Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Would Failure to Combat Climate Change Quickly Mean?

Failure to get our acts together on climate change and clean energy will make solutions more exorbitantly expensive the longer we wait.  In addition, there are thresholds beyond which currently viable solutions will no longer be effective for stabilizing the climate.

Such is the message of this article in Scientific American, which reports on a new study published by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and the Energy Research Center in the Netherlands:

Failure to set and meet strict targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts over the next 40 years could put long-term goals – such as limiting planetary warming to 2ºC by 2100 – permanently out of reach.

That's the conclusion of one of the first analyses to explore the relationships among energy use, mid-century targets and long-term policy options, published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These guys have said if you wait too long, or if you don't do 'x,' the cost of even trying to achieve 'y' is just going to go through the roof," added (Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University).

For all the talk of how expensive it will be to enact climate change and clean energy solutions now, these costs are nothing compared to what they will be if we don't take action.

It's kind of like comparing the costs of treating cancer if you catch it relatively early versus the costs of treating it if you wait until it gets really bad (and painfully unpleasant)...

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