ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Observations

Observations


Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

What’s the Price of Climate Change? $14 Billion in Lost Lives and Health Care


Email   PrintPrint



2003-southern-california-wildfiresFlood, famine, fire and disease—climate change is expected to have an impact on all of these threats, by altering the earth in many ways, from changes in the planet’s water cycle to making a broader swath of the planet amenable to insect-born illnesses such as malaria. A new study in the November issue of Health Affairs by public health scientists (most of whom work for an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council) attempts to put a price on all that change.

These researchers picked six representative disasters and tallied up the economic impact as a first estimate of the kinds of health-related costs climate change might bring. By the group’s calculation, the six “climate change-related” disasters—ranging from the Red River floods in North Dakota in 2009 to worsening levels of smog pollution nationwide—accounted for roughly $14 billion in lost lives and healthcare costs.

Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s preferred method [pdf] of assigning a dollar amount to every lost life, the researchers estimated that the 1,689 premature deaths from all six catastrophes cost $7.9 million each—meaning casualties contributed the bulk of the climate change costs. Health care costs from hospitalizations, emergency room visits and consulting doctors, on the other hand, tallied a much more manageable $740 million (which is not chump change, mind you).

Of course, the dollar amount sets aside the human misery and suffering caused by the six catastrophes—which also included the 2003 wildfire and 2006 heat wave in California, Florida’s 2004 hurricane season and a West Nile Virus outbreak in Louisiana in 2002—but that’s what economists like to do, and what seemingly drives political decision-making.

Although this study represents a first effort to quantify such health-related economic impacts, it ultimately raises more questions than it answers. West Nile’s appearance in the U.S. is at least as much due to international travel as any climate change, and the scientific jury is out on whether hurricanes will be made stronger or less frequent (or both) by global warming. Further, the health impacts from the Florida hurricanes had more to do with the carbon monoxide poisoning that followed improper use of generators than a direct impact of hurricane winds or rains, as the report noted.

There are also plenty of other potential climate change impacts that do not factor here, ranging from the waterborne disease outbreaks that follow flooding to infrastructure damage. Nor did the researchers include “lost leisure time, days when activity is restricted, lost school days for children, and lost work and leisure time for those who instead must visit and care for patients,” they write. The costs, if any, are likely to fall disproportionately on those least financially capable of dealing with them.

But, even independent of climate change, dealing with smog seems to make health care economic sense based on recent recent research from the EPA and others. More than 287 million Americans live in areas where ground-level ozone levels climb above 80 parts-per-billion for extended periods, according to the Health Affairs research, which has been linked to everything from asthma to increased heart disease. The primary culprits are our cars and our coal-fired power plants.

Reducing the emissions of nitrogen oxides from tailpipes and smokestacks is one sure way to cut down on smog-related death and disease—and yet the Obama administration recently announced plans to avoid mandating such smog reductions until after the 2012 election. The reason? The new rules would cost car manufacturers and electric utilities, among others, some $90 billion. Numbers do matter.

Image: Several massive wildfires were raging across southern California over the weekend of October 25, 2003. Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





Rights & Permissions

Comments 27 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Velstras 1:22 pm 11/8/2011

    If we look back a few hundred years the average temperature on the planet was a few degrees warmer and there were many benefits to the people that lived in these times. Now, obviously we were not responsible for global warming several centuries ago and also not responsible for the cooling that took place afterwords. Regardless of what the temperature of the planet does it is in our best interest to adapt to what appear to be normal, cyclical changes to the planetary climate. The natural wobble of the Earth (which we also can’t control) can change large areas of the Earth over time. As humans, our best natural advantage is our ability to adapt to the changing situations that we face. We can work to migrate populations and farming to areas that become more fertile due to increases in temperature as the changes occur. The biggest problem we face is not with changing climate, but with overpopulation. The Earth simply can’t handle 7 billion humans. I find the idea of another billion or more human beings a much greater threat to our planet than any fluctuations in climate or temperature.

