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Martin Wolf: failing to act on climate change is ‘irresponsible’



Climate sceptics are “losing their grip”, according to the associate editor and chief economies commentator of the Financial Times, Martin Wolf. He added that the world is currently on a path likely to lead to “irreversible damage”.

Wolf, who is regarded as one of the most influential writers on economics, argue that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action and points out that the effects of climate change will affect us all, including businesses and economies.

Writing for the Financial Times, Wolf states, “Conducting irreversible experiments with the only planet we have is irresponsible.

“It would only be rational to refuse to do anything to mitigate the risks if we were certain the science of manmade climate change is bogus. Since it rests on well-established science, it would be ludicrous to claim any such certainty.”

He points to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Risky Business Project, whose backers include Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson and Tom Steyer, to support his argument.

“It is rational to ask if the benefits of mitigation outweigh the costs. It is irrational to deny the plausibility of manmade climate change,” Wolf adds.

The Risky Business report, published last month, painted a bleak picture of the potential damage facing businesses and economies if inaction on climate change continues. It demonstrated how the US would be affect, both at a national and local level, by impacts including damage to coastal properties and infrastructure from rising sea levels.

While the report focuses on the US, Wolf points out that we have a global atmosphere and as a result our action, or lack of it, will have an impact on the rest of the world.

He continues, “What makes the report valuable is that it sets this out rightly as a problem of risk management. The aim must be to cut off the risks in the tail of the distribution of possible outcomes. The way to do so is to change behaviours. Nobody can sell us insurance against planetary changes.”

Wolf explains that in his opinion. the only way for the political debate for “sensible policy” to be won is for people to believe the impact of climate change could be both large and costly, coupled with the belief that mitigation efforts, and the associated costs, will be tolerable.

Wolf added, “I have secretly hoped the deniers would be proved right. Only then would failure to respond to this challenge prove costless. But we are very unlikely to be that lucky.

“Continuing on our current path is likely to cause irreversible and costly damage. A happier possibility exists. Perhaps it will prove possible to reduce the cost of mitigation to such an extent that it becomes politically palatable. Perhaps, too, we will become far better aware of the risks.”

Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 

Further reading:

How to argue with ‘climate sceptic’

Scientist offers $30,000 for proof that climate change is not manmade

Visual evidence, not science, shown to sway climate sceptics

Government and BBC failing to communicate climate change, say MPs

Climate sceptics attacked by Prince Charles and Ed Davey