Jeffrey Sachs: Sustainable Development Politics, Policy, and Priorities


[ Inaudible Discussions ]>>Hello everybody. Hello and welcome, I’m
Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of
the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and I’m
delighted to see so many of you here with
us this afternoon. It’s a great pleasure to
welcome you here on behalf of both the Ford School
and our co-sponsor, the International Policy Center,
and it is a great honor for us to have the internationally
renowned development economist with us Jeffrey Sachs
who is here to deliver our 2010
Citigroup Foundation Lecture. The Citigroup Foundation
Lecture Series is made possible from a gift from the foundation
several years ago in honor of President Gerald R. Ford,
our school’s namesake and one of the universities most
distinguished alumni. We’re very grateful to the
foundation for its generous gift which has enabled us to bring so many distinguished policy
leaders and thinkers to campus and it is especially a great
personal pleasure for me to welcome our speaker Jeff
Sachs here with us today. I was a junior faculty member
in Harvard’s Department of Economics from 1984
to 1992 and throughout that time Jeff was
my senior colleague and in many ways he was a real
inspiration for me and indeed for anyone launching a
career in international or development economics. His classes were overflowing. Literally dozens of
doctoral students were lined up to work with him. He was a prolific
author and increasingly, world leaders were calling
to solicit his policy advice. He was an economist who truly
infused theoretical insights with practical engagement
and with a passion to help people most in need and
he didn’t just write and talk about economic development
and public policy he went out and he made a real
difference for real people, as I’ve said a true inspiration. So Jeff is now the Director
of the Earth Institute, the Quetelet Professor of
Sustainable Development and Professor of Health
Policy and Management at Colombia University. He’s special advisor to the United Nations
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and president and cofounder of
the Millennium Promise Alliance, a non-profit organization aimed at ending extreme
global poverty. Please join me in welcoming
Jeff Sachs to the podium. Jeff. [ Applause ]>>Susan, thank you so
much for inviting me and for the nice words and
one more thing I would add to your introduction is
that I’m a Michigander through and through and– [ Applause ]>>Oak Park, 10 Mile Road and
of course it stays with you and this university is always
with me and in my heart and it’s our kind of family
school so it’s wonderful to be here and also very
exciting to see many friends, classmates, colleagues
and I thank you for the chance to be with you. It’s interesting today that we’re starting what should
be a crucial global meeting but is relegated to the
back pages of the newspaper. I’m referring to Cancun
which is the meeting of the international signatories of the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change. It’s the sixteenth such meetings since the framework convention
went into application, went into force in 1994. This is the world governing
law for what will become one of the most pressing day-to-day
realities on our planet in the years ahead and is already creating a
tremendous amount of turmoil, of course I’m referring to the
effects of climate change and yet how puzzling it
is that as important as this issue is the only time
it really has gotten noticed in the United States in recent
months is to defeat some of the congressmen who voted
for doing something about it and almost all who were in
democrats, in marginal districts who voted for the legislation
that passed the house a couple of years ago to cap carbon
emissions were defeated in the November elections and the politics was already
merely impossible on this issue in the United States but without
question November has made it even that much harder and I’ll
show you in a few minutes some of the most recent survey data about the rather shocking
American attitudes to this issue, which can best be
described as a lot of confusion. So, we are starting a global
meeting with almost no prospects of anything important
coming out of it and that has generally been an
accurate way to describe events since the 18 years ago when the
treaty was first signed in Rio in 1992 and the 16 years since
it was ratified by enough of the signatories in 1994. Situation simply
continues to get worse because the climate doesn’t
really care about our politics. It’s not noticing. What it does care about is
the rise and concentration of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere and those continue to rise fairly relentlessly. Even during our downturns,
the world’s increase of carbon emissions is stark
and the dangers are growing. Now, there was an
international meeting of the same ilk two weeks ago that didn’t even make the
back pages of our newspaper. You had to be a real specialist
to notice how neglected it was. And that was a meeting in Japan,
in Nagoya on the convention on biological diversity. That was another of the major
environmental treaties signed 18 years ago in Rio. And that treaty as its
name suggest is committed to first slowing and then
ultimately halting ideally. It can’t be reversed,
the extinction of species on the planet. We’re in what the biologists
call the sixth great extinction period of all earth’s history, the first one during
