Emissions And The Global Poor

by Patrick Appel

Ezra Klein, getting adjusted to his new home on the digital pages of the WaPo, passes along word of year-long study (pdf) by The Lancet the University College London on the global impact of climate change:

"Loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change (including climate change) is predicted to be 500 times greater in poor African populations than in European populations," predicts the report. Which presents a particularly tricky political problem. The developed countries that benefit most from fossil fuels will suffer least. The countries with the maximum incentive to prevent climate change have no power to do it.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger make a counterpoint in the last TNR:

Greens often note that the changing global climate will have the greatest impact on the world's poor; they neglect to mention that the poor also have the most to gain from development fueled by cheap fossil fuels like coal. For the poor, the climate is already dangerous. They are already subject to the droughts, floods, hurricanes, and diseases that future warming will intensify. It is their poverty, not rising carbon-dioxide levels, that make them more vulnerable than the rest of us. By contrast, it is the richest humans--those of us who have achieved comfort, prosperity, and economic security for ourselves and for our children--who have the most to lose from the kind of apocalyptic global-warming scenarios that have so often been invoked in recent years.