How much is a pristine ecosystem worth to us? And a stable climate? These are questions that are very controversial among many environmentalists, as I recently discussed. However, economic valuation of Nature and its “services” is not just a theoretical possibility, it is a fact. A particularly interesting example of an (implicit) valuation of an ecosystem is the Ecuadorian Yasuní-ITT Initiative. Continue reading
How is it that we really do care about too-big-to-fail banks and largely embrace the sacrifice-laden efforts of governments to bail them out, but apparently don’t care enough about our too-big-to-fail climate system to accept personal and collective sacrifices needed to “bail it out”, i.e. to keep catastrophic climate change at bay? Well, this is a question psychologists and sociologists are better suited and trained to answer than I am. Instead, I would like to sacrifice a few minutes of my spare time in an attempt to sketch the consequences of the fact that our climatic system is too-big-to-fail in conjunction with the fact that we have not really cared to stop dangerously interfering with it so far. Continue reading
A man is diagnosed with cancer and the oncologist orders treatment. The patient waits and waits and waits. He is not suicidal but thinks “What does this doctor really know?” Over the next few weeks, he gets a second opinion and then a third opinion…they are all the same: a chemotherapeutic cocktail. Meanwhile, the cancer is spreading. Begrudgingly, the man begins taking the medicine. But pride mixes with fear and he takes just one third of the prescribed dose. What does the oncologist say? If depends on the personality of the oncologist. A hopeful one will urge the patient to follow the full regime. A discouraged one will level with the man “either you follow the full regime or don’t bother taking anything”. The dishonest one says “those side-effects aren’t all that bad…”. [Joseph Henry Vogel, The Economics of the Yasuní Initiative: Climate Change as If Thermodynamics Mattered, p.78]
The much awaited (though recently rather with a lot of pessimism) Rio+20 “Earth Summit” came to an end. Instead of commenting myself on all the things which went wrong (and the few that weren’t as bad), I would like to provide links to commentaries made before, during and after the Summit that give a fair account of what happened and how to interpret the failures of the international community to commit to saving our planet. Also, they provide an outlook on what developments we may expect in the near future.
Elinor Ostrom Green from the Grassroots
Sunita Narain Beyond Rio+20
Jagdish Bhagwati Rio’s Unsustainable Nonsense
Kristen Sheeran From Top-Down to Bottom-Up: New Directions for Climate at Rio+20
George Monbiot Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphes of fluff
From now on, you can use “Rio+20” as a synonym for “failure”.
Next week, Rio de Janeiro will host the Rio+20 conference – a reminiscence of the path-breaking Earth Summit that took place there 20 years ago, in 1992. Back then, the world community committed itself (at least verbally) to sustainability and laid foundations for many subsequent efforts to protect the environmental basis which our livelihoods depend upon. Since then, much has changed – some to the better, some to the worse. Today, probably the most urgent threat to humanity is climate change – in fact, it was in 1992 already, even though the science of climate change was not so consistent and clear then as it is now. It is only natural to expect that the new Earth Summit will bring at least some steps toward a successful combat against anthropogenic climate change. However, the prospects do not appear as good as one might wish. Continue reading
Some time has passed since I commented (i.e., criticised) on Bjørn Lomborg’s writings for the last time. His most recent activity (an article on Project Syndicate) is, however, inviting for another round of critique. Actually, there is not much newness to be found in this piece by Lomborg. But because it kind of summarises his views, it may be worth a brief investigation. Continue reading