Posner on what to do about climate change | Bleader

Monday, February 5, 2007

Posner on what to do about climate change

Posted By on 02.05.07 at 03:46 PM

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Federal appellate judge Richard Posner's decision-making is way too conservative (as in unfair) for my taste, but he's no wingnut. Consider this entry in the Becker/Posner Blog: "The global-warming skeptics are beginning to sound like the people who for so many years, in the face of compelling evidence, denied that cigarette smoking had serious adverse effects on health." (Still in denial is Chicago's own "belief tank," the Heartland Institute.)

What to do? Posner notes that many experts are focused on the long-term consequences of warming, but it's very difficult to decide what we should spend to avert a catastrophe a century or more away. Regardless of the outcome of that argument, he urges immediate action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions now, even though it's expensive. He lists three reasons:

"The first is that global warming is already imposing costs, and these will probably increase steadily in the years ahead. Discounting does not much affect those costs. They may well be great enough to warrant remedial action now.

"The second argument for incurring heavy expenditures today to reduce global warming is that there is a small risk of abrupt, catastrophic global warming at any time, and a small risk of a huge catastrophe can compute as a very large expected cost.  [Those who can read as fast as Posner can write will recognize this argument from his 2004 book Catastrophe: Risk and Response.]  ...

"The third argument is that reducing our consumption of energy by a heavy energy tax would confer national security benefits by reducing our dependence on imported oil. Our costly involvement in the Middle East is due in significant part to our economic interest in maintaining the flow of oil from there."

Maybe he should be in Congress instead of on the court?

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