Sunday, April 25, 2010

Warm, and getting warmer

LA Times editorial "Warm, and getting warmer" April 22nd, 2010 argues that the governments of India and China need to set up regulation against carbon emissions in order to protect their peasant populations who would not be able to migrate if the world temperature significantly increased. However, it is unclear whether regulation against global warming would help or hurt these peasants. The article states:
The peasant farming populations are not rich enough to simply adapt. So the first thing we need to do is to beg the rulers of China and India to understand their nations' long-term interest.
Suppose however that any environmental regulation decreased the value of the peasant's labor. Perhaps even the growth rate of the peasants' wealth would slow, and these citizens would find themselves far poorer in 30, 40, or 50 years (whenever global warming would have caught up to them--if ever) than they would have been had the government allowed them to freely invest in their future, even if that meant taking jobs at carbon emitting plants. The time-invariant image of peasantry that the article conjures belies a fundamental misconception: people, even peasants, tend to invest in their own future. Generally, they can do so better than the government.

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