Thursday, April 22, 2010

The End of Climate? Hello Professor Krugman.

Engaging the battle to mitigate climate change is one of the fundamental driving principles behind World Streets, since we have taken it as our main metric for remedial action in the transport sector, which as you all know accounts for something like 20% +/-5% of all GHG emissions. By "metric" we mean that the climate emergency calls for sharp near-term reductions in emissions, and it just so happens that the transport sector is extremely well placed to do its part. But in light of recent attacks on the part of climate deniers, what is the score? Should we now give up on our climate metric? Let us hear what Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, has to say about it.

Building a Green Economy

- Paul Krugman, New York Times Magazine

If you listen to climate scientists — and despite the relentless campaign to discredit their work, you should — it is long past time to do something about emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If we continue with business as usual, they say, we are facing a rise in global temperatures that will be little short of apocalyptic. And to avoid that apocalypse, we have to wean our economy from the use of fossil fuels, coal above all.

But is it possible to make drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions without destroying our economy?

Like the debate over climate change itself, the debate over climate economics looks very different from the inside than it often does in popular media. The casual reader might have the impression that there are real doubts about whether emissions can be reduced without inflicting severe damage on the economy.

In fact, once you filter out the noise generated by special-interest groups, you discover that there is widespread agreement among environmental economists that a market-based program to deal with the threat of climate change — one that limits carbon emissions by putting a price on them — can achieve large results at modest, though not trivial, cost. There is, however, much less agreement on how fast we should move, whether major conservation efforts should start almost immediately or be gradually increased over the course of many decades.

In what follows, I will offer a brief survey of the economics of climate change or, more precisely, the economics of lessening climate change. I’ll try to lay out the areas of broad agreement as well as those that remain in major dispute. First, though, a primer in the basic economics of environmental protection.

The full text of this article can be accessed here:

# # #

About the author:
Paul Krugman is a Times columnist and winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. His latest book is “The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.” You can read his Conscience of a Liberal blog at And as you see here he can also ride a bike (at least he could back in 1973 when this picure was taken.)

# # #

From the editor:

Thanks Paul. Getting the climate metric right is critical not only for the planet and our future, but also for sustainable transportation. Getting the carbon out of the sector is an important goal. It is important because it puts pressure on us all to get results in very short period of time -- we have taken our primary time horizon for action and scale results as the period starting tomorrow morning and going out to 2015.

But there is far more to it than that. When we achieve sharp reductions at this rate, we succeed in accomplishing many other important things as well, a long list which includes fossil fuel and resource savings, reduced geopolitical tensions and interventions, traffic reductions, more affordable transport for all, fewer injuries and accidents, reduced bills for infrastructure construction and maintenance, safer and healthier cities, stronger economies, and the long list goes on.

What is so particularly interesting about the mobility sector is that there is really a great deal we can do in a relatively little time. And at relatively low cost. Beyond this, there is an important joker which also needs to be brought into the picture from the very beginning, and that is that these reductions can be achieved not only without harming the economy or quality of life for the vast majority of all people. To the contrary sustainable transport reform can be part of a 21st century economic revival which places increased emphasis on services and not products.

But that's what Professor Krugman has just said, as you will see if you take the time to get to the full piece here: And should you need any further convincing let me share with you the words that the redoubtable Lee Schipper sent on with a copy of this piece: "Best article I have read in years."

Print this article