Wednesday, November 26, 2014
16

ساندي والمغزى الأخلاقي

كوبنهاجن ــ عندما ضربت "العاصفة الخارقة" ساندي الساحل الشرقي للولايات المتحدة في التاسع والعشرين من أكتوبر/تشرين الأول، فإنها لم تغمر أنفاق المترو في مدينة نيويورك وتتحول إلى العامل الأكثر أهمية في التأثير على اختيار 15% من الناخبين الأميركيين في الانتخابات الرئاسية بعد أسبوع واحد فحسب، بل إنها أعادت إلى الحياة أيضاً الزعم غير المبرر بأن الانحباس الحراري العالمي هو المسؤول عن مثل هذه الأحداث، إلى جانب الحجة غير المسؤولة أخلاقياً بأننا لابد أن نساعد ضحايا الأعاصير في المستقبل بخفض الانبعاثات من ثاني أكسيد الكربون الآن.

فمن بل كلينتون إلى روبرت ردفورد، ألقى عدد لا يحصى من المثقفين والمفكرين باللوم على تغير المناخ كسبب لهبوب إعصار ساندي. وكان المظهر الأكثر إذهالاً في هذا السياق العنوان الوصفي البارز الذي ظهر على غلاف مجلة بلومبيرج بيزنس ويك: "إنه الانحباس الحراري العالمي يا غبي"، فوق صورة لمنهاتن التي غمرتها المياه.

فالآن أصبح الانحباس الحراري العالمي حقيقة واقعة، وبات خفض معدلات ثاني أكسيد الكربون بمثابة فكرة جيدة ما دامت تكاليف الخفض أقل من تكاليف الأضرار التي قد يمنعها. هناك أيضاً لمحة من الحقيقة في الإشارة إلى العلاقة بين الأعاصير والانحباس الحراري العالمي: حيث يتوقع فريق الأمم المتحدة الحكومي الدولي المعني بدراسة تغير المناخ هبوب أعاصير أشد قوة ولكن بوتيرة أقل مع اقتراب نهاية هذا القرن.

ولكن نهاية القرن تبعد عنا ثمانية وثمانين عاما، وإلقاء اللوم على الانحباس الحراري العالمي الآن أمر غير مقنع ببساطة (كان المصدر الأول الذي استندت إليه مجلة بلومبيرج في زعمها عبارة عن تغريدة مكونة من 134 حرف). ففي تقريره الصادر في عام 2012 بشأن ظواهر الطقس العنيفة، قال فريق الأمم المتحدة الحكومي الدولي المعني بدراسة تغير المناخ إنه لا يثق كثيراً في إرجاع السبب وراء الأعاصير إلى الانحباس الحراري العالمي.

وفي عبارة واضحة يقول القائمون على إعداد واحد من البحوث العلمية المهمة حول التقديرات الخاصة بالأعاصير في الولايات المتحدة: "من السابق للأوان أن نستنتج أن الأنشطة البشرية.. تخلف بالفعل تأثيراً محسوساً على أنشطة الأعاصير في منطقة الأطلسي". ولن نتمكن من الكشف عن مثل هذا التأثير "قبل أن نقترب من نهاية القرن".

الواقع أن الولايات المتحدة لم تشهد إعصاراً من الفئة 3 أو أعلى منذ إعصار ويلما في عام 2005. وهذه السنوات السبع من دون هبوب أية أعاصير قوية تُعَد الفترة الأطول على الإطلاق في أكثر من قرن من الزمان. (غيرت وسائل الأعلام وصف إعصار ساندي، الذي تم تخفيض درجة خطورته من إعصار قبل أن يضرب مدينة نيويورك، ليصبح "عاصفة خارقة").

