Monday, January 28, 2008

Climate adaptation and climate mitigation

TokyoTom has done a good job of concealing the fact that he has a blog, but he mistakenly let the news out with this post criticizing what I'll call the typical foolishness from the Ayn Rand Institute (Tom's more generous).

The Ayn Rand types go beyond the "adapting to climate change is better than doing anything to reduce it" excuse, and say that instead of helping poor countries that are harmed by climate change, we should just lecture them about the need to adopt unfettered capitalism.

TokyoTom's best response is that "far from 'forc[ing] rich countries to become poor', figuring out how to manage a global commons like the atmosphere, while it may have the effect of imposing a cost on the release of carbon, is basically aimed at privatising externalities, with the intention of increasing the efficiency of private transactions and net wealth." In other words, adaptation aid, aid to reduce emissions, and carbon trading make the market more efficient (my take on it, anyway).

And one point Tom may be hinting at in reference to developing nations "leap-frogging" our development path is that they cannot develop the way we did; the consequences would be disastrous for the environment.

There is an even worse outcome than for the entire Third World to industrialize the way we did. It's for a large portion of the Third World to industrialize like we did - say China, India, and Southeast Asia - while the much of the rest experiences little growth. For the entire Third World to industrialize like us would be a biological disaster, but for just part of it would be a human disaster.

I continue to think that the greatest social impact of climate change is on food-insecure people - subsistence farmers and farmers who are so poor that minor changes in farm income have significant effects on the quality of food they can purchase. These people are screwed by climate change while bearing minimal responsibility for the problem. I saw them last month in Madagascar, farmers rushing to get rice planting done in time when the rains came a month late. For the Ayn Rand types to be so self-righteous to them is just an amazing example of ignorance.

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