    Link to this
  2. 2. bigbopper 2:05 pm 11/8/2011

    No argument that climate has changed in the past and that the Milankovitch cycles are a key driver of “natural” climate change. What’s different over the past two hundred plus years is the marked rise in atmospheric CO2 due to burning of fossil fuels. Data from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores going back several hundred thousand years shows that until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution atmospheric CO2 did not exceed about 280 ppm. Now it’s 390 ppm and rising by about 2 ppm/year. This introduces a new cause of warming which if unchecked will swamp “natural” factors. No doubt overpopulation is a problem but so is global warming. Both need to be addressed.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Capatriot 2:18 pm 11/8/2011

    In all of these types of articles, the positive impacts of extra CO2 and climate warming are ignored, while the negative impacts are emphasized. For example, this article talks about increases in diseases due to warmer temps but ignores reductions of diseases due to winter temperature increases. Guess what? A lot more people die due to pneumonia than malaria in developed countries.

    The article also completely ignores the hugely positive gains in farm and forest productivity due to higher CO2 concentrations … in effect, atmospheric fertilizer for free! What is the economic value of this effect? Why is this issue always ignored?

    Now, on balance, it may still be true that higher-than-recent-earth-average CO2 levels may cause more harm than good; but ignoring all the good is a very dishonest way of making an argument.

    Link to this
  4. 4. sault 2:37 pm 11/8/2011

    Re: Velstras,

    Please share with us the temperature data set that shows temperatures “a few hundred years ago” were warmer than today. Also, please share with all of us the climate forcing that you have identified that can change the earth’s temperature 1C over the past 100 years in the manner that has been observed (that is also NOT attributable to human actions). I’m sure the world’s climatologists would be intrigued to look over your profound discovery. In fact, why don’t you write a paper discussing your findings and let us know when it’s published. You could be a new scientific phenomenon!

    Re, Capatriot,

    OF COURSE more people die from pneumonia than malaria in developed countries! ALL of the developed countries are in temperate regions that do not currently have the conditions for the malarial parasite to propagate en masse. The problem arises when those subtropical zones creep poleward due to man-made global warming, expanding the malarial parasite’s geographical range.

    As for your claim that the positives of anthropogenic CO2 emissions are NEVER mentioned, here’s a comprehensive list that blows your argument out of the water:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-positives-negatives-intermediate.htm

    You see those hyperlinks? They’re called PEER-REVIEWED PAPERS. Those let us know stuff about the world.

    Link to this
  5. 5. mbschro 3:00 pm 11/8/2011

    From a geologic timeframe we are fortunate to be gaining CO2. We are coming of a low point of the gas and have nowhere to go but up. THe amount of man-made CO2 that is released by man’s actions is less than 1% of the CO2 released each year. THe greatest living contributor of CO2 is actually decomposing bacterium and much of that is the occurring in areas that exposed organics upon the retreat of the glacial pack from the last ice age. When will Scientific American STOP PUSHING THE GLOBAL WARMING AGENDA?

    Link to this
  6. 6. Capatriot 3:00 pm 11/8/2011

    Re Sault –

    You see the first sentence in my comment, my learned friend? Where I said “in these kind of articles” …? I never said that positive impacts of warm temps are “NEVER” discussed in scientific literature … how would I know about said impacts if they had not been discussed somewhere??? What I pointed out is that in more general articles (such as the one in question) meant more for a lay audience, the positives of warm temps and CO2 increase are either not mentioned or minimized. And I have seen numerous articles in newspapers, magazines, and online that justify this view point.