وفي حين تزعم مجلة بلومبيرج أن ساندي هو أكثر الأعاصير تكلفة في تاريخ الولايات المتحدة، وأنه يحمل ضمناً عواقب بالغة الأهمية فيما يتصل "بقدرة الجنس البشري على البقاء"، فإن هذا ببساطة خطأ واضح، كما ستبين لنا أي عملية جمع بسيطة للمعلومات حول تكاليف إعصار كاترينا. وعندما نعدل التكاليف وفقاً للتضخم ونمو المجتمعات الساحلية، فسوف يتبين لنا أن إعصار ساندي يأتي في المرتبة السابعة عشرة بين أقوى الأعاصير التي تضرب الولايات المتحدة، بل إن عدد وقوة الأعاصير التي تضرب الولايات المتحدة سجلا انحداراً طفيفا، وليس ارتفاعا، منذ عام 1900.

وعلى نحو مماثل، على الصعيد العالمي، كانت طاقة الأعاصير أثناء الأعوام الأربعة الأخيرة (بما في ذلك إعصار ساندي) أدنى من أي ذروة بلغتها منذ سبعينيات القرن العشرين. ورغم أن الأعاصير ربما تصبح أقوى بنسبة تتراوح بين 2% إلى 11% بحلول نهاية القرن، فإنها سوف تكون أيضاً أقل تكرارا، في حين تصبح المجتمعات أ��ثر قوة، حيث من المتوقع أن تنحدر التكاليف الإجمالية المترتبة على أضرار الأعاصير من 0,04% إلى 0,02% من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي العالمي على مدى نفس الفترة.

ولكن الضرر الحقيقي المترتب على هذه الادعاءات التي تربط بين ساندي وتغير المناخ ينبع مما يتلو هذه الادعاءات عادة: الحجة المخادعة التي تزعم أنه إذا كان الانحباس الحراري العالمي قد تسبب في هذا الدمار، فيتعين علينا أن نساعد ضحايا الأعاصير في المستقبل بخفض الانبعاثات من ثاني أكسيد الكربون الآن. وعلى حد تعبير ردفورد: "يتعين علينا أن نقلل من التلوث الكربوني الذي يغذي هذه العواصف". مثله كمثل كثيرين، يرثي ردفورد المشككين: "إنهم بتجاهل الحقائق العلمية، يهينون المعاناة الإنسانية الناجمة عن تغير المناخ ويستخفون بها".

بيد أن المؤسف في الأمر هو أننا بالتركيز على خفض ثاني أكسيد الكربون نستخف حقاً بالمعاناة الإنسانية، لأن أي خفض واقعي للكربون لن يخلف أي تأثير تقريباً على مدى الخمسين إلى المائة عام القادمة.

ولنتأمل هنا مسألة ارتفاع مستويات سطح البحر، التي كانت إلى حد كبير السبب وراء أغلب الأضرار التي لحقت بمدينة نيويورك. تُظهِر النماذج أن أكثر سياسات التعامل مع المناخ طموحاً على مستوى العالم، أو خطة "20-20-20" في الاتحاد الأوروبي، سوف يبلغ صافي تكاليفها ما يقرب من 250 مليار دولار سنوياً على مدى بقية هذا القرن، أو نحو عشرين تريليون دولار (التريليون مليون مليون) في الإجمال. وإذا شرعت الولايات المتحدة في تنفيذ خطة مماثلة، فإن التكاليف والفوائد سوف تكون في الأرجح على نطاق مماثل: خفض ارتفاع مستويات سطح البحر المحتملة بما لا يتجاوز سنتيمترين بحلول نهاية القرن وبتكاليف صافية تبلغ نحو 500 مليار دولار سنويا.

ولنتأمل هنا هذا السيناريو غير الواقعي على الإطلاق: فحتى إذا نجحنا على الفور تقريباً في حمل العالم أجمع ــ بما في ذلك الصين والهند ــ على المشاركة في خطة جذرية لخفض الانبعاثات الكربونية، وحتى إذا امتصصنا ثاني أكسيد الكربون من الغلاف الجوي بحلول نهاية القرن، فسوف نتمكن من خفض ارتفاع مستويات سطح البحر بنحو 18 إلى 45 سنتيمتراً فقط بحلول نهاية القرن. وتُظهِر النماذج أن التكاليف، آنذاك، سوف تكون على الأقل 40 تريليون دولار سنويا.

