The reasoned and unreasoned approaches

In its usual timely way, The Economist this week has a survey on climate change. It is a very interesting read and, if you don’ t have children to take to see it, it is better time (and money) spent than going to see An Inconvenient Truth. Ultimately, the message is the same:

This survey will argue that although the science remains uncertain, the chances of serious consequences are high enough to make it worth spending the (not exorbitant) sums needed to try to mitigate climate change. It will suggest that, even though American, the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, turned its back on the Kyoto protocol on global warming, the chanes are that it will eventually take steps to control its emissions. And if America does, there is a reasonable prospect that the other big producers of CO2 will do the same.

Fortunately, no one is relying on Australia to provide any leadership. Here is what the PM said today:

Our policies are based on fact, too, and the fact is that if we signed the Kyoto Protocol [on climate change] we would destroy a lot of Australian industry and we would send Australian jobs to countries like China and Indonesia and India.

Notice that if you believe global warming is a serious enough risk to do something about (as The Economist does), then this argument amounts to straight out protectionism; that is, we should subsidise Australian industry that has high social cost in order to protect jobs (really wages). Of course, the PM may simply not believe that it is a serious enough risk (probably) or that protectionism is a good idea (who knows).

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