Public Lecture: "Will It Cost the Earth to Save the Planet?"

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Summer School on Global Sustainability

Will It Cost the Earth to Save the Planet?

Speakers: Partha Dasgupta and Amory Lovins; Moderator: John Schellnhuber

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16

James A. Little Theater, New Mexico School for the Deaf

Human caused emissions of greenhouse gases are very likely to result in climate change if current trends continue. This will have serious consequences in the coming decades. What should be done? Some economists argue that the cost of taking steps now to mitigate this problem is likely to drive up energy costs and result in reduced economic growth. They suggest that in the interests of the global economy any action to limit greenhouse gas emissions should be weighted toward letting growth happen as quickly as possible and relying on future increased technological capacities to solve the problem. Others suggest that intergenerational equity requires immediate and decisive action on this issue. Furthermore they argue that rapid technological innovation will allow for continued economic growth.

As Partha Dasgupta observes,

"Economists are divided on the urgency with which the world economy should act so as to mitigate and adapt to global climate change. Some (e.g. the Stern Review, 2006) urge strong global action now and recommend an investment figure of some 1.5% of world income. Others (e.g. Nordhaus, 2007) argue that despite the threats climate change poses to the global economy, it would be more equitable and efficient to push for economic growth so as to build up the productive base of economies (especially poor countries) and to put into effect controls on carbon in an increasing, but gradual manner, starting several decades from now.

The conflicting viewpoints may give the impression that the disagreements are to be traced to differences in the global circulation models that are being invoked by the various protagonists. In my presentation I shall argue instead that the underlying differences between the scholars lie in the way they interpret intergenerational ethics and derive the appropriate rates with which to discount future costs and one benefits. One group (the Stern Review) invokes what can be called Government House Ethics, while the other (Nordhaus) engages in a form of Democratic stock-taking, in which Citizens' ethical values are inferred from their consumption expenditures and then put to use."

Please join us at the James A. Little theater in Santa Fe for an engaging look at the future of environmental change and its relation to policy, economics and human survival.

Amory Lovins is a technologist with a vision of how to address climate change

Partha Dasgupta is an economist who has thought deeply about issues of economic development and the environment.

Together they will explore this debate.