2122. Truth telling, economics and climate.

From Project Syndicate

Stephen Roach: Economists (including me) have an unfortunate knack for compartmentalizing. We treat non-economic developments like COVID-19 as so-called exogenous shocks, rather than build them into our forecasting models as endogenous features.


Its not that we are lying, it’s that we are passively not telling the truth. Sad, because the people need guidance or at least understanding, and we are not giving it to them. 

Here is what I see. I hope I am wrong.

We must cut fossil fuel use to stay under 2 degrees. That  means there is no point in extracting more coal oil or gas from the earth, which means severe stranded assets. So be it.

[Image to help. A car has ten gallons of gas, when burnt, one taankfull, it adds  about 200 lbs of co2 to the atmosphere. One car, one tank! Imagine all the cars say from 1900 till now running backward  for 120 years to take the co2 they put in out of the atmosphere.out of the atmosphere. That is the amount we need to be talking about.]

If the uses of fossil fuels are not going to be cut sufficiently  (eliminated) to prevent a 3 or 4° rise, are we willing to discuss how such a failure might  unfold?

Quick and dirty modeling 

If we do not cut fossil fuels temperature goes up, crops fail, migrations grow intense and turn into massacres.

If we do cut fossil fuels,  assume 10% this year, 20% of the remainder in 2021, 30% in 2024, 40% in 2025. 5.. That would leave only sequestering what is already in the atmosphere, but note, there is no proposal, with numbers and timing, to achieve that proposed by anybody. (I am aware of) 

But how could we cut 10% this year? It would mean transportation cuts and home heating cuts and business closures and bank failures  now, not in 2035.

The result, and here we get to the unspeakable, merely such cuts would lead to the starvation of 50% of the world population that live in the cities. Of course they would pour out into the countryside, more damage.

No need to go on with this scenario, but to urge you to present alternative scenarios. 

Several are

  • Pray
  • Tech will save us
  • The rich will manage a process that works for all
  • We can put solar panels everywhere

I do think it is this bad. But please tell me I am wrong.  We could spend our effortsm  not on what to do, but on how we might cope with the consequences of what is going to happen that is out of our control.

I  loved the NYT article on how China has mobilized to deal with coronavirus gracefully. Is there a possibility of dealing with climate in such a way?



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