Gernot-Wagner (c) Yuki Kokubo

Gernot Wagner

Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet

Festival of Ideas/
Tue 10 March 2015

Gernot Wagner

Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet

Gernot-Wagner (c) Yuki Kokubo
Tue 10 March 2015,

If you had a ten percent chance of having a fatal car accident, you’d take necessary precautions. If your finances had a ten percent chance of suffering a severe loss, you’d reevaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there’s a ten percent chance this might eventually lead to a catastrophe beyond anything we could imagine, why aren’t we doing more about climate change right now? We insure our lives against an uncertain future — why not our planet?

In his new book Climate Shock (written with Martin Weitzman), Gernot Wagner explores in lively, clear terms the likely repercussions of a hotter planet, drawing on and expanding from work previously unavailable to general audiences. In this event, Wagner, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, argues that the longer we wait to act, the more likely an extreme event will happen. A city might go underwater. A rogue nation might shoot particles into the Earth’s atmosphere, geoengineering cooler temperatures. Zeroing in on the unknown extreme risks that may yet dwarf all else, Wagner looks at how economic forces that make sensible climate policies difficult to enact, make radical would-be fixes like geoengineering all the more probable. What we know about climate change is alarming enough. What we don’t know about the extreme risks could be far more dangerous. Wagner helps us to understand that we need to think about climate change in the same way that we think about insurance – as a risk-management problem, only here on a global scale.

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