Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Morální ponaučení ze Sandy

KODAŇ – Když 29. října zasáhla východní pobřeží Spojených států „superbouře“ Sandy, nejenže zaplavila newyorské metro a o týden později se pro 15% amerických voličů stala nejvýznamnějším faktorem prezidentských voleb konaných o týden později. Kromě toho také znovu vzkřísila nepodložené tvrzení, že podobné události způsobuje globální oteplování, a zároveň i morálně nezodpovědný argument, že bychom měli budoucím obětem hurikánu pomoci snížením emisí CO2.

Bezpočet rozumbradů, od Billa Clintona po Roberta Redforda, přičetl superbouři Sandy klimatickým změnám. Snad nejvíce bila do očí obálka týdeníku Bloomberg Businessweek, kde se nad fotografií zaplaveného Manhattanu skvěl obří titulek „JE TO V GLOBÁLNÍM OTEPLOVÁNÍ, HLUPÁKU“.

Globální oteplování je reálné a snižování emisí CO2 je dobrý nápad, pokud jsou náklady na snížení nižší než rozsah škod, jimž se tím podaří předejít. Zrnko pravdy je i na spojitosti mezi hurikány a globálním oteplováním: Mezivládní panel OSN pro změny klimatu (IPCC) očekává ke konci tohoto století nižší počet hurikánů, ale s vyšší intenzitou.

Do konce století však zbývá ještě 88 let a obviňování globálního oteplování je jednoduše nepřesvědčivé (prvním zdrojem týdeníku Bloomberg Businessweek pro jeho tvrzení byl tweet o délce 134 znaků). Ve své letošní zprávě o extrémním počasí IPCC konstatoval, že příliš nevěří jakémukoliv připisování hurikánů globálnímu oteplování.

Autoři jedné ze stěžejních studií časopisu Science pro odhady hurikánů ze strany OSN to formulovali jasně: „Je předčasné vyvozovat závěr, že lidská činnost… už má prokazatelný dopad na aktivitu hurikánů v Atlantiku.“ Tento dopad nebudeme schopni detekovat dříve než „na sklonku století“.

Ve skutečnosti nezažily USA od hurikánu Wilma v roce 2005 žádný další hurikán kategorie 3 nebo vyšší. Těchto sedm let bez silných hurikánů je nejdelším takovým obdobím za více než sto let. (Sandy, která ještě předtím, než zasáhla New York, přestala splňovat parametry hurikánu, byla v médiích označována za „superbouři“.)

Bloomberg Businessweek sice tvrdí, že Sandy je nejnákladnější bouře v amerických dějinách a má důsledky pro „přežití lidstva“, avšak to je jednoduše omyl, což by prokázal jakýkoliv rozbor škod po hurikánu Katrina. Očistíme-li hodnoty o inflaci a růst pobřežních komunit, řadí se Sandy mezi americkými bouřemi až na 17. místo a počet i intenzita hurikánů, které zasáhnou americkou pevninu, se od roku 1900 nezvyšují, ale mírně klesají.

Také v globálním měřítku platí, že celková energie hurikánů vzniklých během posledních čtyř let (včetně Sandy) byla nižší než v kterémkoliv období od 70. let. A přestože hurikány možná do konce století o 2-11% zesílí, zároveň budou méně četné, přičemž společnosti budou silnější, takže celkové globální škody se v tomto období podle všeho sníží z 0.04% na 0.02% světového HDP.

Skutečné škody z tvrzení o Sandy a klimatických změnách však pramení z toho, co často následuje: ze záludného argumentu, že pokud tuto destrukci způsobilo globální oteplování, měli bychom pomoci budoucím obětem hurikánů tím, že už dnes snížíme emise CO2. Jak se vyjádřil Redford, potřebujeme „snížit uhlíkové znečištění, které tyto bouře přiživuje“. A stejně jako řada dalších vzápětí Redford odsoudil ty, kdo o tom pochybují: „Ignorováním vědeckých fakt tito lidé znevažují lidské utrpení způsobené klimatickými změnami.“

Ve skutečnosti bohužel znevažujeme lidské utrpení tím, že se zaměřujeme na odbourávání CO2, protože jakékoliv reálné uhlíkové škrty nezpůsobí v příštích 50-100 letech prakticky nic.

Vezměme si vzestup mořské hladiny, který v New Yorku napáchal zdaleka největší škody. Modely ukazují, že nejambicióznější klimatická politika na světě, totiž plán „20-20-20“ Evropské unie, bude mít až do konce století čisté náklady ve výši zhruba 250 miliard dolarů ročně, tedy zhruba 20 bilionů dolarů celkem. Přesto do roku 2100 sníží mořskou hladinu o pouhých devět milimetrů. Kdyby podobný plán přijaly USA, náklady a přínosy by pravděpodobně byly obdobné: tedy celkem dvoucentimetrové snížení vzestupu mořské hladiny do konce století při čistých nákladech zhruba 500 miliard dolarů ročně.

Zamysleme se nad tímto krajně nerealistickým scénářem: i kdyby se nám téměř okamžitě podařilo přimět celý svět – včetně Číny a Indie – k přijetí drastických uhlíkových škrtů a i kdybychom ke konci století vysáli CO2 z atmosféry, dokázali bychom do této doby snížit vzestup mořské hladiny o pouhých 18-45 centimetrů. Modely ukazují, že náklady by pak činily nejméně 40 bilionů dolarů ročně.

Postavme tyto údaje do protikladu k tomu, čeho se město New York právem obává: tedy k pravděpodobnosti 3,3% ročně, že hurikán kategorie 3 (zcela bez vlivu globálního oteplování) zasáhne New York. Takový hurikán by zvedl mořskou hladinu až o 7,5 metru (asi o tři metry výše než Sandy), takže by se Kennedyho letiště ocitlo šest metrů pod vodou. Velká část tohoto rizika by se dala zvládnout budováním protipovodňových bariér, osazováním vchodů do metra dveřmi odolnými proti bouřkám a jednoduchými úpravami, jako jsou vodopropustné chodníky – to vše za cenu zhruba 100 milionů dolarů ročně.

Sandy zdůraznila jednu základní otázku pro všechny kouty světa postižené hurikány. Chceme-li snížit škody po hurikánech, máme se zaměřit především na velmi levné řešení, které nám umožní zvládat přívalové bouřky mnohem lépe během několika let, anebo na neuvěřitelně drahé řešení, které by trvalo téměř sto let a ubralo by devět milimetrů ze vzestupu hladiny o 7,5 metru?

Morálně ospravedlnitelná odpověď je zřejmá a nijak nesouvisí s bezprostředním snižováním emisí CO2.

Z angličtiny přeložil Jiří Kobělka.

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  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

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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...

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