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March 13, 2018

Green Supply Chain News: A Middle-Ground, More Positive View on the Impact of Climate Change


Two eco-Pundits Say Impact will be Signifcant but Can be Managed - by Human Ingenuity

By The Green Supply Chain Editorial Staff

It may not make partisans on either side of the climate change issue happy, but was impressed by a recent blog post by John Horgan on the web site of Scientific American magazine that summarizes some different ways of thinking by a pair of keen observers on the subject.

One involved an essay published in the ecomodernist Breakthrough Journal by pundit Steven Pinker. In the piece, Pinker is so bold to claim that Industrialization "has been good for humanity."

The Green Supply Chain Says:
Boisvert concludes by stating that "when we think harder about the specific problems global warming poses, the threat becomes less daunting.

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He notes industrialization has fed billions, doubled lifespans, slashed extreme poverty, and, by replacing muscle with machinery, made it easier to end slavery, emancipate women, and educate children.

Industrialization has also "allowed people to read at night, live where they want, stay warm in winter, see the world, and multiply human contact." Perhaps more controversially in some circles, Pinker adds that "Any costs in pollution and habitat loss have to be weighed against these gifts."

Environmentalists tend to be negative thinkers, Pinker says, arguing that "We can solve problems related to climate change if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets, international governance, and investments in science and technology."

He notes that since the US Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970, the United States has slashed its emissions of five air pollutants by almost two-thirds. Over the same period, the population grew by more than 40%, and those people drove twice as many miles and became two and a half times richer. Energy use has leveled off, and even carbon dioxide emissions have started to head down.

"These diverging curves refute both the left-wing claim that only de-growth can curb pollution and the right-wing claim that environmental protection must sabotage economic growth and standard of living," Pinker concludes.

Perhaps even more interesting are recent thoughts in another blog post from eco-journalist Will Boisvert.

In that blog, Boisvert makes this observation: "How bad will climate change be? Not very. No, this isn't a denialist screed. Human greenhouse emissions will warm the planet, raise the seas and derange the weather, and the resulting heat, flood and drought will be cataclysmic. Cataclysmic - but not apocalyptic."

While the climate upheaval will be large, Boisvert says, the actual consequences for human well-being will be small. Looked at in the broader context of economic development, climate change will barely slow the progress in the effort to raise living standards.

He dismisses, for example, various projections that there will be hundreds of thousands of deaths from a lack of food production resulting from rising temperatures, citing a recent study by the respected Lancet journal that found that even factoring in climate change, per capita food consumption will be higher in 2050 than it was in 2010.

Boisvert also says environmentalists tend to underestimate human ingenuity. He cites, for example, the Israeli approach to constant water shortages.

That challenge "prompted breakthroughs in reverse-osmosis desalination technology, cutting by half the energy needed to extract fresh water from the sea and dramatically lowering the cost to just 58 cents per cubic meter of drinkable water. The implications of cheap desalination are profound. By tapping limitless sea-water resources it could drought-proof agriculture and thus eliminate the greatest threat posed by climate change."

Boisvert concludes by stating that "when we think harder about the specific problems global warming poses, the threat becomes less daunting. Our logistic and technical capacities are burgeoning, and they give us ample means of addressing these problems."

The overall message from both pundits: global warming is an issue that will impact our lives, but we can sleep easy at night about the big picture risks.

What do you think of these more optimistic views of the impact of climate change? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

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