Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Apples and oranges comparison of sacrificing today for a better future climate

One of the many silly arguments made by the climate delayers is that we shouldn't undertake financial costs today to improve the physical climate in 2050 or 2100, because those future societies will be richer than us. Climate change mitigation is taking from the poor present to give to wealthy future when really we should pollute, pollute, pollute, and be happy.

An interesting concept if applied across the board, and somewhat at odds with other moral precepts holding that we, the present, create future generations and have a moral obligation to improve their lot. Still, there's another reply that Felix Salmon came up with a while back:

the $400 billion cost will not be borne by all present citizens equally – it will be borne much more by the rich, who are the major consumers of energy. If you compare the wealth of the rich today to the wealth of future generations in general tomorrow, then the increase looks much smaller.
I'd add that the benefits, to the extent that it involves technology transfers to developing countries, can help present-day poor people (yes, I know the $400b could help today's poorest even more effectively than through clean tech, but that's a purely rhetorical argument since it won't actually be used for that purpose.)

The rest of Salmon's post is also good.

Via Brad DeLong.

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