Sunday, July 10, 2011

Texas is vulnerable to warming climate

Andrew Dessler in the Houston Chronicle: As you sit by the pool and sweat this summer, one book you should be reading is The Impact of Global Warming on Texas (University of Texas Press, June 2011, second edition). This book, written by a group of Texas academics, is a sober analysis of our state's vulnerability to climate change — and the things we can do about it.

...The changes in temperature and precipitation, along with rising sea levels, will leave no part of Texas unchanged. This includes both the natural landscape and the cities, the wildlife and important economic sectors, like agriculture. While climate change may be good for some parts of the globe (e.g., Siberia, northern Canada), Texas is most definitely not one of them. Rather, the vulnerability of Texas is more akin to that of the low-lying island states of the Pacific that are going to be inundated by sea-level rise over the coming century.

This makes the refusal of our leaders in Austin to take action on climate change that much more unfortunate. There are few qualified atmospheric scientists who would argue with the assessment in the book. And there are none in Texas. Attempts over the last few years to stage a debate in Texas about the science of climate change have required flying a skeptic in from out of state.

...Economists have looked at this problem repeatedly over the last two decades and virtually every mainstream economist has concluded that the costs of reducing emissions are less than the costs of unchecked climate change - the only disagreement is on the optimal level of emissions reductions.

Given the uniformity of expert opinion that reductions of emissions make sense, why is the debate so polarized? Psychologists and other cognitive experts have found that disagreements over climate change are rooted not in disagreements over science or economics, but are instead rooted in views of the merits of government action. Climate skeptics are almost uniformly distrustful of government action in society and are frightened that climate change will be used as a pretext to take away our individual liberties or interfere with the free market. This explains why every staunch climate skeptic I've ever met is also rabidly opposed to Obama's health care reform (a conclusion also backed by polling data)....

A bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce, shot by Helmstetler, Wikimedia Commons, terms unknown

1 comment:

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