Addressing climate-change impacts is often more about ethics than economics, and universities have an especially important role to play in helping humans ensure the planets sustainability, according to Stanford University environmental researchers participating in a symposium on climate and public policy at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.
Stanford scientists Stephen Schneider, the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, and Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies, are among several speakers who will address the AAAS symposium, "The Science and Ethics of a Culture of Sustainability," at 9:15 a.m. Monday, Feb. 19.
"Nations with 20 percent of the worlds populationthe developed countries, such as the United States and Japanhave generated 80 percent of the carbon dioxide contributing to rapid climate change," Schneider said. "Yet a ton of carbon emitted in Beijing does the same thing as a ton of carbon produced in Boston or Brussels. If we are to have a sustainable planet, everyone must be engaged in reducing emissions."
While acknowledging that economists "are essential to the debate," Schneider said that traditional cost-benefit analyses and the focus on goods and services are inadequate to address climate-change impacts.
"Cost-benefit analyses alone, which often focus only on markets, cannot address global inequities around carbon generation and mitigation," said Schneider, co-director of Stanfords Center for Environmental Science and Policy and a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. "To make reasoned and equitable decisions, policymakers need to look not just at the market impacts, but at other factors such as loss of human lives and biodiversity, and quality of life."
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