Martin Wolf, one of the world's most respected writers on the economy, recently wrote two columns in the Financial Times (May 15 and 22) dealing with the looming climate chaos.

These columns followed the recent report that the carbon dioxide level had exceeded 400 parts per million, a level not seen in 4.5 million years.

Wolf writes: "In brief, humanity is conducting a huge, uncontrolled and almost certainly irreversible climate experiment with the only home it is likely to have. Moreover, if one judges by the basic science and the opinions of the vast majority of qualified scientists, risk of calamitous change is large."

Wolf is concerned by the relative inaction on this issue. He contrasts that inaction and lack of attention to the hysteria about the level of public debt that our children and grandchildren will face.

He points out that if the worst came to pass regarding the debt, there would be a default. This outcome is certainly one that we don't want to happen, but life would go on.

However, Wolf and many, many others view that bequeathing a planet in climatic chaos is a rather bigger concern. We have nowhere else to go.

He writes: "If we are to take a prudential view of public finances, we should surely take a prudential view of something irreversible and much costlier."


Given the trajectory of increase in carbon dioxide levels, Wolf estimates that the chances of keeping the level below 450 parts per million are close to zero. Even the International Energy Agency's (IEA) latest report warned, "The path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 degrees Celsius and 5.3 degrees Celsius."

Wolf claims that the climate skeptics already have won by preventing any effective change. However, Wolf and the IEA point out that there are still steps we can take to somewhat alleviate this dire situation. Wolf's first suggestion is to implement carbon taxes and the IEA stresses energy efficiency.

Despite these steps, Wolf concludes: "Only the threat of more imminent disaster is likely to change this and, by then, it may well be too late. This is a depressing truth. It may also prove a damning failure."

The situation is indeed dire, but not entirely hopeless.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column is published every Friday in the Colorado Daily.