Why, they ask, should we sacrifice in order to help future generations, who will have all the benefits of technical progress and economic growth yet to come? Because, as the Stern Review makes clear, if CO2 isn't stabilized soon, then catastrophe is certain. And extinctions and sea-level changes cannot be reversed by the wealth that might be created in the next 50 years. Facing the judgment of history, no ethical standard entitles us to condemn the future to a hot, dry, famished, and flooded world. For this reason, we must treat the costs and burdens of climate change as if they are already falling on us.(link via Gristmill.)
And that's the rub: They aren't. The market's real failure is that it allows for no signal from the future to the present, either from the conditions that will exist 30 years hence or from the people who will be alive and working then. The question becomes: Can we really create a market in which those far-off voices are effectively heard?...
"Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. It would start with tens of billions of dollars in research to determine what is feasible, what is socially tolerable, and at what cost. A National Institute for Climate Engineering would be a good start. Departments of climate engineering at major universities would follow. Presidential candidates should take the lead by proposing a cabinet department of climate planning.
I think Galbraith is being too kind. We have a plan, in fact: it's for millions and millions of people to die preventable deaths. That's our plan, and it's going swimmingly so far.