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12/01/2016

Comments

Lilly Grella

I tend to be on the optimistic side of things when it comes to global warming and climate change. I am hopeful that we, as a global society, will take advantage of new technologies and the push for innovation to ultimately do what the article hopes, and stay below the 4 degree warming level. The authors of the paper seem to be convinced that it is feasible to hold warming down. In the paper they refer to studies that show that there are technical and economic methods in minimizing emissions (and thus warming) below 2%. However, in February of this year the global average temperatures passed the 1.5 degree Celsius and most of the northern hemisphere is experiencing temperatures above the 2-degree mark. It was assumed that as we neared the mark of no return, global society would be scared into doing something. However, it does not seem like we are closer to accomplishing anything than we were in 2012. Even further, just today Donald Trump announced Scott Pruitt to run the EPA. You would think the person running the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY would support environmental protection like clean air, clean energy, etc. Rather Pruitt is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry and has been strongly against Obama’s climate change policies. Recently, he has written about how global warming is continued to be discussed by scientists. I honestly can’t even imagine the idea of a fossil fuel industry advocate and a climate change denier running the EPA. But that is where we are. The changes to the world are real and we see that through the executive summary paper. With action, it is believed the warming world can be stopped, or at least held steady. With this being said, I don’t know if I have faith action will come about fast enough. That is the scariest thing of all.

Tony Du

I find it absolutely absurd that a ‘debate’ over global climate change is still going on in America, and with the recent election of Donald Trump I worry about our planet’s future. Media partisanship pushes news outlets to literally deny scientific evidence or, in the case of the recent Breitbart news, cherry-pick and take things out of context to form intentionally misleading claims about ‘falling’ temperatures. When the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweets out bogus Breitbart articles, it is clear that our politicians care more about their own self-interests than anything else, especially when the chairman of the committee, Texas representative Lamar Smith, receives large amounts of funding from fossil fuel interests. This is nothing out of the ordinary in DC. Donald Trump’s recent appointee Scott Pruitt, selected to run the EPA, has dedicated a large portion of his career towards dismantling it. Pruitt also happens to coincidentally be one of the greatest allies of the fossil fuel industry. The examples go on and on.
Like we discussed in class, it is difficult for individuals to look past themselves and acknowledge both the marginal social costs of environmentally damaging actions as well as the marginal social benefits of conservation and clean energy. It will take politicians to look past their own self-interest and the stakes they have in the fossil fuel industry and acknowledge the scientific reality (and consequences) of global climate change. Unfortunately, it seems like most are unable to look beyond their own lifespan.

David Cohen

In a blog that’s full of negativity, I figured I’d try to offer a a more positive outlook on the issue. Yes, the current trajectory is not preferable. However, figure one shows that our best estimates predict that, considering existent pledges to reduce emissions, the rise in global temperature is not certain to break three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels 100 years from now – let alone four. Of course, this would still have disastrous effects on our descendants, and the current pledges don’t seem to be enough. Though it is worth mentioning that we are a long time away from 100 years from now. The speed at which technology progresses in today’s world is really unfathomable if one thinks about it. We have cars that drive themselves and rovers exploring planets lightyears away. Scientists predict that we’ll have cures for every ailment (including cancer) known to man in the next 15 years. We didn’t have cell phones let alone smart phones 15 years ago. Think about life 100 years ago? This year is 2016. The Battle of the Somme was in 1916, during which the British Expeditionary Force lost 57,470 casualties in one day. Men literally ran through miles of mud armed with rifles, being barraged by artillery, poison gas and machine gun fire. That was the most sophisticated plan that technology had allowed. Ok, that was depressing, but the point is to show the potential for progress that we have at our disposal. Now, we have drones, artificial intelligence, and the ability to send the world into thermonuclear winter with the push of a button (and we had that ability 60 years ago). Ok still depressing, but you get it right? Who knows what kinds of good things we’ll be able to do with the press of a button in 40 years? We’ve made all this progress in 100 years, when the pace of progress was so much slower than it is today. Technology is obsolete in 3 years’ time within the modern paradigm. I know there is a lot money invested around the world to address the issue of climate change, and that major breakthroughs will occur. If we refer to the Environmental Kuznets curve explained in class, as countries develop and A increases, we will find more efficient and less damaging ways to operate, and probably even reverse the trajectory shown in figure one! And yes, good intentions and technological advances mean nothing if we don’t have people in power willing to act, but I suspect that will change as well. I believe that people are generally good, and generally sensible. I’ve been applying to many jobs (trust me), and company after company are proud of the efforts they make to work towards sustainability. I according to some research I did a couple of years ago, according to Merrill Lynch around 55% of high-net-worth investors will forgo significant gains to invest in a less profitable company, but one that displays greater social/environmental responsibility. The overwhelming majority of educated people understand the potential consequences at stake, and I believe that we, as a planet, will find a way.