the human period, and of course the first one in which a great extinction is
caused by one of the species out of the hundred million
or so that are on the planet. We’re having devastating
effects at profound threat to our well being
in countless ways and certainly profound
threats to the planet and to the ecosystems which
direct life on the planet. That meeting didn’t even
make it to a brief mention of public consciousness. One of the problems is that the
United States never even signed that treaty. In 1994, when we had an election
not unlike the one we just experienced in November and there was the
contract with America. One of the points of the
contract was a contract on the world species
and that was to insist that the US not ratify
the convention on biological diversity. It was viewed as a violation
of private property rights and we never became
signatory to it. And the convention like
much else that’s agreed internationally has had, I would
say, essentially zero impact on slowing this mass extinction
though it has produced lots of scientific and documentary
evidence of what’s happening. But we’ve not been able to tilt
the needle in the slightest. And for this one, it’s
absolutely shocking to me since I watched close
up at the UN. There actually was a goal, not
just the general treaty goals but a time-specific goal for the
year 2010 that was set in 2002 for slowing the rate
of biodiversity loss. Being at the UN on a
very frequent basis, I heard a lot of– a
lot about that goal since it was a UN objective of
the signatories to this treaty. But I never heard one word
about it in casual conversation in the world in the 8 years that
it was supposedly in operation.>>Literally not one person in the entire world ever
asked me a question about it or made a statement about
it unless I was talking to an ecologist who
happened to know. But it’s another sign of
what I wanna talk about today which is how blithely
we are proceeding in the most extraordinarily
dangerous manner on the planet. And it’s not as if we’re
taking calculated risks. We’re taking measures
without the slightest interest in finding out what
those risks might be and in almost complete
neglect of the– not only the consequences of
our actions but the implications of our actions for the planet
and for ourselves and especially for our children and
generations that are gonna come. So, today is not a happy story
even though it’s well timed to the opening of
yet another meeting. It’s a somber tale of–
that asks the question, is there a way to do better? Can we find a way
to thread the needle through a very complicated
politics so that we begin to take some real actions? Fortunately, the answer is
probably yes, but the evidence for that is negligible
other than some assertions that I’m gonna make
later in my talk. In other words, I’m gonna try
to suggest some ways forward, not that I think we’re all
that far along on this. So what is sustainable
development? Global sustainable development
is really the right phrase. It is a basic challenge. And that challenge becomes
more and more pressing. It is how to combine
the economic aspirations of the planet. And for most of the world, that means still achieving
economic development in the first place for the
already developed countries like the United States. It means not falling
off the perch and hopefully still continuing
to find a way forward. How to combine that
basic powerful dynamic because economic growth
is happening in the world and it’s happening robustly
and relentlessly even right through our current
economic malaise, I’ll indicate in a moment. How can this be combined with
planetary sanity with respect to the earth’s ecosystems,
the natural environment, and the shared biodiversity
on the planet? It’s two goals. We have a hard enough time in our country achieving
any one goal at this moment. We’re certainly not very good
at achieving multiple goals. Sustainable development
is really about achieving two
very broad objectives. I usually define it as
achieving three broad objectives which is maintaining growth,
helping to rescue the poor and helping to save the
planet from destruction. I’m gonna talk a little bit less
about the poverty issues today. Just say a word but we can
certainly discuss the issues of those who despite the
economic growth they are left behind in a discussion
after my opening remarks. Suffice it to say
we’re not even close to achieving this objective
of sustainable development. If you’re a student,
I urge you to study it because you will have decades
ahead of useful things to do. And it is one of the least
solved problems on the planet. And it therefore,
combines urgency, intellectual fascination and
almost open virgin territory for intellectual pursuits because we still lack any deep
understanding of how we’re going to actually accomplish these
goals and in almost no part of the world save a few
countries, perhaps exemplified by the Scandinavian countries
which are more on track than any other part
of the planet. Is this agenda properly
engaged right now? In the United States at best,
we care about economic growth and have put the
environment into a very, very distant second place. This picture is the template
from an important article that appeared in 2009 in
Nature magazine where a group of about 25 of the world’s
leading ecologists got together in an expert review
of the evidence to consider the environmental
boundaries or threshold that pose the greatest dangers
for humanity and to try to begin to assess because it was their
