Monday, February 1, 2010

Wanna trade?

Today, I find myself how many human lives I would be willing to sacrifice to reduce carbon emissions. No matter how I approach the issue, the number keeps coming back to roughly zero. Both readers of this blog likely understand that emissions controls reduce industrial activity, whether through forcing firms to use expensive scrubbers that they might not be able to otherwise afford or through paying for credits (or via fines, levies, fees, sanctions or whatever else you might think of). From there, it doesn't take much imagination to see how people with relatively few opportunities are hurt when those opportunities are taken away. Sure, they will adapt; people are hella good at adapting when the situation changes, but adaptation is costly, and when the stakes are starving children who need bed nets, removing the ability to work, even if it is what we imagine to be meager work, is utterly abominable.

It's quite a wonder that anyone could accuse proponents of freedom to be out of touch with reality. I suspect there are some folks who never had to confront the guy whose kid has to starve when there's an operational, if a bit sooty, factory just o'er the hill and 'cross the dale. What, a hungry child isn't real enough? Sheesh.


  1. To play a little Devil's advocate, this assumes that there is no adverse affect from climate change. It might be perfectly reasonable to close some factories if it saves half your farmland from turning to desert. Some environmentalism is just pure anti-humanist, but it's reasonable to think there could be a trade-off between the environment (whose destruction can kill people) and industry (whose destruction can kill people). Of course, if we're thinking of carbon emissions, any caps on developing countries is just absurd.

  2. Point taken. I should have been more specific and said "net lives".