shifting from north-central states to coastal states, especially in the hurricane-prone south.
  • These trends undercut the concerns surrounding global warming.

An important part of the answer as to why people's actions belie their belief in natural disaster increases due to global warming is that their belief in global warming is shallow -- more political correctness than deep conviction. Yes, they see some danger. But they do not see it as dangerous enough to change their lifestyle and investment style.

  • It is the belief in human adaptation to overcome these challenges.
  • Hundreds of problems have been mitigated through new technology and other forms of adaptation without necessarily going on a carbon-free diet.
  • Much of Holland, for example, is below sea level, but it has adapted accordingly.
  • The sea level at Atlantic City has risen 16 inches over the last 100 years, yet the city has evolved to overcome.
  • Other cities will also emulate this trend.

Source: Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, "Adapting to Climate Change is Less Costly than Spending Trillions on Emission Targets," Cato Institute, November 7, 2012.


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