very frank acknowledgment that this was only
an initial foray into defining what
boundaries might be for these various
ecosystem threats. And if you go around the circle
though, it’s probably hard to see in the room,
certainly in the back. These are issues like climate
change which is the one that I’ll focus on today. Ocean acidification,
which is another crucial and independent result
of the carbon emissions from fossil fuel
burning, it is the fact that with the rising carbon
dioxide concentrations to the atmosphere, the carbon
dioxide dissolves in the ocean and is already acidifying the
ocean with tremendous risk to the marine ecosystems
and especially to all of the marine species with
exoskeletons and the diatoms that are part of the food chain. Going around the circle
clockwise from 12 noon which is climate change
then ocean acidification, there is ozone depletion
which you are aware of. It is one of the few areas
where real progress was made because that was a case where
one specific human technology, chlorofluorocarbons
were the predominant or maybe the exclusive
cause of the human made or anthropogenic
ozone depletion, and where it was possible
to find a safe substitute. And so, it was a rather
straightforward technical substitution of one set
of chemicals for another which over the long term will
actually reverse the ozone depletion that was very
far under way by the 1970s when this result was
first discovered. Incidentally, and I’ll
allude to it later on, when the ozone depletion effect
was first known, the companies that were producing
the chlorofluorocarbons of course went to town calling
it a hoax, a fraud, a myth, and every conceivable thing
that they could call it, exactly what they do with human-induced
climate change today. And then one of their scientists
tugged on the CEO’s sleeve and said, “By the way,
we have a substitute.” At which point, they
came out and said, “Now, everybody has to
adopt solutions. This is very important. Yes and so forth.” So, so much is driven by
the corporate propaganda and that was definitely one
of the clearest examples of that going from
delay and obfuscation to a quick solution once a
technical means was found and then those who
have the technology in hand could argue
for the solution. Still moving clockwise, the
next category that you see in bright red because it
really is a drama already is nitrogen flux. We have 7 billion
people on the planet. This is 10 times more than
when Thomas Malthus wrote pessimistically about the
principles of population in 1798, two centuries ago,
at which point there were about 750 million
people on the planet. Malthus said we wouldn’t be able
to support a rise of population or an increase of living
standards because any increase of living standards would
quickly get dissipated by higher population. But that would be limited
by food productivity. We broke through the food
constraint certainly far from perfectly even nutrition for feeding 7 million
people– 7 billion people. But we actually did not break through the environmental
constraint though we think we have. Because in order to
produce enough food for 7 billion people, we have
to put on about 150 million tons of chemical fertilizer
every year, roughly 100 million metric
tons of nitrogen every year. And that massive
deposition of nitrogen is one of the most destructive
human-induced changes on the planet. As I’m sure, most of you are
aware we have a 200-mile long dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as the Mississippi
River cumulates, the runoff of that nitrogen,
the leaching from all of the farmlands of 25 to 30
states in the Midwest carries it down to the gulf and creates
the eutrophication phenomenon, the hypoxia, the dead zone. It’s now been realized
that about 130 estuaries around the world are
similarly turning hypoxic, short of oxygen, because
of eutrophication. And we’re seeing therefore one
of the most important ecosystems in the world, the
estuarine ecosystem which mixes the freshwater and
the seawater at the outlets of freshwater rivers around
the world being destroyed. Nobody has an answer
to this right now, incidentally, just
to cheer you up. Organic farming doesn’t change
any of the nitrogen budget. It just changes where you
get the nitrogen from. There are certainly ways to
use nitrogen more efficiently but the basic fact of feeding 7
billion people is a very tough nut to crack. And in this sense, while
we are feeding adequately, maybe not adequately but
feeding systematically roughly 6 of the 7 billion people and the
other billion are struggling everyday to have
enough to survive. We’re not doing it in an environmentally
sustainable manner. And so far, there are no
adequate solutions to that. Right next to it is
the phosphorous cycle which were similarly deranging
because it’s nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which
are the three macronutrients that have to be added
to chemical and organic fertilizers. Moving right along and I won’t
belabor all the point is the freshwater crisis, the
changes of land use. The next bright red cone that
you see is the biodiversity loss where there is a fulminant and almost entirely
neglected disaster underway. It makes sense if there are
7 billion of us on the planet and we’re eating and
we’re clearing farmland and pasture land to do it. We are commandeering literally
the land and the food supply that would feed the other
species on the planet. And the best estimates
which I still find shocking to contemplate is that our one
