Written by Gernot Wagner and Martin L Weitzman
“If you had a 10 percent chance of having a fatal car accident, you’d take necessary precautions. If your finances had a 10 percent chance of suffering a severe loss, you’d re-evaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there’s a 10 percent chance this might eventually lead to a catastrophe beyond anything we could imagine, why aren’t we doing more about climate change right now? We insure our lives against an uncertain future – why not our planet?”
This isn’t a long book, at 152 pp, but has another 98 pages of notes and bibliography, indicating a thoroughly researched piece by these two economists. Gernot Wagner also wrote, “But Will the Planet Notice? – How smart economics can save the world“, reviewed in an earlier blog post.
At times I found the reading heavy going, wrapping my head around complex concepts, but this book offers good explanations of ideas such as the 2 degrees carbon budget and levels of risk of disaster relating to delayed action on carbon reductions. The authors see climate change as a difficult but not insurmountable problem, and emphasise that the worst possible outcomes will become increasingly likely the longer that action is delayed.
Climate change is a problem because too few of us consider it one. And those of us who do consider it a problem, or worse, can do little about it unless we get everyone else to act. Either we solve this problem for everyone, or we solve it for none of us…we need to harness market forces to deal with global warming, the problem is so large that individual action won’t be enough.
Although there is a lot of sobering reading in this book, the authors end with a chapter entitled “What can you do?” – this focuses on what citizens can do in their own lives and as members of the community to push the necessary changes in government policy and actions by businesses and organisations.