Charlotte Braverman

As others have mentioned above, the refusal of so many to acknowledge the legitimacy of climate change is dumbfounding after reading “Turn Down the Heat.” The willful ignorance and denial that dominate today’s discourse are in direct opposition with an enormous body of research and pose serious threats to the future of the planet.

This creates two challenges- not only halting and ameliorating the harmful effects humans are having on the Earth but also making people aware of these effects in the first place. Otherwise, we cannot expect that people will modify their behaviors in ways that are eco-friendly and sustainable. The question of global warming is an empirical one- and the conscientious and the rigorous efforts of researchers and scientists have answered it to some degree. This article enumerates many of the deleterious impacts we can expect to see if the issue is not addressed. Climate change is occurring but convincing people of this has proved immensely difficult.

It bears repeating that climate change will most harshly impact those living in developing countries. Is this a contributing factor behind inaction? Does that fact that many of us in the developed world are not seeing or expecting to see the effects of global warming that enables our sense of complacency? Or is it the somewhat longer time horizon that precludes us from realizing the very tangible and real effects of climate change? Is a problem of diffusion of responsibility and a tragedy of the commons? Whatever the reason, it is essential that climate change is brought to the front of the public consciousness.

Once this has been accomplished however, the challenge will be developing creative and convenient ways that people can live more sustainably. The widespread nature of recycling is a promising indicator that when these outlets are available to people, they are more than willing to use them. It may also be helpful to think of sustainability in a proactive rather than a reactive way- meaning commodities and goods should be produced in ways that are sustainable instead of mitigating the negative externalities later. The modern scale of production creates a huge necessity for clean and ethical business practices. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on all of us- individuals and corporations alike to alleviate and prevent the harmful effects of climate change.

Ddevereux9

It is hard to read this report by The World Bank and not realize how the poor get the short end of the stick in almost everything. Even in climate change, they will be the most affected group. Whether it be African coastal plains being inundated with seawater and destroying local aquifers, or the river deltas of Bangladesh being flooded, the poorest regions are the ones that face the direst consequences. This is ironic because it is the wealthiest nations who are emitting the majority of these greenhouse gases. As the developed countries debate on climate change and the guidelines going forward, the most pressing issues they are discussing most likely do not include the day to day lives of people in these regions. It will be interesting to see if emissions continue to be released at alarming rates and what effects will occur. Hopefully, as we introduce newer technologies that use safer fuels, the world will be headed down a more sustainable path.

Jim Grant


While we are reading this in the context of development economics, it is just very disheartening as an inhabitant of the planet. This paper brings a lot of environmental concerns and very clear proof and problems that the data shows. It reminds me of a lot of things I learned in an environmental science course, one that comes to mind immediately was a study between two communities one of which was situated in an area riddled with polluted water and air and the other relatively clean conditions. They examined the drawings of five and four year olds in a “draw a person test”. It’s incredibly sad to examine as the children in the first community had unintelligible drawings that looked like chicken scratch and the other community’s children had at the minimum stick people. The environment is so influential in the economy in such unexpected capacities. With our knowledge on human capital and its relationship with growth, seeing this data marks a huge economic cost of pollution. The pollution inhibits the developmental process of children, and in turn reduced the potential human capital of the community.
The paper also talks about how a multitude of environmental effects could make farm land unusable. It talks about how floods (as a result of higher water levels) cause contaminants to make it into the land. Not only has the flood destroyed the working progress of that rotation’s crops but it has also prevented future crops from being as fruitful. In the other case it talks about the huge impact of the droughts in the United States affecting 80% of agricultural land. I feel that if the droughts (like the ones in California) persist and get worse, all that land will be unusable and if more water conservation techniques aren’t implemented then plenty of people will have to migrate from California since importing water (which they already do in mass quantities) will start to increase the cost of living too much. This will decimate the job market and make life a nightmare for the unemployed. I think this paper is a great example of valuable data being undervalued and ignored.
This past election makes me very concerned as to what the future of this planet will look like. People seem to love hearing what they want to hear. News about global warming gets swept under the rug because it doesn’t really make people happy and hopeful. This may seem out of left field but it makes my day when I find a random minute long video about some random invention that reduces waste in some cool and convenient way (edible plates/silverware! Genius!) I think if the media uses things like that validates this kind of ingenuity will make people more conscious of their habits.

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