Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
BOSTON — Admittedly, it is a rather difficult proposition: to put a price on climate change.
But dollar signs tend to drive the point home, especially when they come before, say, 13 figures. And so it is with climate change.
Deciding the cost of a heatwave — like the one that recently swept the United States — helps determine how quickly something is done about it.
In other words, numbers drive policy.
Here’s another uncomfortable, and inconvenient, truth about climate change:
As the U.S. struggles with economic malaise, as Europe digs out of debt, the Middle East rises up and Japan and China confront economic challenges of their own, environmental problems are on the march.
This is making life harder by adding economic costs, political complexities and additional human suffering to just about every corner of the planet.
These challenges were evident last year, when the U.S. Congress failed to pass climate legislation.Among the many heated criticisms of the climate bill was that it would devastate an already crippled economy by raising taxes and causing even more people to lose their jobs.
In response, the Obama administration focused more on the positive effects of investing in clean energy than on the devastating effects of dying livestock and rising sea levels.
What was hardly discussed at all was the cost of doing nothing.
“It’s pretty clear that the cost of inaction will far, far exceed the cost of action,” Steve Herz, an attorney with the Sierra Club’s international climate program, said last week.
Let’s revisit the U.S. heat wave for a moment. It is in no way the worst byproduct of climate change, but it is one for which specific numbers are readily available.
The Atlantic published a punchy piece that broke down the costs.
So, for example, crop failure pushed the price of corn to all-time highs, peaking in June at $7.80 a bushel (it’s usually more like $4.20).
In terms of beef, the heat may not raise the price because it tends to also decrease the demand. But the heat does kill the cows. Farmers in the Midwest reported serious losses. In Illinois alone, as many as 4,000 cattle died in the recent heat.
People tend to die in the heat, as well. The National Weather Service reported that as many as 64 people died in 15 states in late July.And that is just one heat wave, in a developed country.
Now multiply that by climate problems across the globe –from record droughts in China, to bigger storms in Bangladesh, to rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers and ice caps, and more– and the extent of the challenge become clear.
Or does it?
“The stuff we can measure is already really bad,” said Laurie Johnson, chief economist at the National Resources Defense Council’s climate center, in an interview with GlobalPost. “But the stuff we can’t measure is so much more awful.”
It is very difficult to monetize, for example, the loss of an entire island nation subsumed by the sea or all the world’s coral reef.
Tens of thousands of lives have been lost this year in Somalia due to the worst drought that country has experienced in six decades.
Scientists used to be wary of correlating a single, record-breaking storm with climate change.
But trends are now emerging in which record-breaking events continue to happen over extended periods of time. And scientists like trends.
The Washington Post reported last week that 2011 is now tied with 2008 for the most billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States — and hurricane season is yet to come.
The flooding of the Missouri River, which is ongoing, pushed 2011 over the edge, causing up to $4 billion dollars in damage so far.
Worldwide, German reinsurer Munich Re said2011 has already in the first half of the year accumulated the most losses to date, though a big chunk of that is attributable to the punishing costs associated with Japan’s Mar. 11 earthquake.
“US$ 265 billion in economic losses up to the end of June easily exceeds the total figure for 2005, previously the costliest year to date (US$ 220 billion for the year as a whole),” the company wrote in a July release.
Sir Nicholas Stern, a British economist, in a 2006 climate change report commissioned by the U.K. government, concluded that failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would trigger up to a 20 percent drop in the world’s GDP by 2050, whereas the cost to the global economy of tackling the issue head on would be just over 1 percent.
Inaction means we would continue on our current trajectory, which most climate scientists agree means our planet will warm an average of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Farenheit) by 2060 or 2070.
What does all of this mean on the ground? What does Lord Stern’s “market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen” actually look like?
In other words, very bad things happen.
(Saanya Gulati contributed to this report)
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.
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