species commandeers about 40 to 50 percent of the total
net primary productivity of photosynthesis on the planet. That’s a lot. We’re taking almost half of the total photosynthetic
potential of the planet for us. We’re doing it through
pasture lands that we cleared for our meat production. We’re doing it by the crop
lands obviously to grow. We’re doing it by–
through the asphalt surfaces that build our cities. And in total, we’re literally
pushing the other species not only out of their habitats
but right out of existence. And that one is,
according to the ecologists, the most dramatic and
imminent of all of the threats. The next one, now we’re roughly
at 9 o’clock, between 9 and 10, is the atmospheric
aerosol loading. That’s the soot and the dark
carbon cloud over much of Asia. For those who have been in
China recently, there is as far as I know, not a
major city in China where you can actually
see sunshine for more than perhaps a few
days out of the year. So polluted are the
cities through the carbon, through the coal burning. And that’s creating this
massive aerosol loading. Of course sulfur oxides and other aerosols
are also part of it. And then the last one is
the chemical pollutants also which says not yet quantified. They’re pervasive and
they’re polluting major rivers and major cities all over the
world including again most of China’s huge cities. The conclusion of the
ecologists was dramatic. Of course, they were writing
mainly for other scientists and other ecologists
but they were saying that thresholds can be
identified and were very close to them, those points at
which you arrive at huge and perhaps amplifying
instability and irreversibility. For climate change, if you
look at the bull’s eye there, only 3 of the 5 parts
of that cone are shown. This is right at the top. So they were suggesting that there is still is some
room before we pass the ultimate climate change threshold. My colleague at the Earth
Institute, our lead, actually our– we have two
lead climate scientists, Jim Hansen and Wally Broecker. Jim Hansen being
NASA’s lead scientist on the earth’s climate
system and NASA has at Columbia University a unit
called the Goddard Institute of Space Studies which
Dr. Hansen heads. Hansen through reliance not
only on the formal modeling and the satellite
evidence that he and his colleagues
have developed, but also extraordinary work in reading the paleo
climate record, looking at how carbon
dioxide has been associated with temperatures millions
of years ago by looking at various isotopic
signatures of temperature and carbon concentrations, has
made a very strong assertion that we’re past the threshold,
so just to cheer you even less. We are as we measure the
greenhouse gas concentrations at 387 parts per million of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere. It means for every million
molecules of carbon dioxide, 387 of those molecules
are carbon dioxide. It doesn’t sound like very much. It’s a tiny, tiny
fraction of the atmosphere but it is enough first
of all to keep us alive because without the
effect of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases, the planet would be
a frozen wasteland. So there is a good side
to the greenhouse gases. But the change, even
that modest change from 280 parts per million
the pre-industrial level to today’s 300 or last year’s
recently documented 387 parts per million, is enough to have
raised the earth’s temperature on the direct land measurement
record as of now by about 0.8 of 1 degree centigrade, but once
the full feedbacks work through, perhaps 2 or 3 times that. And what Hansen has
shown dreadfully is that whenever the earth has
been above this 350, I’m sorry, there’s been above a threshold
which he has characterized as 350 parts per million. The oceans have been 10 to 30 meters higher
than they are today. In other words, we’ve
passed the threshold that in the geological
record is sufficient to melt the great ice sheets. And Hansen’s claim is that
we’re already seeing the disintegration of the Greenland
and the Antarctic ice sheets and we don’t know whether
this is a matter of decades or thank God this
isn’t gonna happen for 200 years ’til we wreck
the planet, or maybe 400 years but that the paleo
climate record is actually quite powerful. And Hansen’s basic point is that there is a powerful
positive feedback system of the climate on the planet so
that even small perturbations, modest changes are
tremendously amplified. And one of the main
amplifiers is the disappearance of the ice cover itself on
the sea ice and the glaciers and the ice sheets of
Antarctica and Greenland because as the ice melts, the
earth loses its reflectants. It’s so called albedo. And therefore, more of the solar
radiation is absorbed rather than simply reflected
back into space. And this is one of the
powerful feedbacks. There are probably many others
including the ocean’s degassing of carbon dioxide as they warm, kind of as you warm your
Coca-Cola the bubbles come out. And the permafrost under the
Siberian tundra, for example, releasing methane as it warms from the peak that
is then exposed.>>So there are– Hansen says,
“Unless we find ways not just to stabilize as we’re
trying to do at 450 or some scientists say maybe
550, but actually stabilize and bring it down over the
next decades or century. The consequences for sea
level and consequently for the entire population
dynamics of the world given the high
concentration of societies around the world near the
coast could be devastating. What it actually means
