Build Resilience Into Society to Meet Environmental Crises (Letter to the Editor)

Build Resilience Into Society to Meet Environmental Crises (Letter to the Editor)

September 28, 2005
Originally published in Financial Times

 

From Mr Myron Ebell.

Sir, It is disappointing that you are unwilling to apply even a modicum of your newspaper's extraordinary expertise in economic issues in your editorials on global warming policy ("The hurricane coast", September 24)

That global warming is causing more intense hurricanes is rejected by the leading hurricane experts. But even in the unlikely event that the global mean temperature rises rapidly in the coming decades and the effects include bigger hurricanes, an increase in the rate of sea level rise, and the return of malaria to London, your policy recommendations are obtuse economically.

You remark that hurricanes "Katrina and Rita have already contributed to the fight against global warming ... by forcing up the price of oil and gas", but then note correctly that more stringent measures will be needed to achieve the desired cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. How much more stringent? Leading alarmists believe that total emissions would have to be cut by at least 60 per cent by 2050.

On the other hand, the International Energy Agency estimates that global consumption of coal, oil and gas will go up by over 60 per cent in just the next 30 years. To achieve the level of emissions reductions contemplated, therefore, would cost hundreds of trillions of dollars. As the European Union is discovering, even the modest cuts required by the Kyoto protocol are too expensive for rich countries to achieve.

Yet the total global costs of dealing with all the potential effects of global warming, including the several you mention, do not add up to more than a tiny fraction of the costs of cutting emissions. As Indur Goklany, Bjorn Lomborg and others have shown, by far the best strategy at present is to build resilience in societies so they are better able to handle environmental challenges.

Greater resilience results directly from increases in wealth and technological capacity. Thus, rather than promoting policies that would impoverish the world by putting it on an energy starvation diet, you should be advocating policies that lead to wealthier and technologically more creative societies. These include free markets, private property and the rule of law.