The best easily digestible-but-accurate synopsis I've read on climate change in quite a while wasn't written by a climate scientist, or a green writer for that matter. Nope, it was written by a top hedge fund manager. True story. See, in Jeremy Grantham's second quarter letter to investors, he included a one-page segment called Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes. And he is astonishingly accurate. You can read the full letter here (it's a pdf, and the climate-related stuff starts on page 7), but here are some of the more dead-on snippets that everyone should read. I especially like #6:
6) Pascal asks the question: What is the expected value of a very small chance of an infinite loss? And, he answers, "Infinite." In this example, what is the cost of lowering CO2 output and having the long-term effect of increasing CO2 turn out to be nominal? The cost appears to be equal to foregoing, once in your life, six months' to one year's global growth - 2% to 4% or less. The benefits, even with no warming, include: energy independence from the Middle East; more jobs, since wind and solar power and increased efficiency are more labor-intensive than another coal-fired power plant; less pollution of streams and air; and an early leadership role for the U.S. in industries that will inevitably become important. Conversely, what are the costs of not acting on prevention when the results turn out to be serious: costs that may dwarf those for prevention; and probable political destabilization from droughts, famine, mass migrations, and even war. And, to Pascal's real point, what might be the cost at the very extreme end of the distribution: definitely life changing, possibly life threatening.That is so right on it's not even funny. Whenever lockstep conservatives recycle the lines about 'energy taxes' or how cap and trade would cripple the economy, just keep the above in mind. I just don't get how people can't see the strictly non-climate related benefits to taking a hard line against major polluters -- those benefits are so clear.
Also sagely considered are numbers 7 & 8:
7) The biggest cost of all from global warming is likely to be the accumulated loss of biodiversity. This features nowhere in economic cost-benefit analysis because, not surprisingly, it is hard to put a price on that which is priceless.If only all the bosses of multimillion dollar businesses could see things so clearly.
8) A special word on the right-leaning think tanks: As libertarians, they abhor the need for government spending or even governmental leadership, which in their opinion is best left to private enterprise. In general, this may be an excellent idea. But global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons - seeking your own individual advantage, for once, does not lead to the common good, and the problem desperately needs government leadership and regulation. Sensing this, these think tanks have allowed their drive for desirable policy to trump science. Not a good idea.