The economics of global warming

John Cassidy in The New Yorker:

GlobalwarmingThroughout the midterm campaign season, at least one major issue was conspicuously absent from debate. Except in California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reinvigorated his bid for reëlection by vowing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, climate change was barely mentioned. This can’t be wholly blamed on the politicians: according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans still rank global warming as a low policy priority—far behind Iraq, the economy, and health care—with less than half of respondents designating it a “very important” issue.

Given the news out of Baghdad, it’s only natural that people would choose to focus on catastrophes unfolding in real time, but the longer that global warming is ignored the more intractable it becomes—a point made forcefully last week in a report issued by the British government. Unless the nations of the world come together to control emissions, the report said, we face the risk of “major disruptions to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.”

More here.