Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pulling Our Heads Out

This report is what I’m talking about when I note that climate change will whack corrections sentencing budgets in ways we don’t even know yet, much less are planning for, and why the possibilities of pills, viruses, and electronics promised to legislatures by former college cheerleaders and beauty queens as TECHNOCORRECTIONS will be more and more what we implement. People who think we can just keep doing what we are doing are plainly and demonstrably wrong, even my friends at the non-profits and in the states who are pushing for the old, tried-and-true “alternatives,” which are likely themselves to be too expensive, also, with nary a word about things like this or that the future could possibly be different than today or a decade ago. As this report says, the longer we hold those illusions, the harder and more costly the necessitated changes will be. Those with vested and psychological interests in maintaining their current system of power and prestige have a very hard life coming because the bills will be too high to sustain their current practices, be they judges, prosecutors, corrections folks, cops, demagogues, tv and movie exploiters (looking at you, Jodie Foster), whoever. This is serious and it’s real and we’re just overgrown two-year-olds for ignoring it.

The total economic cost of climate change in the United States will be major and nationwide in scope, but remains uncounted, unplanned for and largely hidden in public debate, says a new study from the University of Maryland.

The report, The U.S. Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction, is the first to pull together and analyze the previous economic research on the subject, along with other relevant data, in order to develop a more complete estimate of costs.
"The true economic impact of climate change is fraught with 'hidden' costs," the report concludes. It adds that these costs will vary regionally and will put a strain on public sector budgets. For example, even under current conditions, the combined storm impact for the nation since 1980 has surpassed $560 billion. More frequent and intense storms would raise the price tag even higher.

"Climate change will affect every American economically in significant, dramatic ways, and the longer it takes to respond, the greater the damage and the higher the costs," says lead researcher Matthias Ruth, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research and the Roy F. Weston Chair in Natural Economics. "The national debate is often framed in terms of how much it will cost to reduce greenhouse gases, with little or no consideration of the cost of no response or the cost of waiting. Review and analysis of existing data suggest that delay will prove costly and tip the economic scales in favor of quicker strategic action."

Estimating a total price tag for all the hidden costs is impossible at the moment, say the researchers. The report finds that current techniques generally used by economists to measure the costs related to climate change are ill-suited to a situation so complex and pervasive. It recommends a new, immediate research effort to accompany initiatives designed to minimize the impact of climate change.
The cost of infrastructure maintenance and replacement will likely increase, while economic losses will likely translate into reduced tax revenues. As a result, public officials may need to raise taxes, cut services, or some combination of the two. For example, Alaska's infrastructure maintenance is expected to rise by $5 billion to $10 billon; by one estimate, sea-level rise could cause between $23 billion and $170 billion in property damage by 2100, depending on how high the sea rises; in Hawaii, sea level rise will require upgrades to drinking and wastewater facilities of nearly $2 billion over the next 20 years.
Indirect or secondary economic effects of climate change have rarely been quantified, yet are likely to be substantial, the report says. Increased costs for raw materials, energy and transportation will likely translate into higher prices and a loss of competitiveness that could trigger declines in entire economic sectors or regions.

Because of the scope and complexity of the recommended research, the report says that a consortium of university research centers, national labs and federal and state agencies would be uniquely positioned to take on the task.

"The potential costs of the climate impacts are so staggering that this would surely be a wise investment," Ruth says. "Yet current research on the full range of economic costs is sufficient to conclude that delayed action (or inaction) on global climate change will likely be the most expensive policy option. A national policy for immediate action to mitigate emissions coupled with efforts to adapt to unavoidable impacts will minimize the overall costs of continued climate change."

Our grandkids are soooooo gunna love us.

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