Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Global warming, the quadrillion dollar question

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
By Alister Doyle, Reuters

MOSCOW — With solutions costing up to a mind-numbing $18,000,000,000,000,000, it is among the most expensive questions in history: How do you stop people from causing dangerous global warming?

Eighteen quadrillion dollars is almost 600 times the 2002 world gross domestic product, estimated by the World Bank at $32 trillion. If you glued 18 quadrillion dollar bills end to end, they would stretch way past Pluto.

Luckily, most estimates of the costs of curbing global warming by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) run to just hundreds of trillions of dollars over 100 years — a relative pin prick for a growing world economy.

But the costs of cleaning up human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by factories and cars and of shifting toward cleaner energies such as solar or wind power are starting to give governments nightmares.

"The long-term costs could be enormous," said Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has backed away from previous promises to quickly ratify the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming.

Kyoto, a tiny first step towards reining in human emissions of nontoxic carbon dioxide from fossil fuels blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up temperatures, will collapse without Russia's approval. The United States pulled out in 2001.

"Maybe the money would be better spent on promoting economic growth, on ending poverty, or on helping developing nations," he told a climate conference in Moscow this month, pointing to the highest IPCC estimate of almost $18 quadrillion by 2100.

Bush Says Kyoto Costs Too Much

...A heat wave in Europe this year killed about 15,000 people in France. About 1,300 died in a heat wave in India. There were 562 tornadoes in the United States in May, more than any month on record. Was any of that caused by humans and "dangerous?"

If so, humanity would have to start slashing the use of the fossil fuels, a backbone of the world economy from coal-fired power plants and steel mills to trucks and cars.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said the meaning of "dangerous" was largely a value judgment and up to governments to define. But he said, "Scientifically, one can ask ... whether the extent of sea level rise which has taken place, the damage to coral reefs, changes in precipitation levels, and impacts on water availability in different parts of the world are not enough reasons for decision makers to decide what is dangerous?"...

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