Friday, January 1, 2010

Y2K and Global Warming

The New York Times has a great op-ed today about the great apocalypse of the previous decade, the dreaded Y2K. While the article doesn't make the comparison to our current favorite apocalyptic scenario, global warming, it is hard not to ignore the similarities.

What if global warming turns out to be just as disastrous as Y2K (which is to say, not at all disastrous)? In my view, it's still 100% worth investing as heavily as possible in zero-carbon/low-carbon technologies. Why? Well, if we invest in keeping carbon levels down and global warming is another false alarm, we will have spent millions upon millions modernizing our energy delivery infrastructure and giving a whole host of clean technologies a jump-start in cost effectiveness. The Y2K modernizations similarly "wasted" millions upgrading computer systems, but we were able to put these new systems to use. The return on the money invested might not be positive, but it certainly won't be zero.

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