Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cost of Externalities

          Economists use the term "externalities" or "externalized costs" to refer to sweeping problems (and the costs associated with them) under the rug. Example: a company pollutes a stream and kills the fish. The problem is the pollution and the loss of renewable resources (fish biomass, esthetic value of the stream..). The problem and its costs are "externalized" if the pollutor is NOT forced to install pollution abatement equipment. In effect, the costs have been conveniently "externalized" from the pollutor onto the backs of the poor devils living downstream: "swept under the rug". That's what the cold, abstract terms "externality" or "externalized costs" really mean.

            Although we await an official verdict from a provincial inquest or court of law, it now appears that we have several potential victims of climate change in British Columbia. 

             The chain of causality here is a bit long, so hold on to yer hats.. "Official" climate change science claims that greenhouse gas emissions are causing the temperature of the earth to rise. This rise will effect local / regional ecosystems in various ways. British Columbia's conifer forests are prone to attack by a beetle which carries a fungus which kills trees. The beetle spreads the fungus as it borrows in the trees to feed. Large stands of conifers have been dying off from beetle / fungus infestations for years. The infected stands of trees change color from green to red making infected sites easy to spot from the air.

                The beetle, fungus and lodgepole pine "co-evolved" together in the climate of British Columbia. However, the die back of lodgepole pine stands today is unusual in both its extent and intensity. Climate change is fingered as the culprit in scientific studies because warmer winters reduce the winter killoff of beetle larvae.

                 The following document provides probable ecosystemic impacts of pine stand dieoff. Includes close up photos of damage. You might want to click on the zoom (plus sign icon) to see them better.

                  Spectacular! Don't forget these trees are supposed to be GREEN. Click on image for full screen image to get the full impact..

                   Now, what to do with all those dead trees? Lodgepole pine are logged anyway so why not cut the trees quickly, before they have time to rot, and use them? The "problem" with this solution - not ascertained yet, we are awaiting an inquest.. - appears to be that the pine killed by beetle / fungus become dessicated rapidly. This, in turn, creates inordinate amounts of EXPLOSIVE sawdust when the logs are cut in modern sawmills. This is the tentative explanation being given for two recent "unprecedented" sawmill explosions in BC which occurred within a three month interval (see lead article above, 1st link). These two explosions killed 2 victims each, for a grand total of 4 potential Global Warming victims: Global Warming produces beetle / fungus infestations which produce a glut of dead trees to process which produces explosive sawdust which produces sawmill explosions which cause human deaths and maimings, destruction of sawmills and equipment and related social / human costs (family and community disruption, health costs, psychotherapy, job loss, stress..) These are some of the hidden costs - the "externalities" or "externalized costs" - of fossil fuel use. How much would our gasoline and other carbon fuels cost if all their associated costs were fully "internalized" onto the backs of the consumer. And - just HOW do you put a cost on A human life, anyway? (No one has figured that one out yet, not to my satisfaction at least..) The cost of Progress, eh..

                      And the link with governmental transparency? The Harper government has proven it's hostility toward science that supports the Anthropogenic (human caused) Global Warming Hypothesis advanced by the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and its reports. See for example:

Internal blog link (related articles): 

                      In a democracy, the people are supposed to be the rulers. Rulers need correct and timely information, presented in context, in order for them - or, at least, their representatives - to make informed decisions. They must see clearly the situation they are dealing with: clear seeing implies the "transparency" of the medium one is looking through. Suppressing relevant information flows obscures the decision making process, rendering it "non-transparent".

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