Climate change — our real bequest to future generations

Dean Baker writes: The guiding philosophy on this issue in the United States is pretty much that we can inflict whatever harm we want on people elsewhere in the world because we are powerful and they are not. This is certainly true today, but will it still be true 60 or 70 years from now? Do we expect that the United States will still be able to act unilaterally without regard to the consequences that our actions have on the rest of the world?

Before anyone tries to answer this question, they should consider that the International Monetary Fund’s projections show China’s economy surpassing the US economy before the end of the next presidential term. And China is not the only country whose growth is substantially outpacing ours.

The point is not that we should worry about an invasion from hostile powers, but instead, that we should not imagine that we will be able to inflict great harm on the rest of the world with impunity. In other words, our children and grandchildren may well be forced to pay a substantial price for the damage caused by our greenhouse gas emissions today.

Those who want to worry about questions of generational equity might start to wrap their heads around combating global warming. Global warming threatens to do far more damage to the wellbeing of future generations than the social security and Medicare benefits going to baby-boomers, no matter how much the deficit hawks try to twist the numbers to claim otherwise.

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One thought on “Climate change — our real bequest to future generations

  1. Christopher Hoare

    A nice exercise in economic doublespeak that weakens his argument about the ownership of global warming. If society owes the debt to itself then it does not exist. Only true if the rate of inflation is governed to wipe out the current value of the money the debt is denominated in. Sure, I’d love it if the dollars of my debt that the bank owns against my little plastic car suddenly became nickels, but that doesn’t happen in the real world—only in the illusory world economists inhabit.

    On the climate front, the number of dollars it will take to defend our social infrastructure against climate change created degradation will be far greater in these tiny intergenerational dollars our offspring will inherit than in the dollars we so casually throw about today.

    You’ve been collecting these simplistic articles today, Paul?

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