    Your point about malaria is incorrect. Southern US states had a problem with malaria until we figured out how to control mosquito populations. Similarly, 1st world tropical nations (and there are several) could potentially have had issues with this and other “warm” diseases … good vector control and water treatment are the answer. The point is that just because there will be warmer temps does not mean that there will be catastrophic increases in death/disease, though I’d agree there may be a small increase … but there will CERTAINLY be less cold weather related death and disease! Both should be mentioned.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Velstras 3:28 pm 11/8/2011

    re: Sault

    The problem with peer reviewed papers is that they are usually reviewed by closed-minded academicians. These are the kind of people that spend their lives cheer-leading the status quo and only working to receive and protect their tenure. You see if you want to get ahead in the academic world you have to play ball with the establishment and creative people need not apply. For the most part, every new scientific breakthrough or idea gets laughed at by the so-called experts until the evidence becomes insurmountable. This is a major reason I believe scientific research, especially in the field of physics, has been stagnant for 30+ years.

    As far as me going to get you links to my information you can feel free to do research on the topic yourself. I am not interested in doing your work for you.

    Link to this
  8. 8. IBDYKES 4:59 pm 11/8/2011

    I am a 53 year old electrical electronics engineer residing in Stratford, Ontario, Canada
    I am sending you a fully researched climate change mitigation resolution that as systematically adopted by new mothers and Infants begins to forge the path to sustainability I outline.
    This product resolution is most economically sound and capital efficient. In reality it is the only resolution that can timely abate escalation of both self evident emergent ever escalating economic and environmental crises.
    I am seeking people who can agree and cooperate with me to deliver this resolution. I posses given 5 year qualified R&D scientific research tax credits. if I recover the SRTC I can fully fund commercialization and execution of my proven business paradigm
    Ergo I am proposing to provide all the requisite funding necessary to commercialize and execute a proven business paradigm that delivers a proven product to a proven market with 80% TMC likelihood of purchasing. This product is a health, life sciences resolution that is locally, nationally and globally applicable. When all aspects in accordance with my path to sustainability substantive mitigation that saves and preserves life on this planet results. I simply require a little cash flow to execute SRTC recovery.
    In addition to 6 years full time work already spent, an all encompassing patent has been filed. However, the patent is not economically practical and was only filed to limit infringement under the NON-OBVIOUS rule. After patent filing a thorough investigation established the most suitable product that meets all mandated environmental mitigation performance criteria. The most cost effective best overall product resolution that delivers the MOST substantive and timely climate change mitigation has been identified and NO other product other than the Daily Bailey can possibly deliver it.
    To this end I am willing to offer people ownership to this product in return for the capacity and willingness to cooperate with me. In return for nothing more than a capacity and willingness to work with me, I offer ownership (see patent filing certificate attached) whereby depth of willingness establishes magnitude of ownership.
    The product, The Daily Bailey is a health, life sciences resolution
    The product completely resolves a current disdain that limits widespread utility to a current 12% North American market share
    All performance criteria and critical product acceptance factors are identified and addressed
    the product is economically sound from any perspective.
    A business paradigm has been developed and proven such that 99% of capital required establishing this market is eliminated!

    Target market customers (TMC) are precisely identified
    An upper price point is established
    Vast consumer value exists
    Incumbent competitors are identified and their ability to respond has been addressed
    TMC’S are proven waiting and wanting to purchase the product

    THE MARKET FOR THIS PRODUCT IS LOCAL, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL

    The North American existing market is 7 billion per annum
    12% of the market (1 billion per annum) will purchase because this resolution is far superior to current practice
    the remaining 88%, primarily because it reduces their everyday expenses by 60-90% find this resolution far more appealing such that an 80% likelihood of purchasing exists.
    Thus at a bare minimum, 12% of the market is wholly readily receptive and this market is 1 billion revenues per annum.
    It is exceptionally realistic that 1% market share, 70 million annual revenues with 20% minimum NPBT and with P/E of 5 is easily established within 5 years without any investment.
    Ergo, given you are local to me, and in the business of product innovation re: climate change mitigation can and do you want to assist me?
    I realize that no man is an island.
    If my proposal is of suitable interest to you then I would like to engage in further discussions.
    ATTACHED ARE PATENT FILING CERTIFICATE, IMAGE OF ME AND DETAILED INFO CONCERNING THE DAILY BAILEY!

