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Robert J. Shapiro
Chairman, U.S. Climate Task Force

Robert J. Shapiro

Robert Shapiro, Under Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, is chairman of the U.S. Climate Task Force and Sonecon, an economic advisory group. ALL POSTS

Science matters

Q: Some of the most dire impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, are several decades away, and even the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is years away. How should we factor these threats into our decision making today? Should we be seriously worried about them, or not?

Worrying today about the effects from climate change that are still far off is not only sound; it's the heart of this issue. The fact that the debate is focused largely on serious effects that are still decades away is testimony to the success of climate scientists and their popularizers, led by Al Gore, in explaining how climate change really works. The notion that such far-off events can be safely ignored, at least for a while, is an illusion, or at least very naïve, since they're linked so closely and inextricably to everyone's current behavior. Only by recognizing that serious environmental and ecological changes are virtually inevitable given that behavior - potentially catastrophic ones -- can we create the motivation and incentives to change our behavior. And the long time-frame creates the real possibility that by doing so, we can successfully avoid catastrophes a few decades down the line.

We all should care about such far-off developments for precisely the same reasons that parents worry when children take up cigarette smoking. We may not know when that child will develop serious heart or lung problems or even be 100 percent certain that it will happen. But we know the science well enough to reasonably expect that unless that child's behavior changes - and there's still time to do so -- he or she will pay a price too large for any parent to accept.

By Robert J. Shapiro  |  January 5, 2010; 1:48 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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No! No! you guys are off message! Ban Ki Moon said we're gonna die sometime before we even HAVE children. Prince Charles said we only have until the cock crows twice. Al Gore deliberately jammed all the news broadcasts of the dozens of F5 hurricanes hitting the US since 2006 so he could send some more money to his overseas accounts before skipping town. Tom Friedman, Bob Woodward and Elmer Bernstein, all experts on the physics of the atmosphere have warned that Republican businessmen must be taxed at 98% beginning immediately or they are personally going to go up there and start drowning polar bear cubs. How much longer do you clowns think you can hold center ring?

Posted by: chatard | January 9, 2010 9:57 PM
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The climate behavior IS following the predictions of climate models. If you read the recent Global Climate Change Impacts Report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the predictions are coming true. Several examples: 1. More of the precipitation is going to come in intense events (supported by data); 2: Peak spring runoff in the Sierras will move earlier in the year (supported by data). A significant number of the impacts are measured by the calendar, e.g. birds are returning from winter migration earlier and last frost times in the Midwest are moving earlier. The summer ice coverage in the Artic is shrinking even faster than the predictions. So, the predictions are matching up with observations that are hard to mess up. The tough part about the predictions is that they have long term consequences that are scary (sea level rise for one) and that our direct ability to change them is limited. The momentum of climate change will be hard to reverse, and even a drastic change in carbon output will take years to manifest itself, and that will be somewhat subtle, as in it would have been even worse if we had not done it.
Our political system has a hard time with other things that are 20 years away from major issues, like Social Security and Medicare, that have indisputable data. Stuff that tis 20, 50, 100 years out with people troqing darts at the data and predictions seem to be beyond tha ability of the system to cope.

Posted by: jmn12 | January 6, 2010 9:54 AM
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The major insurance companies have already announced that they will no longer cover new properties in low lying areas near water.
Shouldn't the next step be to put a stop to any new construction on land near water that is below a predetermined level. Why allow more properties to be built that will become vulnerable in the future. This would save the government millions in the future.

Posted by: DaveInMD1 | January 6, 2010 9:49 AM
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The prophets of climate change have little evidence of their prognostications of a weather apocalypse. This is especially true in light of the revelation that top scientists have doctored their so-called data. The dirty little secret is that many of them see this as a pretext for economic and social revolution. They are soldiers in a globalist jihad.

