Tag Archives: Nicholas Stern

Why Urgency about Climate Change Was Slow to Arrive

From David Remnick’s post on NewYorker.com about how to overcome the  “magical thinking” that so far has prevented the action required:

Inaction on climate change has an insidious ally: time. As the writer and activist Bill McKibben writes in The New York Review of Books, “Global warming happens just slowly enough that political systems have been able to ignore it. The distress signal is emitted at a frequency that scientists can hear quite clearly, but is seemingly just beyond the reach of most politicians.” When the financial system collapsed, the effects were swift and dramatic. People could debate how best to fix the problem, but they could not doubt that there was a problem and it had to be fixed. Yet, as Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, who studied the costs of climate change for the British government, has observed, the risks are vastly greater than those posed by the collapse of the Western financial system.

The big question: will the politicians hear the distress signal this time? It’s up to the people, to you and me, to make sure it persists at an annoying level. As Remnick says, in the words of that old hymn, “Here cometh the hard part.”

It will be a colossal task, enlisting science, engineering, technology, regulation, legislation, and persuasion. We have seen the storms, the droughts, the costs, and the chaos; we know what lies in store if we fail to take action. The effort should begin with a sustained Presidential address to the country, perhaps from the Capitol, on Inauguration Day. It was there that John Kennedy initiated a race to the moon—meagre stakes compared with the health of the planet we inhabit.

Why don’t we all call the White House and suggest it?