ولنقارن هذا بما ينبغي لمدينة نيويورك أن تنزعج إزاءه حقا: الاحتمال الذي يبلغ 3,3% كل عام (من دون حسبان تأثير الانحباس الحراري العالمي على الإطلاق) بأن يضرب إعصار من الفئة 3 نيويورك. مثل هذا الإعصار من شأنه أن يسوق موجات بحرية قوية يبلغ ارتفاعها 7,5 مترا (نحو ثلاثة أمتار أعلى من إعصار ساندي)، لكي تغطي المياه بارتفاع ستة أمتار مطار كينيدي. وقد يكون في الإمكان تجنب القدر الأعظم من الخطر بإقامة أسوار بحرية، وبناء بوابات عواصف لأنفاق المترو، وتنفيذ إصلاحات بسيطة مثل رصف الشوارع بمواد منفذة للسوائل ــ وكل هذا بتكاليف قد تبلغ نحو 100 مليون دولار سنويا.

لقد أكَّد إعصار ساندي على سؤال جوهري موجه إلى مختلف أنحاء العالم المتضررة بالأعاصير. إذا كنا راغبين في تقليص الأضرار الناجمة عن الأعاصير، فهل ينبغي لنا أن نركز في المقام الأول على حل رخيص للغاية ومن شأنه أن يمكننا من التعامل مع العواصف القوية بشكل أفضل كثيراً في غضون بضعة أعوام، أم نركز على حل باهظ التكاليف إلى حد يصعب تصديقه ويحتاج إلى ما يقرب من المائة عام لتمكيننا من تجنب ارتفاع لا يتجاوز تسعة مليمترات من موجات يبلغ ارتفاعها 7,5 مترا؟

الجواب الصحيح أخلاقياً بالغ الوضوح، ولا علاقة لهذا الجواب بالخفض الفوري للانبعاثات من ثاني أكسيد الكربون.

ترجمة: أمين علي & & & & & & & & & Translated by: Amin Ali

  • Contact us to secure rights

     

  • Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (16)

    Please login or register to post a comment

    1. CommentedLarry Meyn

      Summary:

      Dear Future Generations,

      It's too expensive and inconvenient to reduce our CO2 emissions, especially since we wouldn't see any benefits in our lifetimes. Sorry, it will be your problem to solve.

      Bjørn Lomborg

        Commentedjim bridgeman

        Dear Africans and Rural Asians and Latin Americans of Today,

        We care too much about future generations to worry about the hits to near-term world GDP growth that will in a leveraged way explode your misery, sickness and death rates today if we go on a precipitous carbon reduction regime. Even though those future generations will have enormously greater resources to handle the effects of climate change than you have today to support your basic living needs. (Compound a few percent annual growth in GDP for a hundred years or two to get a ballpark on much more resources our descendents will have at their disposal than do we.)

        The relevant concept is trade-off. Where is a reasonable balance point between today's invisible poor and the future's beneficiaries of today's growth? The most comprehensive attempt to analyze these trade-offs was the 2006 Stern Review. The only way its authors could force it to justify a precipitous carbon reduction regime today was to make economic assumptions to bizarre that even the IPCC had no stomach to adopt it.

        For example, implicit in Stern's assumptions was the use of negative interest rates to discount future harms back to apples to apples today (making them appear more harmful today than they will actually be in the future) for many years in a significant proportion of their stochastic scenarios. For another example, Stern's assumption was that a 10% reduction in the income of a $2 per day rural African today is the moral equivalent of a 10% reduction in the income of a well-off middle class family of 100 years from now (who will be living like upper income families do today.)

        Adjusting the Stern Review parameters back into the range of generally accepted economic practice is easily seen to limit the trade-off of current poverty population suffering versus future generation climate harms to be one that cannot justify any actions today that will impair GDP by more than a fraction of a percent per year.