    I LEARNED OF YOU THROUGH MARK JACOBSON

    Please respond to
    Daily-Bailey@live.com

    Sincerely

    I Dykes B.E.E.ENG

    Link to this
  9. 9. priddseren 5:00 pm 11/8/2011

    Yet another article of pure speculation and fantasy. There is no way to attribute a single death to global warming. Wild fire in LA? yeah right. Sorry morons, but trees that evolve to produce seed because of fire indicates fire has been part of the biosphere of this region for a few million years. Also, the humans atempts to control these fires increases the amount of available fuel for these fires resulting in more of them and more intensity.

    The effects of a hurricane are not from frequency or duration. Another impossible fantasy. Unless we have hurricanes every day or some extreme change, we cant know if there are more because of global warming or stronger ones. Additionally, the loss of life is due to the increase in population in areas where hurricanes hit. Since population growth has occured at the same time as fantasy global warming, it should be considered.

    West nile virus? Sorry environmentalist wackos. Had you fools NOT banned DDT in 1970, there would have been no mosquitos to spread West Nile or Malaria for that matter.

    This article is almost as stupid as the previous warmist article about how Aliens flying by earth will wipe all humans out because we clearly do not care about our environment. But I suppose if SA can publish nonsense like this from a NASA climatologist, then this article is certainly normal for SA.

    Sault – Been a while.

    Ahh, The medieval warming period was certainly one of those times. I know I know, you warmists like to strawman that under the claim it was colder in other places and therefore the “average” temp is somehow more relevant. Also, I love the argument that the Medieval warming period has “known” causes by you warmists such as the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a time which had higher than average solar radiation and less volcanic activity (both resulting in warming).

    Not sure how solar radiation and less volcanism results in global warming in 1000 AD but today, somehow these two factors have absolutely no effect and it is only human caused CO2 today. (Of course we have to ignore the fact that global warming predictions for the last decade were completely wrong since the globe has not warmed in the last 10 years).

    Your usual comments that only government paid climate “scientists” are the only valid source of information and not other person on earth can look at observations and data to form conclusions. What a joke. I suppose you are possibly right about this because only those government paid climatologists of yours have access to the gerry rigged computer models of some fantasy earth, where the climate works in a way to support their fantsy global warming.

    Not only are you totally wrong on malaria, ever hear of Rome? Last time I heard Italy was still a developed nation and used to have malaria. However, malaria is a good example on how environmentalist wackos can do more harm than good. You environmentalist psychos had DDT banned for an unproven belief that DDT was causing thin egg shells in Eagles in Illinois. The speculative belief then was the eagles were eating fish in the river that were contaminated by substances that are derived from DDT. The issue is that river has who knows how many chemical plants and other nonsense upstream all of which could have been producing something damaging the birds. DDT was chosen as the culprit, regardless of the fact no tests could produce the effect and previous tests like guys eating DDT as if it was candy had no effect. However, even if the DDT chemical was the problem, banning the substance had the effect of taking malaria from less than a dozen cases world wide in 1970 to millions dead every year. There is a specific measurable effect there. malaria gone because of DDT, remove DDT, malaria came back. Unlike this article, which has no evidence at all, we do know what hyper active environmentalists did cause, malaria to kill millions all from completely speculative beliefs in the evils of DDT.
    So it is happening again. There is no proof of global warming, even if it is real, there is certainly no proof that CO2 is the only cause of global warming. Environmentalists want it to be CO2 for whatever reason and thier efforts to control CO2 to prevent global warming are more likely to kill more people and damage the environment worse than the global warming itself as evidence by their past with DDT control and the millions of dead malaria victims.

    That is the worst part of this global warming farce. It is not the belief in human caused warming, it could be true, it could even be CO2 is really the cause. The worst part is the solutions to these two so called problems will most likely be worse than the problem in the way it affects the planet.

