mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author

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The Cost-Benefit On Global Warming

(Host intro) The Kyoto Protocol on global warming doesn’t expire for another
six years. But the British government says we have to start planning for 2012
right now. There’s a report set to come out in London Monday. Britain’s chief
economist will say whatever it costs now to change our business practices will
still be cheaper than the long-run economic impacts of climate change.
Commentator Mark Hertsgaard says there’s a new economic logic at work.

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(Mark Hertsgaard) When European journalists asked President Bush a year and half
ago why he refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, he said: “Because it would
wreck our economy.”

Well, industrial giants have been proving the president wrong ever since.
British Petroleum invested $20 million to increase its energy efficiency.
Three years later, the oil giant has saved $650 million. This week, Morgan
Stanley said it’s investing $3 billion in the carbon trading market.

It’s great that big companies now see that going green can make them green.
Now a new British government study gives a second powerful economic reason for
fighting global warming. Turning Mr Bush’s assertion on its head, former World
Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern
warns that not slashing greenhouse gas
emissions is what will wreck the world economy.

Left unchecked, Stern says, the cost of global warming’s impacts-including
property lost and businesses ruined, could cause the worst global downturn
since the Great Depression.

Those impacts will cost 5 to 20 times more than the cost of bringing
greenhouse emissions under control. A recent Tufts University
study
estimated
the cost will be $20 trillion annually by the year 2100. So, not only can
going green make money, not going green will lose lots of money.

The problem is that markets don’t have long-term vision. But government can
send the signals markets need to push innovation forward. The Kyoto Protocol’s
emission limits have in effect put a price on greenhouse gases. That has
fueled a vibrant carbon trading market in Europe and motivated industry to cut
emissions further.

It isn’t enough. Alone, neither government nor markets can slow global
warming. But together, they just might if we act fast.


(Host) Mark Hertsgaard is the author of Earth
Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future
.

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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.

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