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28 January 2011

The Economics of Global Warming

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Melting glaciers, rising incomes, and food

The real global challenge facing us will be organizing to reduce carbon emissions and provide help to poor countries coping with climate change. The worst, but not the most likely, consequences of climate change could be rising sea levels: there is grounded ice in Antarctica that, if loosed from its moorings, is worth five or six meters of sea level, enough to sink Stockholm, Manhattan, or London, or to oblige them to build levees to escape inundation, and to oblige millions of Bangladeshis and others to abandon their homes and workplaces and to migrate. (Levees cannot save Bangladesh; they leave no escape for the freshwater floods that need to reach the ocean.)

The most likely consequences of climate change will be severe impacts on food production in the developing world. We can worry about urban heat waves, polar bears, and forest fires, but the worst effects are almost certainly going to be on food production in the poor countries, where half or more of the population depends on growing its own food.


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