Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is climate change good for us? Deutsche Bank: Nein!

A new report from Deutsche Bank (PDF) says that “Human-made climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat.” The report runs through many of the typical sceptic talking points - it's not happening, it's not us, it's not bad - and debunks them in turn (in the style of John Cook's excellent Skeptical Science site). One of the most interesting answers concerns the common claim that since humanity has survived many climate changes in the past, there is nothing to worry about:
"Although adaptation is possible, historical shifts in climate have never occurred under conditions of such high human population numbers. Natural resources and ecosystems are already taxed and further climate perturbation is likely to be disruptive. Climate shifts in the past have frequently been accompanied by collapse of governments or extensive mortality. Increasing population pressure exacerbates the likelihood of pandemics and the destabilization of food-insecure regions can lead to failed states and threats to global security. Humans have survived numerous past changes in climate, but survival of the species is a poor measure of the true consequences and costs associated with adaptation to climate change."
The threat of complete human extinction gets too much attention in some circles. There is plenty for us to be concerned about before we reach that stage - indeed, there are 6.8 billion reasons for concern prior to getting that far.

And it is worth repeating the point that humanity has never faced a situation quite like this before; the threats are on an unprecedented scale. We have never had anywhere near this many people, with anywhere near this amount of infrastructure investments to protect, with anywhere near this level of consumption, with anywhere near this level of firepower to hurt ourselves if things turn pear-shaped geopolitically. Climate change is far from the only issue we face, but it is a threat multiplier in a world already under incredible and growing stresses. We are living in a historically novel period for all kinds of reasons and the stakes are higher than they have ever been.

4 comments:

byron smith said...

Climate change already occurring (which is a fraction of what is expected) has been linked to more than 300,000 deaths each year and annual economic losses of more than the combined total of all world aid.

Stefan said...

All this has been scientific common sense since the times back when I was a student under Prof. Wilfried Bach, then a member of the German Federal Study Commission on "Protecting the Earth" (1990). The fundamental insight and conclusions did not change. But lately confirmations come from unexpected sources. The German Army research division. Deutsche Bank, of all things. Goodness. The traders can trade in milliseconds, but when it comes to fundamental insight, they need the one or the other decade... Good blog by the way. I shall read...

Stefan said...

Unfortunately the logics of our economy involve that someones losses usually are somebody else's gain.

byron smith said...

Yes, it was because this publication did not come from the usual sources that I decided to post it. Sometimes, people will listen to a new voice saying an old message.