This refusal is designed to reduce emissions of CO2. But there is a social cost associated with it. If the people who otherwise would have had access to electricity are forced to continue burning dung and firewood, many will die from the attendant pollution caused by those much dirtier fuels. The conventional pollution and deforestation may not only harm human health but the surrounding environment as well.
Climate activists make the case that fossil fuel companies should not be subsidized. I happen to agree with them. However, subsidizing green energy sources is different, they claim. New industries with the potential to revolutionize our energy infrastructure deserve government support.
And again I agree with them. I think green energy should receive modest levels of subsidy, as should innovative efforts to improve storage and distribution.
But I at least am aware that there is a social cost to doing what I favor doing. That money might be better spent on vaccines, micronutrients, access to fresh water and more. So far it seems that those other worthy causes are receiving adequate funding, in no small part thanks to private charities. Yanking money away from research into new energy seems a bit like eating the seed corn. But there is a social cost to this spending.
Because they keep good statistics, this is perhaps clearest in the United Kingdom, where government support for green energy in large part consists of allowing utility companies to charge customers more to cover the costs of investing in green energy. The number of English people suffering from fuel poverty has risen every year since this support started and thousands die every winter as they cannot afford the cost of heating their homes.
There of course is a social cost of carbon. It is a negative externality. Sea level rise and increased flooding may cause harm to our grandchildren and their children. It may be appropriate for us to spend money and utilize resources to minimize this threat.
But there is a social cost to reducing carbon. Anyone who goes on (and on) about tackling the social cost of carbon without acknowledging that the sacrifices involved are very real and will be selectively paid, not by those calling for this sacrifice, but by the poorest of those in the emerging countries as well as the more developed nations is engaged in bombastic propaganda.
If you want to discuss the issue, I’m happy to. But the issue has two sides–at least.
If you want to say the future looks like this:
It is incumbent upon you to acknowledge that it means many more years of this in the developing world:
And this closer to home: