Climate change and the individual
28/08/2012 § 6 Comments
Due to the initiative and effort of Eric Crampton, there is now an economics blog on Sciblogs. It’s called The Dismal Science and will pull posts from several excellent New Zealand economics blogs. Thanks, Eric, and yay us.
It has interesting and Darwinian implications for climate change. For example, the Kapiti Coast has just informed residents of low-lying areas that their properties will be under water if the sea level rises.
I’ve seen similar maps for several areas in the lower North Island — Kapiti, Wellington, the Hutt Valley. They are informative, but they are also just a question of physics and maths. If your house is 1 metre above sea level and the sea rises 2 metres, given that 1 < 2, it should be pretty easy to work out the consequences. It gets complicated, of course, with more precise measurements and predictions, and accounting, too, for storm surges and so on. But the essence is that water seeks its own level and some numbers are smaller than bigger numbers.
For that reason, the reaction of one affected resident was curious:
The sea-risk report is ‘just another thing to bamboozle residents’, say Elizabeth and Terence O’Brien, from Raumati.
These individuals have decided that the report isn’t about preparing and planning and informing, it is about ‘bamboozling’. The nice thing about methodological individualism is that we can work with that. There is no need to argue, cajole, or convince. I can look at low-lying beachfront property and wonder how long it will last; they can see it as a great investment opportunity. We can both be pleased in the present with our accurate foresight. Then, in the future, we will individually bear the consequences of our beliefs and choices.
Obviously, the whole topic of climate change is more complex. But, in the end, individuals need to make decisions about their own circumstances, using the information and theories they think are most germane. And that’s pretty interesting to study.