Thursday, December 06, 2007

Martin Wolf on Climate Change

Martin Wolf writes about climate change. Nothing really new but a nice link to Malthusian thinking.

He basically summarises a recent Human Development Report from the UN. Newspaper column writers can be thought of as well paid bloggers. They get sent press releases or reports and then simply summarise them adding extra comment and some basic analysis. If only academics didn't have so much real work to do.

Martin Wolf as usual makes a series of excellent points.

Why the climate change wolf is so hard to kill off [FT]

The point of the story of the boy who cried wolf is that, finally, a wolf did appear. I feel the same way about the intellectual heirs of Thomas Malthus. Malthusians have finally found a wolf called climate change. Many now agree. But it is far away and coming slowly. “If the worst comes to the worst,” mutter the rich to themselves, “we can always let our children cope.”

This is the complacency that the latest Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Programme attacks. It does a good job, too. But does it do a good enough job to turn the Bali climate change conference into a call for effective action? I fear not. This is not because it fails to make a morally sound case. It is rather because humanity will change its behaviour only when convinced that the lifestyle the better off enjoy now – and the rest of the world aspires to – remains in reach.

A reader replies in today's FT.

Climate change – not just looming but here now [FT]

We urgently need to devote more of our political energies towards helping our populations adapt, from flood defences through to education campaigns about heat waves to protection against insects and so on. We need to involve civil society better in these adaptations.

I would agree with Mr Wolf that we don’t need to be Malthusian about this: our civilisations are resilient; mankind is ingenious; European leaders and the European Union have already shown their resolve.

But we can only seriously address these issues if collectively we shift the debate beyond simplistic notions about an impending process which, in reality, is already with us.

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