Why Fighting Global Warming Won’t Make You Poor

As we all well know by now, there’s been a lot of hemming, hawing, feet-dragging, and general torpor about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. One of the main arguments that’s making things move so slowly: If we enact strong legislation to reduce emissions, the economy will collapse.

In fact, just yesterday in China, there was an example of such brow furrowing. Chinese officials expressed concern that reducing their greenhouse gases might spoil their country’s current economic fiesta. From the New York Times piece on the subject:

“The Chinese government is taking climate change extremely seriously,” Qin Dahe, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, told reporters at the briefing. “President Hu Jintao has said that climate change is not just an environmental issue but also a development issue, ultimately a development issue.”

Indeed, even if Chinese leaders acknowledge the problem, they remain resistant to any sweeping measures that could threaten the country’s development. Some efforts are already meeting with uneven results.

But we learned from an International Herald Tribune piece that former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker isn’t so sure that emissions reductions will lead to economic disaster. In a speech he made to the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt yesterday, Volcker said:

“First of all, I don't think (such a step) is going to have that much of an impact on the economy overall. Second of all, if you don't do it, you can be sure that the economy will go down the drain in the next 30 years.”


"What may happen to the dollar, and what may happen to growth in China or whatever," he said, raising his voice, "pale into insignificance compared with the question of what happens to this planet over the next 30 or 40 years if no action is taken."

We agree. After all, it’s pretty hard to get your economy going if you’re living underwater.