Pourquoi réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre

PALO ALTO -- À l’automne, le Royaume-Uni a publié une importante étude gouvernementale sur le réchauffement climatique, dirigée par l’excellent économiste Sir Nicholas Stern. La Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change équivaut à une demande de passage à l’acte : elle explique que certains énormes coûts futurs du réchauffement climatique peuvent être évités en engageant des frais relativement modestes aujourd’hui.

Les critiques de la Stern Review ne pensent pas que des initiatives sérieuses visant à limiter les émissions de CO2 soient justifiées, car il subsiste encore de grandes incertitudes sur l’étendue des coûts du réchauffement climatique, et parce que ces coûts seront engagés dans un avenir lointain. Cependant, je pense que la conclusion fondamentale de Stern est justifiée : il vaut bien mieux réduire les émissions de CO2 de façon substantielle que de risquer les conséquences de notre échec à agir, même si, à l’inverse de Stern, on ne tient aucun compte des incertitudes et de l’avenir.

Deux facteurs différencient le réchauffement climatique mondial des autres problèmes environnementaux. Tout d’abord, alors que la plupart des affronts faits à la nature – comme la pollution de l’eau, les pluies acides ou les émissions de dioxyde de souffre – sont atténués avec une relative rapidité quand la source est nettoyée, les émissions de CO2 et de gaz traces restent dans l’atmosphère pendant des siècles. Ainsi, la réduction des émissions aujourd’hui s’avèrera très précieuse pour l’humanité dans un avenir lointain.

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