    2. Commentedjimmy rousseau

      Mr. Lomborg has long ago lost any credibility on this subject, having sided with all sorts of crazy agw deniers in the past, only changing his tactics as the idiocy of his positions become apparent. First there was no such thing as warming or climate change, then the change was a natural cycle and not the result of human interference, finally we may be responsible for some warming but not much and it would cost so much as to send civilisation back to the dark ages. I am sure that if one were to do some checking on the statistics he spouts to banalise the problem one would probably end up on an internet site run by deniers of the same ilk. I have had enough of these people and their tactics which have already ensured that any actions we take are already very late and further inaction puts the future climate change into the very dangerous range.
      I sincerely believe that thirty years from now this kind of argument will be seen as having been one of the greater crimes against humanity.

    3. Commentedjim bridgeman

      Please keep trying to wake people up to large facts of the dilemma. The scientific fact is that carbon dioxide is an inevitable side effect of human activity (try to walk across the room without generating any ... try to think about walking across the room without generating any). The only ways to reduce carbon dioxide are (1) reduce the number of humans (2) reduce the level of activity per human and/or (3) increase the efficiency of human activity. (1) and (2) cannot be achieved quickly in any politically feasible or morally acceptable way. (3) cannot be achieved quickly in any technologically feasible way. While we slowly work on (3) (and while some slowly wait for (1) and (2) to occur slowly by individual choices) the only responsible policy is to prepare to deal with the consequences of carbon dioxide. It is much less unthinkable to do that in effective ways than it is unthinkable to achieve a drastic reduction in the number of humans or the level of their activity in a short period of time.

    4. CommentedThomas Haynie

      While I understand that changes in scientific thinking take time and that scientists are prone to be human and have the “club punch”. It is difficult to sympathize with modern climate deniers. The evidence in favor of hum caused climate change would appear to be pretty strong and supported by highly respected members of the scientific community. Meanwhile the movement of the climate deniers would seem to have a shred of that credibility. In fact according to a recent front line episode “Climate of Doubt” the kind charlatans over at CATO who would prefer to let “free markets determine what the science is” were key members of the inception of the movement.

      The author uses strong and I would say irresponsible terminology to lead his readers around to his way of thinking. “Morally irresponsible argument”…

      Even if there were little evidence of human induced climate change we still live on the planet and if climate change threatens us then why not act?
      As far as cost benefit analysis goes the math can get creative there, but if you consider an increase in economic damage and loss of life from fore severe and more frequent storms such as Sandy then the benefits seem pretty obvious. There are many workable options. I favor a cap and trade type structure. Unless my textbooks in Environmental Economics were all full of it there is history of success for this sort of framework in this country.

      As to immediate effects this is true that the effects won’t be seen for some time but that does not mean it should not be done. Obviously a combination of long and short term solutions will need to come into play.

        Commentedjames durante

        There was success for cap and trade regarding acid rain (sulfur dioxide). But that was specific to an industry and precise regarding caps and credits. CO2 is an entirely different ball game with a bad track record. In Europe, industries exaggerated their pollution levels so that the credits came easily and then, predictably, lost all value.

        California is set to embark on a similar path and what counts as credits varies from saving forests to planting certain crops to weatherproofing homes. It's nuts.

        A carbon tax which grows more steep over time is a better policy tool.

        But really what we should be looking at is a wholesale change in mindset from capitalist consumption to a subsistence economy. Imagine every human with a set of assured basics--good wholeseom food, basic clothing, a secure shelter, some basic amenities like solar energy, a working computer, a bike. Then there would be no desperate humans forced to sell their labor to private owners of the factories. Anything beyond the basics could be handled by a capiltiast economy, but owners would lack the typical leverage of desperation over workers.

        With the reduction in demand (no more needless gadgets, cabbage patch dolls or tween super couples) forests, rivers, grasslands and estuaries could be restored. More time for family, community and ceremonies, less for tv advertising and the shopping mall.

