Warmer and Richer

It is finally good to see someone making this point:  That even if one accepts the worst of the IPCC scenarios (which I do not) the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in terms of lost economic growth, is far higher than the cost of rising temperatures — ESPECIALLY for the poor.

“The surprising conclusion using the Stern Review’s own estimates,” Dr. Goklany writes, “is that future generations will be better off in the richest but warmest” of the I.P.C.C.’s scenarios. He concludes that cutting emissions will do much less good than encouraging sustainable development in poor countries and policies of “focused adaptation” to deal with disease and environmental problems like coastal flooding. For a fifth the cost of the Kyoto Protocol, he calculates, these adaptation policies could yield more immediate and also long-term benefits than would a policy that entirely halted global warming (which would cost far, far more than Kyoto). He argues that this path isn’t merely an economic but also a moral imperative:

For the foreseeable future, people will be wealthier—and their well-being higher—than is the case for present generations both in the developed and developing worlds and with or without climate change. The well-being of future inhabitants in today’s developing world would exceed that of the inhabitants of today’s developed world under all but the poorest scenario. Future generations should, moreover, have greater access to human capital and technology to address whatever problems they might face, including climate change. Hence the argument that we should shift resources from dealing with the real and urgent problems confronting present generations to solving potential problems of tomorrow’s wealthier and better positioned generations is unpersuasive at best and verging on immoral at worst.

He also makes a point I have made for a long time — that the case for strong abatement is more of an aesthetic choice than a practical one.  There are a core of people who don’t like the fact, aesthetically, that man has somehow modified Gaia.

Here is a link to the report itself

  • Doug

    Reading the comments below the original post, the AGW crowd categorically reject the report because: ta da! it’s from a noted libertarian think tank (Cato)! They prefer to believe “their scientists.” As one commenter said, “I’ll say that the probability of the quite negative effects of global warming is far higher than positive outcomes. SO, I BELIEVE WE SHOULD DEAL WITH ‘GLOBAL WARMING’ post haste — that is, if it’s no too late already.” In other words, so what if we screw up the world’s economy and have to live in caves for the rest of our lives — we owe it to our children. Presumably they think life will go on as normal even if we adopt Kyoto-times-1000.

    The entire issue seems to boil down to who you choose to believe, “your scientists or my scientists.” It is so politicized that the word “science” cannot possibly apply anymore.

  • Interesting points… so making the world richer will actually help the world have less of an impact on the geo-climate in the long term, just in the shorter term we will have to deal with warmer temperatures and more volatile seasonal weather patterns.