Module 12 Overview
We have seen that an economically efficient path for humanity involves starting now to reduce future warming from greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels, and that there are many policy paths that would achieve this goal, while increasing national security, reducing damaging price shocks, reducing unintended consequences of the energy system, and perhaps increasing employment. But, many more issues arise for most people.
Climate change especially hurts future generations, and poor people living in hot places now, whereas relatively wealthy people living now in colder places are using the most fossil fuels per person and thus driving climate change. This is clearly an ethical issue. However, if everyone today were to hugely and very rapidly reduce fossil-fuel use, the economic damages would be high across the world, so the ethical discussion is more complex than simply telling people to quit burning fossil fuels.
Many people argue that actions to counter global change will cause government intrusions into people’s lives that are ethically unacceptable to libertarians. However, additional consideration shows that some possible policies are not especially intrusive. Furthermore, the history that governments often become especially active during hard times and natural disasters, and the clear scholarship that failure to act will promote hard times and natural disasters, suggests that libertarians may instead favor appropriate government actions now.
Response to climate change can also reduce extinctions and take out insurance against disasters, and may avoid some bad societal conditions.