    Link to this
  10. 10. scientific earthling 7:01 pm 11/8/2011

    bigbopper: As per the Milankovitch cycles we should be heading into an ice age. This is not happening, even though our planet’s orbit is more eccentric than its been for a long time. I don’t believe you know what you are writing about.

    The Holocene has past, the Anthropocene is in place. 7G Homo sapiens eating their way through every form of life destroys biodiversity necessary for life to continue. No major loss when this vicious species goes extinct.

    Link to this
  11. 11. geojellyroll 10:17 pm 11/8/2011

    Liknking fires in the LA region to global warming, etc.

    STUPID.

    Global warming, real or not, has become a cult classic with the predictable groupies salivating ‘to prove’ that everyone is better off by drinking the purple Kool-Ade.

    Link to this
  12. 12. sault 3:00 am 11/9/2011

    Re mbschro,

    You are missing out on some very important facts. In the real world, the GREATEST CO2 source is outgassing from the oceans. However, the GREATEST CO2 sink is CO2 absorption BACK INTO THE OCEAN. These two opposing forces, and ALL natural carbon sources/sinks, have been in balance until relatively recently.

    The CO2 in the atmosphere can be likened to the water level in a bathtub that is slowly draining out and being refilled from the faucet at the same time. The level had been constant until we began putting water back into the tub that had already drained out (i.e. digging up fossil fuels, burning them and releasing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere). That the CO2 level in the atmosphere is constant for over 10,000 years and then suddenly starts increasing at the same time humans start dumping CO2 into the air is proof positive for most sane folks. That the CO2 in the air is increasingly from fossil fuels (due to isotropic ratio “fingerprints” of fossil fuels) is proof positive for most scientists in the world.

    If you claim that human emissions aren’t large enough to change the climate, please share with all of us your carbon balance analysis of the atmosphere and I would be especially interested in how you explain the 30Gt of CO2 we release EACH YEAR just disappears like magic!

    Link to this
  13. 13. sault 3:04 am 11/9/2011

    Re Capatroit,

    Well, if you actually looked at the list I posted, you would see that the negative effects vastly overwhelm the minor benefits of climate change. Since this cost/benefit analysis is so one-sided, balancing the negatives of climate change with the extremely limited positives, especially in a layman’s article like this, would give that climate layman a false sense of security regarding the dangers of man-made climate change. Especially since they would be less able to balance which effects are really bad (dustbowlification, ocean acidification, sea level rise) with the very limited benefits of our CO2 emissions.

    Link to this
  14. 14. sault 3:13 am 11/9/2011

    Re Velstras,

    I expected as much from you. Science denial MUST stem from laziness. I mean, those nerdy scientists with their peer-review aren’t part of your “tribe” they don’t speak like you and they have a bunch of funny ideas, right? They just have to be wrong because your beliefs that go against the conclusions of the peer review process just have to be right.

    Okay, dismiss peer review if you want to, but how do we know serious science and truth from bunkum proffered by hucksters? I mean, I can say the moon is made of cheese and the non-scientists of the world would be none the wiser until a REAL scientist reviewed my “data” and proved me wrong. Peer-review is nothing new and has been going on since the days of Isaac Newton. Your belief that physics has stagnated stems from the fact that you just don’t like where that branch of science is going and they’re waiting on observational evidence to fill in some holes in theory.

    In the end, peer review is so important to the Scientific Method that if one chooses to dismiss it, then you might as well go and join and Amish colony!

    Link to this
  15. 15. thevillagegeek 3:17 am 11/9/2011

    geojellyroll: “STUPID” “cult” “groupies” “salivating” “drinking the purple Kool-Ade”

    Anything besides personal attacks and innuendo?

    Link to this
  16. 16. sault 3:22 am 11/9/2011

    Re priddseren,

    If average temperatures are a few degrees higher, then the soil and trees dry out quicker, wildfire season is longer and the wildfires themselves are more intense. Since CO2 traps heat, the BEST study concluded the Earth is warming and the pattern of warming we have seen can only be explained by man-made carbon emissions, ergo some of the damage of those wildfires was caused by carbon emissions.