Posted by: vanhook99 | January 6, 2010 3:59 AM
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COPENHAGUE EL CALENTAMIENTO GLOBAL la conferencia intentar dictar POLÍTICAS DE MEDIO AMBIENTE EN EL MUNDO. Pero se tomaran acciónes PRÁCTICAs? Ya veremos. Si bien las políticas ESTÁN EN sobre ruedas Hay que procurar que causen un efecto en elcaentamiento global. Por ejemplo, cuantos COCHES HAY EN EL MUNDO? En cuestión de semanas, podemos construir un FILTRO ADAPTADO al tubo de escape, que puede retener el CO2. . asì el TIEMPO apremia, EL CALENTAMIENTO GLOBAL está ahí. ENERGÍA SOLAR, la antimateria ENERGÍA, ENERGÍA EÓLICA, debe reemplazar AL MISMO TIEMPO la combustión de petroleo para producir energía. SIN EMBARGO, NO PODEMOS OLVIDAR fácilmente lo que los VEHÍCULOS SIGNIFICA para la humanidad. Que significan libertad e independencia, tenemos que cambiar no tan rapido, es mejor que empecemos a producir coches eléctricos ò solares, coches, antes de que el Transporte Global se hace cargo. Así que cada CHIMENEA, CADA TUBO DE ESCAPE, CADA Motor de Combustión Interna, debe ser transformado, y se puede hacer en cuestión de semanas.la OIT DEL TRABAJO deje el papel de los políticos, y empezar a construir FILTROS. IT`S TIME FOR China y EE.UU. para llevar al mundo THROUGT esta crisis, TRABAJO EN EQUIPO, NO ES UN ESSUE DE COMPETENCIA, y es una cuestión de supervivencia. IT es hora de escuchar y unir fuerzas para construir el futuro, preservar osos polares, y el mundo como lo conocemos. SOMOS NO TIENE MIEDO DEL CAMBIO MIEDO NO EL FUTURO; tenemos miedo de quedarse sentado sin hacer nada. WE HAVE IENCIA Y EL CÓMO SABER, LETS trabajar como un equipo, no debemos pensar en BREVE CONDICIONES, debemos ver el Futuro, Nuestro Legado para las generaciones futuras, y el futuro Bulding COMIENZA UN NUEVO ORDEN ECONOMICO INTERNACIONAL, QUE NO ESTA BASADO en la especulación, sino en alimentos INGRESO Y PRODUCTOS PARA LA INTEGRIDAD DE CARRERAS. Y CONQUISTA DEL ESPACIO EXTERIOR Y EL APRENDIZAJE nuevos planetas de nuestros errores. Y RESCATE DE ESTE MUNDO. Eso es lo que MENT mayas, NO EL FIN DEL MUNDO.
Manuel Puga

Posted by: jmpa1 | January 5, 2010 10:59 PM
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COPENHAGEN GLOBAL WARMING CONFERENCE WILL TRY TO DICTATE ENVIRONMENT POLICIES AROUND THE WORLD. BUT ANY PRACTICAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN? WE WILL SEE. WHILE POLICIES ARE IN WEELS ACTIONS MUST BE TAKEN THAT MEAN SOMETHING TO GLOBAL WARMING. FOR EXAMPLE, HOW MANY CARS ARE THERE AROUND THE WORLD? IN A MATTER OF WEEKS, WE CAN BUILD A FILTER ADAPTED TO THE EXHAUST TUBE, WHICH CAN TAKE UP CO2. . SO TIME IS UP, GLOBAL WARMING IS THERE. SOLAR ENERGY, ANTIMATTER ENERGY, EOLIC ENERGY, MUST REPLACE AT THE SAME TIME OIL COMBUSTION ENERGY. HOWEVER WE CANNOT FORGET EASILY WHAT AUTOMOBILE MEANT TO MANKIND. IT MEANT FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE, WE MUSTN’T CHANGE THAT SO FAST, WE BETTER START BUILDING ELECTRICAL OR SOLAR CARS, BEFORE GLOBAL TRANSPORTATION TAKES OVER. SO EVERY CHIMNEY, EVERY EXHAUST TUBE, EVERY INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE, MUST BE TRANSFORMED, AND IT CAN BE DONE IN A MATTER OF WEEKS. LET`S LEAVE PAPER WORK TO POLITICIANS, AND START BUILDING FILTERS. IT`S TIME FOR CHINA AND USA TO LEAD THE WORLD THROUGT THIS CRISIS, WORKING AS A TEAM, IT IS NOT AN ESSUE OF COMPETENCE, AND IT IS A MATTER OF SURVIVAL. IT IS TIME TO LISTEN AND JOIN FORCES TO BUILD THE FUTURE, PRESERVE POLAR BEARS, AND THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF THE CHANGE WE DO NOT FEAR THE FUTURE; WE ARE AFRAID OF SITTING THERE AND DO NOTHING. WE HAVE CIENCE, AND THE KNOW HOW, LETS WORK AS A TEAM, WE MUST NOT THINK IN SHORT TERMS, WE MUST SEE THE FUTURE, OUR LEGACY TO FUTURE GENERATIONS, AND THE FUTURE STARTS BULDING A NEW INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER, WHICH IS NOT BASED ON SPECULATION, BUT IN PROVIDING FOOD AND GOODS FOR HUMANE RACE. AND CONQUER THE OUTER SPACE AND NEW PLANETS LEARNING FROM OUR ERRORS. AND RESCUE THIS WORLD. THAT IS WHAT THE MAYAS MENT, NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.
MANUEL PUGA

Posted by: jmpa1 | January 5, 2010 10:49 PM
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