North v South 2.0

We often hear that global warming is a global problem that requires a global solution. The developing world, on the other hand, wants none of that:

At a gathering of 2,400 of the world’s most powerful people at Davos, a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, leaders from emerging nations said they wanted the United States, European Union and others in the West to be more accountable for the heat-trapping emissions their cars and factories produce.

They also asserted their right to stoke their own economies, even if greenhouse gas levels rise as a result.

While this smacks of having their cake and eating it, the developing countries are right in the latter assertion. They deserve to be able to expand their economies. In doing so, they will make themselves more resilient to the damaging effects of global warming, if there are any. Adaptation in turn, by reducing the costs of global warming, makes the argument for mitigation less compelling. In short, the best repsonse to global warming is not to engage in some meaningless North-South war, but to expand free trade and liberalize developing world economies to make them richer.