    5. CommentedAkib Khan

      The cost-benefit calculation that the author has resorted to has often been deemed too harsh in the public domain. But this is the type of exercise we should embrace in answering such questions. As long as the scientific investigations are confident enough to reject any causal relationship between climate change and such 'super-storm's, we should be very aware of popular suggestions such as a drastic reduction in CO2 emission or the likes. But even if there exists a relationship, the costs and benefits of potential actions must be carefully identified and compared. We all, in our very daily lives, have 'damaged' the environment in some way or other, but given the substantially high benefits compared to the meager costs involved, they have not often been labeled inappropriate. Nothing changes, in principle, when we do this type of calculation on a more macro level. We have to take into account the relative cheapness of 'curative' and 'preventive' actions. If the propensity of natural calamities is more/less exogenous, then that must also be paid heed. It is always hard to think through the consequences but it must be done to advance inter-temporal social welfare.

        Commentedjames durante

        First, who is the "we" to whom you refer? Humans' damage to the environment varies tremendously from the few remaining primitive peoples (almost no "damage") to "us" in the first world (collectively, colossal damage). Yes, colossal, not "meager." Consider that industrialization has spawned the sixth great extinction crisis in earth's history.

        I is the failure to come to grips with the severity of ecological harm that is alarming (aside from the harm itself). More facile attempts at pricing costs and effects will only perpetuate a system whose vast destructive effects run on auto-pilot.

        Rather, a new paradigm that considers a basic, good material life with abundant leisure time and a revitalized bio-sphere is needed. Yes, that will not be capitalistic. It will involve major declines in the typical capitalistic manner of assessing "wealth." But it will involve a new pact between all humans and between humans and our living relatives on this home we call earth.

    6. CommentedJake Burgess

      You present a very localised view on a global problem. The world woudn't be spending 20 Trillion to just keep JFK open (laudable objective that it is). What about the hundreds of millions of people in Bangladesh, Kiribati, the Maldives etc etc whos livlihoods are in jeopardy? They contributed almost nothing to the acceleration of the warming, and similarly got no benefit from it either. Yet they disproportionately bear the cost. Are you going to be the one to go to these people saying "Slow Global Warming? Sorry, but the maths says you're just not worth it"

    7. Commentedjames durante

      Is there a distinction between Lomborg's allegations of knee jerk global warming claims and his own knee-jerk defense of "skeptical environmentalism?" All the serious, scientific analysts I read did not say global warming CAUSED the storm (Lomborg's straw man) but that it contributed to it. Ocean levels are at least 8 inches higher near Manhattan, the Atlantic is warmer which strengthened Sandy, the unusual pressure system attracting Sandy toward land was related to Arctic ice melt, and so on.

      It was a superstorm not because the media said so but because it marked a combination of the hurricane with on shore northern and western storm fronts.

      Lomborg's numbers are unfounded. Sea level rise is projected to be much greater under a business as usual scenario. And saying that cutting carbon has such dramatic costs does not take into account how other energy options--especially roof top solar--could ADD substantially to the economy as consumers have additional disposable income (money not sent to Lomborg's very dear friends in the utilities and King Cong--Coal, Oil, Natural Gas).

      Most questionable is his blanket claim that "societies will be more robust" in the future. Well, assuming that projections of the disruption of grain growing regions don't hold and that more intense weather events do not come to pass, and that projected declining water resources does not occur, then maybe he is right.

    8. CommentedJohn Kelley

      Bjorn Lomberg, nothing else can be said about a guy who used to deny global warming and now says its happening, we're causing it but don't worry be happy.

        CommentedAndrew George

        I find it amazing that people that decry critcs of the alarmists as people who misrepresent science and do so by misreprenting what the critics say. Exactly when did Lomborg "deny global warming was happening"? Here is a link to an Economist article over 11 years ago where he affirms that man-made global warming is happning but that it would be far more cost-effective (as in many orders of magnitude more cost effective) to battle other global scourges than AGW. It makes good reading as it's just as relevent today. It strikes me that he has been remarkably consistent and worth listening to. http://www.economist.com/node/718860

    9. CommentedCarol Maczinsky

      In any case very stpid not to prepare for such an incident given that it's likely in a 80yrs time scale. In Holland they build dykes for centuries. NYC does not and their power lines are not below the surface as everywhere.