    Even your denier buddy Anthony Watts said he would stand by the conclusions of the BEST team, even if it meant that he was wrong. Well, they proved him wrong BIG TIME, yet he still spouts off his nonsense. So if you still think the Earth isn’t warming, there’s no point in discussing this with you any further. Since it is warming, how can the sun and volcanoes be causing the warming we are seeing? The poles are warming MUCH faster than the tropics. This was predicted by climatologists in the 80s and it has come true. How can the SUN warm the poles more than the tropics? Care to explain that one because I’m really confused!

    Link to this
  17. 17. sault 3:28 am 11/9/2011

    pridd,

    Almost forgot, how is the solution to climate change worse than the problem, again? Since coal power destroys $2 for every $1 it creates in electricity, just getting rid of that messy little industry would be a HUGE boon to our economy:

    http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/aer.101.5.1649

    Since we spend $1 BILLION A DAY importing oil, about 20% of which comes from countries that hate us, how will increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and providing transportation options for people be bad?

    Have you seen how much energy we just waste in this country? Lighted parking lots that are basically empty. A/C units running in empty buildings. 2/3 of the energy from coal combustion or nuclear fission going up and out of a cooling tower to serve no purpose. These are MASSIVE wastes of energy and MASSIVE wastes of money. What’s so bad about intelligently cutting waste and saving money?

    Link to this
  18. 18. thevillagegeek 3:48 am 11/9/2011

    IBDYKES, in your 649 words and 3458 characters, there is not a single thing that makes me suspect there is more than hokum to your post.

    “…Ergo I am proposing to provide all the requisite funding necessary to commercialize and execute a proven business paradigm that delivers a proven product to a proven market with 80% TMC likelihood of purchasing….”

    Your bounty of buzz-words needs a buzz cut! That’s proven.

    Link to this
  19. 19. sault 7:12 am 11/9/2011

    Re: geek,

    IBDYKES is probably a spambot trying to suck some unsuspecting rubes into a scam of some sort. Maybe some smart con artists have found that climate science deniers are particularly gullible and will go along with whatever a “Job Creator(TM)” says!

    Link to this
  20. 20. bigbopper 1:25 pm 11/9/2011

    @earthing: what part of my comment do you disagree with? That there has been natural climate change? That the Milankovitch cycles are a key driver of natural climate change? That CO2 has been going up above historical maximal levels over the past few hundred thousand years due to burning of fossil fuels? All demonstrable facts.

    And yes, the loss of homo sapiens would be a huge loss. As far as we know we are the only conscious species in the universe. In essence, we represent the universe “becoming aware of itself”. Hopefully we’re smart enough to avoid a stupidity like letting ourselves go extinct due to faulty behavior.

    Link to this
  21. 21. bigbopper 1:32 pm 11/9/2011

    @sault: I like your analogy of steady-state atmospheric CO2 conditions with a bathtub with a slow drain and an equally slow faucet. Now just increase the faucet drip a little bit and the total volume in the bathtub will increase. Likewise even though anthropogenic CO2 is only a small fraction of total CO2 sources, since it is being superimposed on a previous (short-term) steady-state, CO2 levels will go up.

    In my experience many climate-change deniers completely fail to understand this simple kinetics issue. Sometimes they argue that CO2 is always changing so how can one speak of a steady-state. The answer here is that we’re speaking of a short-term (few centuries to one millenium) equilibrium. of course over longer time intervals the equilibrium will gradually change resulting in changes in the steady-state atmospheric CO2 concentration. But over the time scale in which anthropogenic CO2 is significant, one can speak of an underlying equilibrium.

    Link to this
  22. 22. thevillagegeek 4:20 pm 11/9/2011

    sault, remember the good ol’ days when we could report abusive spam like that?

