UN Climate Report: A Stern Message to Climate Nihilists

The main headline in the press reporting about the UN Climate Report released last Friday seems to be that climate change could impact the economy by up to 10% decline in GDP by 2100 – in roughly 81 years. This focus by the press on the long-term monetary impact is problematic.

Long-term predictions rest on the assumption of “ceteris paribus”. One assumes that a certain long-term event has a high likelihood to occur if all the other variables during the prediction period remain unchanged. We all know from hindsight that most of these long-term assumptions were, well, just assumptions. Reality turned out to be different. Because we intuitively know this they carry little credibility. 

In today’s environment of Twitter tweets, it is understandable, to sum up a comprehensive report in a catchy headline. But the mainstream press focusing on an 80+ year prediction only validates current thinking by conservative politicians and their mostly older voters that one can ignore the problem or at least kick the can further down the road.

That climate change could impact the economy by up to 10 percent by 2100  is actually the least interesting aspect of the UN Climate Report. The real relevant analysis is that climate change is already hurting all of us today and that we might have reached the point of no return. We have been sliding down a slippery slope for a century and now start to face the drying up of farmland, the swamping of coastal areas, the burning of large swaths of land, horrible air and sea pollution and the displacement of hundreds of millions of people resulting in famines and wars. Yes, there is already an economic impact here in the US. Our current President wants to spend billions on building a wall “fencing in” the US, money that is urgently needed for health care and infrastructure projects. 

Our Nihilist-in-Chief will label or maybe already has labeled the UN Climate Report as fake news. I don’t know, I don’t follow his twitter utterings. The report will either be ignored by him and his underlings or used to whip up his “climate nihilist” base. If action is being taken it will be on the local level and irrespective of any political affiliation.

Here in Southwest Florida climate change is already having a severe economic impact. Red tide and blooming algae are harming smaller businesses, employees are losing their jobs, tourism is suffering  – not to speak of property values. How long can governor-elect DeSantis or senator-elect Scott ignore the problem? The usual window dressing measures – spending a few hundred million here and a few hundred there won’t cut the mustard anymore. If they want to be reelected decisive and fundamental action is needed to upgrade sewage disposal, limit the use of nutrient flow from agriculture further north and reign in unfettered residential development. It has been done on a small island on Florida’s Gulf Coast: Sanibel Island!