NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

YELLING "FIRE" ON A HOT PLANET

April 26, 2006

A growing number of experts are saying what was once unthinkable: humans may have to adapt to a warmer globe.

Although there is no debate over Earth's rising temperature, people are reluctant to take action. Nevertheless, stressing the problem's urgency could well be counterproductive, according to "Americans and Climate Change," a new book by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The authors note that urgency does not appear to be something that can be imposed on people. Moreover, they say, "Urgency is especially prone to being discounted as unreasoned alarmism or even passion."

The authors suggest:

  • Adaptation may help people focus on the reality of what is coming -- and that may motivate them to cut emissions to limit chances of bigger changes to come.
  • Actions could range from developing drought-resistant crops to eliminating federal insurance and other subsidies that have long encouraged coastal development.

Could stressing adaptation work? The Yale group calls global warming "the perfect problem"-- meaning that a confluence of characteristics make it hard, if not impossible, to solve. Its impact remains clouded with scientific uncertainty, its effects will be felt over generations, and it is being amplified by everything from microwaving a frozen dinner to bringing electricity to an Indian village.

Source: Andrew C. Revoking, "Yelling 'Fire' on a Hot Planet," New York Times, April 23, 2006; based upon: Daniel R. Abbasi, "Americans and Climate Change: A Synthesis of Insights and Recommendations from the 2005 Yale F&ES Conference on Climate Change," Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, April 20, 2006.

For text (subscription required):

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/23/weekinreview/23revkin.html

For Yale study:

http://environment.yale.edu/climate/americans_and_climate_change.pdf

 

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