is everyone is moving to Ann Arbor from the coastline. So, save a place
for your neighbors. Millions are gonna
have to move in soon. So, this is one of
Hansen’s map sites, somewhat familiar I’m sure
to most or all of you. The basic point is
that there isn’t a part of the world that
isn’t affected. And the main thing I would
just wanna leave at this moment as I go on is the fact that
to the climate scientists, this debate about whether
climate science is real or not is so far from the
reality of the science as to be unintelligible
and unimaginable to them. There are so many
profoundly consistent reasons for knowing this relationship that the issues are not
discussed at all in the way that the public seems to think and the Wall Street Journal
insists they are discussed. And that is that it’s been
known for about 140 years that carbon dioxide
absorbs infrared radiation and warms the planet. This is actually not 140, 180
years since Fourier worked this out in the 1830s and 1840s. The basic carbon dioxide
effect has been understood for 115 years since Arrhenius, the Nobel Laureate
Swedish chemist of the late 19th
century actually made by hand remarkably
accurate calculations of what the carbon dioxide
doubling would actually mean for the planet. And he got it right in the zone that the most sophisticated
models understand today. The science at the basic
level is not in doubt and the paleo climate
and current ecological and satellite readings and a
profound range of other kinds of data and evidence all point
unequivocally in the direction of anthropogenic change. What’s in doubt is the
magnitude, the pacing, the timing but not the
basic science itself. And the areas of agreement
are powerfully strong and the evidence overwhelming and the public continuing
to doubt it. And finally, this
graph is emphasizing as the World Wildlife
Foundation does each year as it publishes this index
that the species abundance of every major class
of species is in significant decline
right now. And of course, you’ve all
read about the catastrophes of the pollinators, the
catastrophes of the amphibians, the catastrophes of the corals
and so on, major classes of species under threat
because of the human forcings. Now, it all is tending
to get a lot worse fast, and that’s because of something that generally we
consider very good news and that I have spent a lot of my career trying
to help promote. And that is economic growth
in the poorer countries. We’re living in a quite
remarkable period, not remarkable in the way we’re
feeling it in the United States but remarkable as it’s being
felt in the rest of the world. The rest of the world
outside of Europe and the United States has no
idea there is an economic crisis right now except by hearing the
speeches of the US president or the prime minister
of Greece or of Ireland because in the rest of the
world, economic growth is robust and at historic highs. And that is actually true
now even in more and more of the poorest places
in the world. We’re experiencing a phenomenon that economists call
economic convergence. And that is a tendency for
poorer countries to be able to narrow the proportionate
income gap with richer countries by being able to
absorb technologies that are the difference of
living standards in essence. And so, by being able
to adapt and adapt to some extent technologies
already in use in the high income countries, today’s poorer countries
are able to jump ahead and enjoy economic growth
rates, that is the change of real gross national
product at faster rates than ever before
in human history. And of course China is the
headline exemplar of that. It is the most extraordinary
period of economic growth in the history of the world. Since Deng Xiaoping opened
China to international trade and to markets in 1978, that country has averaged
10 percent per year economic growth. That’s extraordinary because
compound growth is extraordinary and compound growth
to 10 percent per year for what is now 32 years
is absolutely remarkable. So if you make the
calculation, you get from 1978, every 7 years is a doubling
of the Chinese economy. And so if you do this for now,
this period from 1978 to 2010, 32 years, you double 32 years is
5 doublings and so we’re at the, roughly, a 30-fold increase of China’s aggregate
economy during this period. And of course, we’re feeling
it and we’re feeling it in some heavy ways as well. It’s in my view having
profound implications for our income distribution
in the United States and especially making
it impossible to make a living
anymore in this country in the middle class unless one
has at least a bachelor’s degree because the competition through
trade and through the flows of capital with the lower wages
in developing countries of Asia and now spreading part of
the world are simply so large and powerful that they’re
having massive effects within the United
States economy. Not all of my colleagues agree
on this but my perception is that this is very, very big. But whatever it’s doing for us,
what it’s doing for the rest of the world is a massive
surge of the economic growth, unprecedented in history. And this is I found
a quite telling map of the International
Monetary Fund for 2010. The dark blue countries
are the ones that are experiencing
economic growth of above 5 percent per year. Now mind you, 5 percent
per year is a doubling time of only 14 years and many of
these countries are growing at 8 or 10 percent per year. Then are the light blue areas which includes the
United States, Canada, parts of Central