    10. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      I agree with the writer that making instinctive reflex reactions, many times motivated by personal or political agendas, focusing on the details instead of the big picture is more harmful than helpful.
      What such events as the recent hurricane should do to us is to initiate self examination.
      At least to examine how much general human activity might be against nature's laws, how much we are in balance with the vast ecosystem around us.
      And here comes the real issue.
      Most of humans do not think about nature around us as obligatory. Somehow we managed to convince ourselves that we are outside of this system, that humans are independent and can do whatever they want. We devise our own laws, principles, we build systems that are disconnected from nature and expect them to work and prosper.
      At the same time if we examine our whole history, all our inventions, innovations, all we did was copying nature, using its templates, materials to shape them into different forms for our own use.
      The human body, the human psyche is operating based on the same natural laws and principles anything else operates on in the interconnected system.
      Humans are part of the system, we are simply unable to exist outside of it, ignoring its conditions.
      Despite all this, which should be clearly understood even based on all the modern classical sciences, humanity is still pursuing a totally unnatural and more and more clearly unsustainable socio-economic system.
      While all the living species among themselves and between species comprise a complementing, self-sustaining chain, humans even within human society are each other's predators, we can only find happiness on top of someone else's misery, if it is cannot be good for me at least the others also should suffer, during our history and even today we wipe out whole nations, cultures either physically or ideologically.
      On top of this the whole human system is based on a cancer like behavior, exploiting as much as possible from each other and from the environment, following the present constant quantitative growth economic model based on absolutely unnecessary and harmful overproduction and overconsumption.
      What we ignore here is that the vast natural ecosystem around us is not "mindless" it has its laws and principles exactly in order to maintain balance, homeostasis, to maintain life and development. And humanity is a foreign body in this huge, otherwise harmonious system.
      And it is not even like "nature taking revenge", but simply by ignoring the laws around we ourselves commit suicide as a person jumping off from a tall building ignoring the force of gravity.
      It is completely irrelevant what people think about climate change or global warming, if we do not learn the natural laws and principles sustaining the whole Universe we simply destroy ourselves, and it is much closer than people think, as the deepening global crisis shows we do not need nature to finish us off, the collapsing economical and financial system will bury us much sooner.
      At the moment we want to know nature to exploit it for our own selfish use. Instead we need to know nature's laws in order to adapt to it, immerse ourselves into it in harmony, to become conscious partners with it.

        CommentedEdward Ponderer

        Mr.Hermann,

        Once again, a brilliant comment -- but this one strikes most special. I find the analogy with cancer particularly intriguing -- frightening if you will -- because of what has been discovered in recent years about cancers in their final stages.

        Basically these perverse cells have organized themselves into complex entity -- as it were, another creature that has succeeded from the body's union and has become its deadly enemy -- to its own doom as well.

        Yet I wonder if out of all the chemo and radiative therapies, if sopmehow we couldn't go beyond to -- in some sense -- reason with this cancerous entity, to reach some level of mutual concern, and rejoin with the body for the common good.

        Crazy thought perhaps. But let me just say this. Lets see if we can't bring the matter about at the level of that cancer you describe in the body Humanity.

        And if we can accomplish this, I wonder if Providence, the Natural Order, what have you, won't respond in working out these other relationships for us, from internal diseases to external climatic catastrophes.

        From the quantum, to the biochemical,to the complexities of our human communication on so many levels. Who knows the totalities of these connections and where they could lead in harmony?

        Homeostasis -- yes indeed, what other lesson could a chaotic imbalance like Sandy come to teach us? And may we graduate swiftly from this school of hard knock before the next class begins...

    Featured