    Link to this
  23. 23. priddseren 7:44 pm 11/9/2011

    Sault -
    I completely agree with you on reducing wasted energy. I would start with “the Grid”. A total waste of energy because it takes some energy to transform the electricity volts and amps to get the power into the grid and back down to your house. Local power source. Every house having a natural gas generator, solar panels or wind or whatever would be a significant reduction just from the savings realized by not using the Grid. The fact is, it is cheaper, easier and less damaging to move fuel than energy. Fuel can be stored and requires minimal effort to ship it to a location. Produced energy can’t be stored and is exceptionally inefficient when trying to move it. Plus doing this idea will cause a switch from Coal to natural gas(or other stuff), reducing coal use. . Coal is a nasty substance and we should try to phase it out of use. Everything from the way it is mined to its use damages the environment as well as wasting billions.

    I would say the same for cars. Hybrids are an energy saver. If Hybrid designs were not the most efficient, then Train locomotives would not be hybrids. The commercial transport industry has a vested interest is using the most efficient method of fuel use to ship product in their trains. They settled on Hybrids long a go. So if a regulation was going to be passed to reduce Gasoline use, it should be an all out ban on any vehicle which is not a Hybrid. No grandfathering either, even the rich guys with the 1960s muscle car collection can hang up the keys permanently because no car not a hybrid would be on the road. I suppose exceptions could be made for electric vehicles or steam powered, lol. I doubt this is practicle but this is the kind of fix that has a measurable impact.

    Bad ideas would be CFL bulbs. They do not work. They last only a few months because a residence turns lights on and off constantly, where CFLs get their long life only by not doing that, such as an office building. So the only result of CFLs will be mercury contamination of landfills and homes because NO average person is going to call up Hazmat to clean up the broken light bulb and when the lights do go out, be assured they will go right into the trash can and the landfill. A total mistake and proof the solution in this case is worse than the problem.

    Anyway, I may disagree with everything else you usually say but cutting needless waste in energy production is certainly worth the effort.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Dr. Strangelove 9:43 pm 11/10/2011

    I’m skeptical whenever disasters are attributed to global warming especially by environmental groups. Note that climate change is not necessarily global warming. The climate may change regionally and affect a region. The effect is not always bad. There are good effects of warmer climate to plants, animals and humans.

    Instead of making catastrophic claims, environmental groups should just say reduce air pollution because it is bad for health. All people will agree to that.

    Btw, CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a greenhouse gas. Rising sea level is a consequence of global warming, natural or man-made. Either way, we have to deal with it.

    Link to this
  25. 25. wsugaimd 3:14 am 11/14/2011

    What a dimwitted article. Everything thats gone wrong is due to climate change…? I’m a skeptic too. C02 numbers have never added up. Man puts out 27 billion tons per year but into an atmosphere that already has 3,600 billion tons of C02. Anthropogenic C02 is three forths of 1% of all C02. And C02 is not stagnant and just accumulates, its recycled over and over.

    I’m afraid that science has been pushed back to the “dark ages” when the religiosity of “climate change” has provided all the answers to environmental problems…and its climate change. Never mind the real reason that must be sought, just label it “climate change” and you’ve satisfied the climate gods. And if you’re a skeptic and questions the gods, then the religion automaticallly labels you a DENIER…forever banished. Gods like Al Gore said it best,”The science is settled, the debates are over”. In other words, do not debate me…DENIER!

    Link to this
  26. 26. Jerzy New 8:27 pm 11/14/2011

    $14bln seems much, but is much, much less than cost of changing the industry to combat climate change.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Jerzy New 8:27 pm 11/14/2011

    So, what about gain from climate change? Longer crop growing season, poor people spend less on heating, fewer people get cold, fewer cars crash on frozen roads etc?

    Indeed I never saw such estimate (and given that wave of cold winter always brings havoc to the country, warmer climate must bring substantial gains). Good evidence of conspiracy?

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X