Thursday, April 8, 2010

Krugman: uncertainty makes the case for action stronger

"You might think that this uncertainty weakens the case for action, but it actually strengthens it. As Harvard’s Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance — rather than what is most likely to happen — should dominate cost-benefit calculations. And utter catastrophe does look like a realistic possibility, even if it is not the most likely outcome.

Weitzman argues — and I agree — that this risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy. Current projections of global warming in the absence of action are just too close to the kinds of numbers associated with doomsday scenarios. It would be irresponsible — it’s tempting to say criminally irresponsible — not to step back from what could all too easily turn out to be the edge of a cliff.

...So what I end up with is basically Martin Weitzman’s argument: it’s the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon."

Link to the NYT article.

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