Frank Ackerman – Can We Afford the Future? The Economics of a Warming World (2009)
Using estimates of the cost of climate change to argue for inaction is to undervalue the lives of future generations, and is fundamentally misguided: The biggest risks of climate change are priceless and unquantifiable. Markets won’t help us to solve them, we need complex international agreements and a WW2-scale mobilization.
Recommended: Weakly. I agree that cost estimates are misguided. Although you can set a price tag on a human life – you do this yourself implicitly every time you choose a cheaper, riskier car over a more expensive, safer one – I don’t see how this can be made to work when it comes to climate change. Partly because of the fundamental uncertainty we’re dealing with, and partly because there’s no choice involved. If you disagree with the price, which planet would you go to? But the market ideology Ackerman objects to is a straw man, which leads him to overstate his case in some odd ways. He thinks the economy is full of free climate lunches, just waiting to be eaten, and he believes that spending $1 billion to avoid climate change is inherently better than spending it to clean up afterwards, because investments in green technologies “create jobs”. Sure, but what about the people we take the $1 billion from to pay for this? He’s forgotten the forgotten man. Mostly, this book serves as proof to why climate policy can’t be left to the left.
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