Europe, Australia and so on which are growing between
2 and 5 percent per year. We are barely in that
category, maybe at about 2 and a half percent
growth right now in 2010 of an extraordinarily weak
recovery that we’re experiencing from a very deep downturn. Then are the countries in pink which are the Western
European countries which are actually positive
growth between 0 and 2 percent. In fact, per capita growth
in Europe is the same as in the United States
because population growth in Europe is almost a percentage
point lower than in the U.S. So once you take into
account population growth, we’re both basically growing
at something like 1 percent, 1 and a half percent
per year, very, very slow given the
preceding downturn. And there are only a couple
of countries in the world that are experiencing
negative growth right now. What’s striking about this is
essentially the two speed map of the world.>>The developing worlds said
goodbye to us in our recession. When the downturn hit
in the United States, everybody assumed there would be
no decoupling to use the phrase at the time that the developing
countries would experience an even more severe downturn. I actually doubted
that at the time. I was wrong in a
way because right after the financial collapse of
Lehman Brothers, everybody went into a steep downturn
because that was a panic. But once the panic subsided, the
poor countries came surging back in a way that the
richer countries did not. And I think that this is
actually par for the course. If you look at the
annual growth rates, the green at the top here
is the so called emerging and developing economies
and they are growing now at 6 percent, 7 percent per year since the beginning
of the past decade. The developed countries which
means the United States, Western Europe, Japan
and a handful of others, not only had the very deep
downturn, minus 3 in 2009, but the recovery is very modest
and the spread is about 4 or 5 percentage points
per year right now. In my view, that is a structural
gap, not a temporary gap. The structural gap
is essentially the convergence process. It might not remain so large but
I think that it is fairly safe to say that unless the
world falls apart in one way or another, the poorer countries
have a fairly wide running room of rapid growth because
they’re much poorer than the rich countries. Their average income is
perhaps a tenth of the income of the rich world and that
means there is a lot to grow into by absorbing the higher
productivity technologies of the rich economies and
that’s what’s giving this fuel of growth. Without question, the
most dramatic example of that convergence these
days is mobile telephony and wireless broadband which
has reached every impoverished village in the world
just about by now. There are around 6
billion mobile subscribers. Five years ago in Africa where
we were working on projects in about a dozen villages in
a dozen countries in Africa, nobody had a phone and none of these villages had fixed
lines or wireless coverage. As of today, every one of
them has wireless coverage and it’s typical in an
extremely impoverished place that maybe 20 percent of the households would
actually have a phone and there are many aspects
to that, the ingenuity of being able to sell phone by
the seconds so that you prepay and are able to buy tiny bits
have brought this technology in a very ingenious way to the
poorest people of the world. But the productivity
advances that come from this, from having a village that was
completely isolated had no news, had no idea about markets, couldn’t make any business
arrangements where literally if you were a pastoralist
community, you might track for two weeks to take
your camels or your goats or your sheep to a market,
guessing should I go up to the Red Sea,
should I go to Nairobi, should I go to some other port
and you get there and not know, and now you flip out the phone as the pastoralists are
doing all over East Africa and they’re calling their
markets and finding out what to do when they’re doing
their banking online as well. Well, this is a great thing. It is a fuel obviously
for economic development. But it’s also a problem
when you come back to sustainable development. Roughly put, think
about it this way. There are 7 billion people
on the planet right now, 6.9 but who’s counting. And the average income is about 10,000 dollars per person
using what economists call a purchasing power
adjusted standard where you adjust each
country’s income level according to their specific
average price level. You add up the incomes across
the world that comes out to around 70 trillion
dollars, 10,000 dollars on average per person
and 7 billion people. Suppose that the whole
world just caught up to the rich world
income, so the rich worlds at 40,000 dollars per
capita on average. The world average is 10,000. If there were complete
convergence, that would mean a
fourfold increase of economic activity
on the planet. That’s what convergence
has potentially to close. Add in the fact that
the population of the world is continuing
to grow and actually grow rather
significantly even though the proportion of growth
rate is slowing. We’re still adding 75 to 80 million people net
population increase each year though now all in
the poorer countries. You combine this
force of convergence with the extra roughly
40 percent increase of the world’s population that demographers are
guessing could be the level at which the world
population stabilizes as fertility rates come
