Whether weather or climate change

It’s just a matter of time – so to speak. One seasonal, periodic, short-term; the other, long term. The experts at Nasa explain in NASA – What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate? An excerpt that should invite further reading,

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

With context of that article of 2005 this timely piece from The Guardian, Record US temperatures are work of El Niño and polar vortex, experts say  makes the basics of a complex issue fall in place. So one of the questions that flow can be, is the intensity of current El Niño (apt name) a normal possibility for the weather or a consequence of climate change?

The just concluded COP21 on climate change aims to have participating countries implement agreed actions to reduce activities that have cumulatively and in just a few centuries contributed to a drastic change in the climate. And if the direction of this change is not slowed to a specific threshold temperature level, ideally 1.5C, life and living conditions on the planet may deteriorate, and irreversibly. So, in this, what role can the economist play in achieving this goal?

Prof Mark Thoma of the economistsview blog explains in ‘plain speak’, with a look at US politics for the mainly US readers, The economic hurdles for beating global warming.

This agreement changes that by including all countries in the plans to reduce greenhouse gases. While this is a key improvement, it’s important to recognize that effective action against climate change will require overcoming several problems, what economists call market failures.

Of course, implementing some mechanisms to address ‘market failure’ would require action by legislators. And the US for one is a country where both political parties are rather beholden to corporate interests, while the UK’s posture in Paris openly (and comically) contradicted its domestic policy. Thus one can expect more well-intentioned action to be forthcoming more from other countries, including those more threatened by actions of other polluting countries, and not just the Western countries which are largely responsible for the cumulative effects of climate change.

To know the pledged annual financial contribution of the historical polluting rich countries to developing countries to address the challenges is express that automatic wry smile. That contribution? US$100 billion, a massive 0.25% of their collective annual GDP, as against the relatively modest cost in money to the US taxpayer of US$6 trillion and counting for the chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention other misadventures).

Climate can certainly cooperate by slowing its rate of increase of warming – but only if counter-parties, nations, do their share to mitigate, even arrest, this rate of increase. Could it be that, ‘This time is different’? If not, a hot, hot time in the old town tonight, and tomorrow, and tomorrow… – with occasional interludes of pleasant weather to grateful groups migrating from drought and famine.


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