Rich and fighting back, or poor and take your chances?

Keeping with the "growth is good" thread, Ron Bailey illustrates again how a little drag on growth gives outsized consequences in the long run:

Stern makes his case by combining worst case climate model predictions with worst case economic model predictions. The predictable result is disaster 100 years hence. For his economic analysis Stern essentially uses the A2 storyline from the Third Assessment Report, issued in 2001 by U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That storyline supposes relatively slow economic growth (2 percent per year), global economic autarky, continued population growth, and retarded technological progress. The result is that world GDP by 2100 would be only $243 trillion while world population reaches 15 billion. Today, GDP per capita is almost $7000, although unevenly distributed. In this scenario, world per capita GDP would rise to just over $16,000 by 2100.

But there are other IPCC scenarios. For example, the A1 scenarios foresee stronger economic growth (3.5 percent per year), global economic integration, population peaking then falling to 7 billion, and a lot of technological progress. The result is global GDP of $550 billion and a per capita income of nearly $80,000 by 2100. Quite a bit of difference. Surely it is reasonable to argue that if one wants to help future generations deal with climate change, the best policies would be those that encouraged economic growth. This would endow future generations with the wealth and superior technologies that could be used to handle whatever comes at them including climate change. In other words, responsible policy makers will select courses of action that move humanity from a slow growth trajectory to a high growth trajectory.

Interesting that the Stern report depends on a storyline that, plausibly, describes what the world would be like if radical environmentalists/leftists had their preferred vision of the world (autarkic, precuationary-principle retardation of technology, low economic growth). Snark aside, Ron is (again) right that growth now means more resources later to tackle problems that come up. Even if you presume the rosier scenario is the one where nothing is done now (and thus has 20% of world GDP as a cost per year due to Global Warming), you still end up an order of magnitude richer (worldwide), or roughly 5 times better off than under the nasty pessimistic scenario.

In any case, any proposed scenario for mitigating climate change should take very, very seriously negative effects on economic growth- blithe hand waving that "we just have to accept less" simply won't do- richer countries will be able to deal with adverse climate change better than poorer ones, and as countries get richer, they invariably get cleaner and more efficient (e.g. if China's plans to build a plethora of nuclear plants succeeds, its grotesque coal-fired emissions will at least level if not decline simply due to the substitution) and more capable of dealing with rising sea levels or whatnot. Active climate change (to reverse the effects and 'anteterraform' the Earth back to some pre-industrial level of CO2, etc) and mitigation also requires an advanced worldwide industrial division of labor.[1] Let's not de-industrialize and then cross our fingers that 'Gaia' will see fit to let some miserable remnant of us survive...

(footnote below)

fn1. I still maintain that if you're not talking atmospheric carbon sequestration and other active climate change options, you're not even remotely serious about the problem.

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