down to replacement. In other words, stabilization
at around 9 billion as opposed to today’s 7 billion. Combine those two forces and
you see that we have built-in to the global dynamics
right now an increase of total economic activity over
the course of a century, say, that could amount to
5 or 6 fold increase. And the point to keep in mind is that not only are those forces
underway and much to be priced and praised in a lot of ways, but even today we’re
unsustainable in what we’re doing. So there’s a collision
at least if we continue to do things the way
we’re doing them now and this collision
is an enormous one. It’s the biggest thing
humanity has ever faced because we’ve never before
faced a truly global challenge like this. Throughout human history until now our challenges
have essentially been local or regional. Many, many civilizations
have collapsed as we know from Jared Diamond and others
because of ecological shocks or natural climate change
or unsustainable practices. But never before has
the planet as a whole in an interconnected manner then
unsustainable at the baseline and then having built within
it this massive increase of further anthropogenic
forcings as we would say of human-induced
changes on the planet. I took for this picture just to show you a simple standard
economic model of convergence. So economists estimate lots
of statistical equations of how fast economies grow
as they’re catching up and essentially, an
economy that is half the way to the frontier tends
to grow at about 1 and a half percentage
points faster than the frontier economy. An economy that is a quarter
of the way to the leadership, one-fourth say of the
U.S. level would tend to grow 3 percentage
points faster. An economy that is
one-eighth the level of the United States would grow about 4.5 percentage
points faster according to the standard statistical
models. If you plug that in to
the world as it is today and just churn this
difference equation forward for another 40 years to
mid-century, you find something like this graph that the
world economy has built into it something on the
order of a tripling of output by the middle of the century. That’s not crazy,
that’s pretty plausible because it’s implying a growth
rate of the developing countries of today, of something
close to 5 percent per year, they’re actually achieving
even higher than that. So this is not a wild forecast, it’s even a little bit
cautious one would say, except that it can’t happen on our current technological
trajectory. Something would have to give
because what’s not built in to the economist standard
model are the environmental implications of all
of this growth.>>When I studied macroeconomics
in 1972 for the first time and learned the canonical growth
model that we’re all weaned on written by Robert
Solow in 1956 and which brought him his
well-deserved Nobel Prize, that model says that economic
output depends on human labor and on capital stock and on any
technology that we come up with and the technology
is just assumed to somehow descend upon our
fertile minds and the capital and the labor are more
under our control. But what Professor
Solow didn’t deem to put in the model though he
was one of the leaders of amending his model
later was anything about the natural environment
or the resource limits. And the reason is that
as he always emphasize, you make strategic
assumptions as an economist to simplify your models to get
to points that are important. And as of 1956, these
boundary conditions of the environment weren’t
important and Solow chose right. He got a one, a first order
differential equation, thank goodness, so all of his
students for four generations to follow could solve it. And we all felt excited and good
about that and it inspired us to become economists but
the fact to the matter is that if you were writing
a growth model today, you could never or should
never dream of putting on paper such a model. Because now the boundary
constraints are not second order concerns, they’re not
footnotes for a completeness, they are going to be
the essential question for humanity even if Fox News
and Wall Street Journal and all of the rest of our media
haven’t figured it out yet. That’s deeply embedded in
the realities of population, convergent economic growth
and ego system realities and the only question
is how and when we catch up to this basic reality. One of the things that
will mean of course is that the United States which
is had a very unusual run of things, of course,
especially becoming, by far, the predominant economy
of the 20th century after two world wars not
fought on our soil and with– by virtue of mass immigration
of genius partly as a result of those wars and our
own cleverness and bounty of natural resources,
we became for our– we don’t know whether it’s
our Andy Warholian 15 minutes of historic fame or not, we became the world’s
leading economy. But what we can say
pretty clearly is that that lead is
shrinking already right now in relative terms
because leadership is a relative phenomenon. It doesn’t mean we
have to suffer. It does mean that our star
in the sky won’t shine quite as bright in the presence
of other stars in the sky and as everybody has
come to appreciate, China will become a larger
economy than the United States within the next 20 years,
not higher per capita income but given a four time
larger population, a larger overall economy and that is affecting
every bit of geopolitics. Every single country I’d been–
well I don’t know if that’s true but almost every and
