Report states that failure to control GHG emissions may reduce economic growth

Autumn McCartan

Leaders from the top 17 greenhouse gas-emitting countries met on Sept. 27 and 28 in an American-hosted climate change summit. President George W. Bush acknowledged the seriousness of carbon emissions but refused to commit to an internationally-binding agreement to cut carbon.

Bush believes we must “think creatively” about this issue but holds that countries should make their own decisions about how to reduce carbon and has yet to announce any set goals for this reduction.

“[America] must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bush, “and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people.”

How much would controlling pollution really effect the economic growth? Economics Professor Jan Crouter wrote in an e-mail that this depends on “the way in which controls are implemented, as well as by the severity of the target levels of emissions reductions.”

“The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,” a report released for the British government on Oct. 30, 2006, by economist Nicholas Stern, estimated that if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse emissions, global gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to reduce an average of five percent per capita per year.

“Our failure to control emissions of greenhouse gasses will likely reduce the economic growth,” wrote Crouter, relying on “The Stern Review.”

“By contrast, the costs of controlling greenhouse gas emissions to a level of about 25 percent below current emissions levels by 2050 would require a sacrifice averaging about one percent of annual GDP per year,” wrote Crouter.

“The Stern Review” does predict a bigger reduction in economic growth if we don’t act to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases. However, it concluded that the ends justify the means. It also suggests international consensus on carbon cutting goals, something many countries, not just America, can agree on.

Crouter wrote that controlling emissions effectively will take honest effort from the rest of the world as well as the United States because a good policy in one country can be offset by another’s ineffective policy.

The countries represented at the summit included Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. However, many sent only midlevel officials.

“Mr. Bush has accepted, at least rhetorically, the reality of climate change,” Politics Professor Phil Brick wrote in an e-mail.
“This is an important indicator of how the climate change debate has changed.  The old debate about climate change is over (whether it is happening or not; anthropogenic causes).”

However, Brick is not at all sure that change will come with Bush. “Mr. Bush and his cohort are not intellectually, ideologically or morally equipped to really address this issue,” he wrote.  “I’m not convinced that any of the likely presidential contenders are necessarily much better.  Real action on climate change should not wait for our ‘leaders.'”