1 Nov 2010

The Rational Optimist

Here's a podcast with Matt Ridley, author of that book.

His thesis is that we are doing quite well in terms of life expectancy and quality of life, worldwide. I agree with that but left the following comment:
  1. Environment is, at best, indirectly improving with the expansion in our living standards. Without a price on clean air, etc., there is little reason to assign positive value to it [and it gets overused].

  2. Adaption to climate change will be easier for rich countries, but what about LDCs? They will not be able to save themselves with an iPad app.
Oh, and yes, the industrial revolution/current living standards were driven by our use of coal and other fossil fuels. The problem is not that these fuels will run out, but that their use will poison us and our environment.

Bottom Line: Things are getting better, but we have to make sure that we take all costs of growth into account.


  1. LL emails: "Since you seem willing to rock some boats in the often homogeneous clan of water professionals, I wonder if you agree with me that: a) we got basically no chance of changing the rate or slope of the climate change curves, and b) a much more sane target to improve the quality of life for everyone left on the planet (including non-homo sapiens) would be population growth? If so, would you kindly start this bandwagon? I'm so done with climate scientists and politicians getting rich while busily and actively dodging this huge point!"

  2. @LL -- so you're saying that lower population growth is a good thing? I agree. I argued about that in DC last week (look at this: www.bit.ly/cUFzUf). OTOH, I *do* think humans are having an impact on climate, and thus can change that impact for the better. Look at past posts on this blog on "population" and "climate change" or "carbon tax"

    It's not about doing one thing, but doing the appropriate thing in each location (OECD vs LCDs).

  3. No doubt we can do better, but at what cost? My argument is that putting our money into population growth would be a much better investment.

  4. clarification....I'm referring to *controlling* population growth!


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