Advertisement

Less Stuff or Less Additional Stuff?

Michael O’Hare: “The Stern report suggests that the cost of a real global warming strategy is going to be equivalent to about a 1% tax on all prices of everything everywhere . . . we’re going to need biofuels, more nuclear power, more windmills, and all that for sure, but we are also going to need to do without a lot of stuff, or our grandchildren are going to do without a lot of beaches, coastal cities, water, and the like.”

I think it’s worth being clear on something here. The proposition that we should take bold action against global climate change isn’t a proposal that people in 2026 should have less stuff than people in 2006 for the sake of preserving the environment in 2046. Rather, the proposal is that people in 2026 should have less additional stuff relative to 2006-people than they would otherwise have had were we to just ignore the problem. This isn’t a trivial cost, but it’s not what comes to mind when phrases like “we are . . . going to need to do without a lot of stuff” come to mind. Barring catastrophe, the world will continue to get wealthier over time even if stiff carbon-reduction policies that make energy more expensive are implemented.

Advertisement