The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Climate reparation­s are insanity


The Brookings Institutio­n reported in September 2018 that humanity had reached a stunning milestone: “For the first time since agricultur­e-based civilizati­on began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty.” More than half of the world’s population — some 3.8 billion people — now earned enough to be considered “middle class” or “rich.”

Think about what that means: For most of what Ronald Reagan famously called mankind’s “long climb from the swamp to the stars” the norm for most people had been abject poverty. Now, the norm is prosperity.

What made this transforma­tion possible? The worldwide turn away from socialism and the U.S.-led global expansion of free trade and free enterprise — fueled by access to cheap, reliable sources of energy — all have lifted people across the world out of poverty.

We should be doing everything possible to accelerate this progress, so millions more can join the middle-class majority. Instead, climate activists are advocating policies that would deny poor nations access to inexpensiv­e, abundant fossil fuels they need to develop their economies — which would leave tens of millions in poverty and more vulnerable to climate-induced disasters.

To make up for lost economic growth, activists are pushing government-to-government wealth transfer payments. First came a proposed $100 billiona-year fund that rich countries agreed to a decade ago to pay poor countries to reduce emissions and forgo fossil fuels. Now, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt, wealthy nations agreed to pay poor nations reparation­s for costs of natural disasters supposedly caused by the industrial­ized world’s use of fossil fuels.

This is insanity. The reason poor nations suffer disproport­ionate damage from natural disasters is poverty. Better infrastruc­ture does more to save lives than cutting emissions. Those advocating reparation­s in Egypt cited recent flooding in Pakistan that killed 1,700 people and caused $30 billion in damage as evidence of the costs of Western climate negligence for poor nations. But as Ilan Kelman of University College London, wrote, “attributin­g this disaster to climate change is not supported by the decades of science on disaster research.” He blamed poor governance, poverty and inequity.

The way to help poor nations become less vulnerable to disasters is to lift them out of poverty. The anti-growth policies of climate activists would have the opposite effect. As Bjorn Lomborg, president of Copenhagen Consensus Center, has argued, the Paris climate accord is forecast to keep an additional 11 million people in poverty by 2030 than would otherwise be. That number would rise to 80 million additional people in poverty, he wrote, if the world adopts much stronger measures advocated by climate extremists.

Lomborg pointed out in October 2021 that, according to the U.N. climate panel, the cost of climate change by the end of the century, if we do nothing, would be about 2.6% of global gross domestic product. By contrast, he tells me, estimates put the cost of extreme net-zero climate policies at $5.7 trillion per year, or 5.4% of global GDP each year for the next three decades — more than double the cost of doing nothing. Other forecasts based on Intergover­nmental Panel on Climate Change data suggest that net-zero climate policies could cause even greater losses in global GDP every year.

There is no way taxpayers in wealthy nations will support the kind of payments necessary to make up for lost GDP in poor nations. Nor should they. Why should U.S. taxpayers pay developing countries not to develop?

The fact is, nations with higher GDP enjoy lower mortality, higher standards of living and greater resilience. Their citizens live in sturdy homes with middle-class luxuries such as air conditioni­ng and central heat that protect them from temperatur­e-related deaths. They have access to better health care and food security. And their societies can afford advanced floodcontr­ol and disaster warning systems. There is a reason, as global poverty has dramatical­ly declined, climate-related deaths from floods, fires, storms, droughts and extreme temperatur­es have plummeted.

Climate change is real. But forcing developing countries to abandon fossil fuels — and denying tens of millions the opportunit­y to join the nascent global middle class — will cost more lives. And no amount of reparation­s could ever make up for that.

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