Columnist Samuelson’s attack on the UK’s important Stern Commission Report does more than merely ignore key greenhouse-gas-reducing technologies. Samuelson titles his piece “Greenhouse Guessing,” because he (mistakenly) thinks that determining the impact of global warming is a guessing game:
The other great distortion in Stern’s report involves global warming’s effects. No one knows what these might be, because we don’t know how much warming might occur, when, where or how easily people might adapt. Stern’s horrific specter distills many of the most terrifying guesses, including some imagined for the 22nd century, and implies that they’re imminent. The idea is to scare people while reassuring them that policies to avert calamity, if started now, would be fairly easy and inexpensive.
Two points must be made. First, a great many people know what the effects of global warming will be. They are called climate scientists. And most of them have been increasingly warning about the same kind of serious climate impacts the Stern report worries about, such as mega-droughts and sea level rise up to 13 feet this century, not the next one.
Second, the phrase “we don’t know how much warming might occur,” is only true because scientists model a variety of scenarios. For instance NASA models one scenario where we start action to combat climate change immediately, which has relatively moderate impacts, and a business-as-usual case (BAU) where we delay serious action, which leaves to future generations massive sea level rise (ultimately 80 feet or more) and horrific species extinction.
If we listen to Samuelson, we end up with the second scenario. Delay is the one sure way to turn “terrifying guesses” into terrifying impacts.