Argumentos a favor de la mitigación de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero

PALO ALTO – El otoño pasado, el Reino Unido publicó un importante informe oficial dirigido por Sir Nicholas Stern, un economista de primer orden, sobre el cambio climático global. El Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (Informe del Estudio Stern sobre los aspectos económicos del cambio climático) equivale a un llamado a la acción. Sostiene que se pueden evitar los costos enormes a futuro del cambio climático si se cubren costos relativamente modestos actualmente.

Los críticos del Informe Stern no creen que se justifique emprender acciones serias para limitar las emisiones de CO2 porque subsiste una incertidumbre sustancial en cuanto a la magnitud de los costos del cambio climático global y porque esos costos llegarán en el futuro lejano. Sin embargo, yo opino que se justifica la conclusión fundamental de Stern: estaremos mucho mejor si reducimos sustancialmente las emisiones de CO2 que si nos arriesgamos a sufrir las consecuencias de no actuar, aun si, a diferencia de Stern, descontamos en gran medida la incertidumbre y el futuro.

Dos factores diferencian al cambio climático de otros problemas ambientales. En primer lugar, mientras que la mayoría de los problemas ambientales –como la contaminación del agua, la lluvia ácida u las emisiones de bióxido de azufre se mitigan rápidamente o en un plazo bastante corto cuando se limpia la fuente, las emisiones de CO2 y otros gases permanecen en la atmósfera durante siglos. Por eso, reducir las emisiones ahora será muy valioso para la humanidad en el futuro lejano.

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