Saturday, November 26, 2016

ENERGY POVERTY VS CLIMATE CHANGE. Is forcing poor people to forego economic development in order to prevent climate change morally dubious? Ronald Bailey examined the question for Reason Magazine:
But what about climate change? Current renewable sources of energy are not technologically capable of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of energy poverty. Consequently, the Breakthrough writers see "no practical path to universal access to modern levels of energy consumption" that keeps the projected increase in global average temperature below the Paris Agreement on climate change goal of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. This implies that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will exceed 450 parts per million. They correctly point out that forcing poor people to forego economic development in order to prevent climate change is a "morally dubious proposition." They additionally observe that the wealth and technology produced by economic growth increases resilience to climatic extremes and other natural disasters. When bad weather encounters poverty, disaster ensues.

It is worth noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's shared socioeconomic pathway narratives for the rest of the century include one, dubbed "SSP5," in which fossil fuels remain cheap, greenhouse gas concentrations more than triple, the average global temperature increases by nearly 4 degrees Celsius, and the rate of economic growth is high. Is that future a hell on earth? Not at all.

The "development first" SSP5 agenda results in the eradication of extreme poverty, greater gender equality, and universal access to education, safe drinking water, and modern energy before mid century, along with a strong build-up of developing countries' human and social capacity. "Lower socio-environmental challenges to adaptation result from attainment of human development goals, robust economic growth, highly engineered infrastructure with redundancy to minimize disruptions from extreme events, and highly managed ecosystems," notes the SSP report. In other words, people living in this economically robust scenario have greater incomes (up from the current average of around $10,000 to about $140,000 per capita in current dollars by 2100) and have access to much more advanced technologies with which to address whatever problems man-made climate change may throw at them.

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