- Journal Article
Achieving agreement about whether and how to control greenhouse gas emissions would be difficult enough even if the consequences were fully known. Unfortunately, choices must be made in the face of great uncertainty, about both likely climate effects and the costs of control. Because several of the greenhouse gases have residence times of decades to centuries, any economic and environmental consequences are for practical purposes irreversible on those time scales. On the other hand, the commitment of resources to emissions control also has an irreversible aspect: investment foregone leaves a permanent legacy of reduced human welfare. Neither of the extreme positions, to take urgent action now or do nothing awaiting firm evidence, is a constructive response to the climate threat. Responsible treatment of this issue leads to a difficult position somewhere in between.
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