David Friedman on Global Warming
By David Henderson
After about a 3-week hiatus, David Friedman is blogging again. And the first one he did after starting is excellent. It’s on global warming. Here’s the opening paragraph:
The argument for large and expensive efforts to prevent or reduce global warming has three parts, in principle separable: Global temperature is trending up, the reason is human activity, and the consequences of the trend continuing are very bad. Almost all arguments, pro and con, focus on the first two. The third, although necessary to support the conclusion, is for the most part ignored by both sides.
The whole thing is worth reading.
Thomas Gale Moore, in his “Global Warming: A Balance Sheet,” in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, makes a similar argument to David’s. Moore writes:
How would climate affect economies? Climate affects principally agriculture, forestry, and fishing. For the United States, these three total less than 2 percent of the GDP. Manufacturing, most service industries, and nearly all extractive industries are immune to direct impacts from climate shifts. Factories can be built practically anywhere–in northern Sweden or in Canada, in Texas, Central America, or Mexico. Banking, insurance, medical services, retailing, education, and a wide variety of other services can prosper as well in warm climates (with air-conditioning) as in cold (with central heating). A warmer climate will lower transportation costs: less snow and ice will torment truckers and automobile drivers; fewer winter storms will disrupt air travel; bad weather in the summer has fewer disruptive effects and passes quickly; a lower incidence of storms and less fog will make shipping less risky. Higher temperatures will leave mining and the extractive industries largely unaffected; oil drilling in the northern seas and mining in the mountains might even benefit.
Moore is less agnostic about the issue than Friedman, but what they have in common is their willingness to think through the actual economic effects of global warming and the possibilities for people to adapt.