Poor first to feel global warming’s effects

Sam Eaton and Kai Ryssdal Apr 6, 2007

Poor first to feel global warming’s effects

Sam Eaton and Kai Ryssdal Apr 6, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: VOIP was our lead story today. The off-lead brings another acronym: IPCC. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its second of what are planned to be four reports on global warming today.

The story’s right up Sam Eaton’s alley. Hi Sam.

SAM EATON: Hey, Kai.

RYSSDAL: We had this report that came out in February talking about how global warming is happening, how human beings are probably 90 percent the cause of it. What does this report have to say?

EATON: Basically, Kai, a lot of people are calling this the “emotional heart” of climate change research. This is the first time scientists — and we’re talking about thousands of scientists from dozens of countries — came out with a report that described, in detail, what’s already happening due to global warming and what’s likely to happening. Basically how species, water supplies, ice sheaths, regional weather patterns are faring. And the bottom line is not so well. And the point the report makes is that there are real economic and social consequences to these changes, already measurable ones. And they’re likely to get worse.

RYSSDAL: Well let’s pursue that for just a second. Who might stand to gain, and who might stand to lose?

EATON: Yeah Kai, this is perhaps maybe be the cruel irony of climate change and global warming. Some of the northern latitudes — these industrialized nations that have been basically spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for more than a century — could actually see some benefits of global warming according to this report. At least in the short term. You have more rain, longer growing seasons, the opening of, say, the arctic shipping route which we’ve reported on in this program. But say, you know, temperatures rise 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, you balance that out with a mass extinction of about a quarter of the world’s species, flooded coastlines, and the poorest of the poor — say African island nations — would be the worst hit, creating perhaps, you know, hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.

RYSSDAL: All right, so follow me on this one for a minute. There are some who have called this maybe the market failure of all time. Those who are least responsible for global warming are paying the highest price. Does this report talk about any remedies, any possible solutions that richer countries can offer?

EATON: Number one I think, Kai, would be money. More money is needed into adaptation projects, going into the poorest of the countries. These are the people that are gonna be the most hardest hit and the least able to deal with that within their own economies. Currently, the funding in that area is in the tens of millions of dollars. So really kind of miniscule. Another option would be, you know, bringing the developing world… more into the cap and trade program, a global system where they could benefit from, say, forestry projects, that kind of thing. Sell those credits on a world market.

RYSSDAL: Cap and trade, where Westernized, industrialized countries are figuring our how to basically buy the sell the right to pollute.

EATON: Sure, and developing nations could play a very positive role in that.

RYSSDAL: Sam, what recommendations or suggestions does the report offer as a way to avoid what everybody says are catastrophic consequences?

EATON: The bottom line, Kai, is a reduction in green house gas emissions. This is the least-costly way to deal with this issue long-term. There’s a gradient of costs to, you know, projected temperature rises. The worse case scenario, we’re talking 5 percent of global GDP, that’s trillion of dollars. Not to mention a 13 to 20 foot sea-level rise. So the cost could be business as usual, or very significant.

RYSSDAL: Sam Eaton covers global warming and a whole lot of other things from our sustainability desk. Thank you, Sam.

EATON: Thanks, Kai.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.