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Mankind’s Craziest Experiment

December 9, 2010

That’s how The Economist – seer of Davos-Man, bible of the market, apostle of liberal capitalism – sees global warming. “It remains the craziest experiment mankind has ever conducted”. Well, that at least is a rebuke to the deniers. Three degrees warmer by the end of the century is their prognosis and if you want to know what that means for your children and grandchildren pick up the book Six Degrees and weep.

The Economist lists the consequences – summer ice gone from the Arctic, increased flooding, rising ocean levels, hard-to-read weather calamities, eco-system disruption. Here the magazine’s technological optimism takes over : almost breezily it decrees that richer countries will be able to afford solutions and some will be better off. Russia, for example, will be able to tear more fossil fuels out of formerly snow-covered ground! To boil the planet even more?
Remove the insurance cover of those who live on the coast of Florida and that’ll see them migrate inland, says the genius editorialist, enunciating a perfect market solution. Easier migration across borders is the answer, he recommends. Rich counties allowing in people from poor ones driven out by cyclones and flooding. So easily accomplished! New infrastructure to lock out rising oceans.

So it goes.

Two quick observations. One, the cost of phasing out carbon has got to be cheaper than any of these adaptations, despite the gloss The Economist puts on it. Second, at least their relative realism reflects and confirms Bill McKibben’s view (see his book Eaarth) that warming is already on us, that the planet is physically different from what it was 15 years ago.

The editorial – it appeared November 27 – captures frighteningly where global leadership stands on catastrophic global warming : they are telling us it is too advanced to stop and oppose the measures that attempt to stop it and advising us to adapt, and wrapping a grotesque optimism around our condition.

(Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth was published this year and the book Six Degrees Our Future on a Hotter Planet is by Mark Lynas and came out in 2008).

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