that’s dozens by the way– but in the last dozen
countries that I visited in the last 5 days, it feels
like, but in the last 3 or 4 months, I’ve
heard the same line. Oh by the way, China just became
our largest trading partner. This is amazing when you hear it in Santiago in Chile
for example. When you hear it all through
Africa, in Asia you’d expect it but it’s a worldwide phenomenon. And this of course is
part of geopolitics but it also should
be informing us in a little bit more clever
way about how we engage in the world right now. What this graph shows
is just using that same simple
numerical model that I use to make the previous
slide that the U.S. share of the world economy won’t
disappear, will still be a big and outsize economy but
will go from being something like 20 percent of the
world’s population– of world’s gross product per
year to being something closer to about 13 percent by
the middle of the century. Not precipitous unless
we collapse but definitely a decline. The red line on the top,
the red curve is the share of the developing
countries in the world. Right now, they’re about
half of the world economy. The U.S., Europe, Japan, that’s
about half and then the rest of the world is the other
half in terms of total output. Now, that means that the rich
world on average is still 6, 8 times richer than the
poor by these metrics because the income level
of the developing countries in this categorization
which is the IMF’s, the developing countries have
a population of 6 billion and the rich world 1 billion. So we’re sharing the worlds
economy but with one-sixth of the population of the
other half of the planet. Now what does this mean
for climate change? It definitely means a
mess and it means set of basic calculations
of what we need to do. So let’s look to the middle
of the century and think about what the climate
scientists are telling us. Now, according to Jim Hansen,
he is telling us, it’s finished. We’re already in disaster. Most climate scientist are
telling us, please, please, please try to stabilize at
450 parts per million or less. Hansen says, not anywhere
close to good enough. Our current trajectory is to
reach 550 parts per million by mid-century and then shoot
right through that limit, and that almost surely
would be catastrophic and I wanna underscore
the word catastrophic, devastating for hundreds
of millions or billions of people around the planet. So what the central view of
this is is that at a minimum, we have to cut by half
the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases by the
middle of the century compared to where we are today. That’s tough. We’re emitting 30 billion tons
of carbon dioxide each year through energy use and
another few billion tons through deforestation each year. That energy-led carbon
emission should come down to perhaps 15
billion tons at the most. But that has to be
done in the context of a burgeoning world economy. That’s the challenge. It’s an unprecedented challenge. If we need or if the developing
countries are counting on three times the
world’s output through their rapid growth,
emissions should be half of today than emissions per unit
of GNP which is pretty constant around the world by the way because we all used basically
the same technologies. So the emission per unit of
GNP is pretty much shared. That would have to come
down to around a sixth of what it is right now. We’d have to be able to get
our carbon-dioxide emissions down to one-sixth per dollar
of our income if the world is to have a chance of
getting on a trajectory that isn’t gonna blow the
whole world out of the water or into the water I should say. And that means reducing
something like 83 percent of our emissions
intensity by 2050. Now how could this
conceivably be done? Obviously there are lots
of mixes and matches and Larry Burns, your professor
here and a colleague of mine in the program at the
Earth Institute as well, we’re discussing some of those
options and playing with some of the numbers to try to see
how this can possibly match. But one way, for example,
would be a combination of energy efficiency
combined with decarbonization of the energy system and in some
sense both of these are vital. We have to get more output
per unit of energy input and we know there
are lots of wastes.>>As Larry has emphasized
so often, only 1 percent, if I have it right, of
the energy that’s used in an automobile actually
is literally doing the work to carry the individual
from one place to the next. Much of it is purely lost in
heat dissipation and a lot of it is carrying the
other 3,000 pounds around that are accompanying
us on our personal mobility. And so there’s lots of
room for saving energy through smarter vehicles
for example and of course through better design of homes and through smarter
grids and so on. So one possibility is reducing
the energy input per unit of output but it’s not so easy because the physicists are
absolutely right dead on, you need energy to do work and
you need work to make income and you need income to have
the kind of living standards that the world aspires to. So the other part of
this is to find ways to decarbonize the
energy supply. Now what might be done
in the U.S. context? How could this actually
be accomplished? I’ll use round numbers. We have 6 billion tons of
carbon emissions in the world. Note that that is one-fifth
of the world’s total emissions of 30 billion tons so
GT, for any of those who can see the graph is giga
tons, 30 billion tons of CO2 that are emitted by the burning
of coal, oil and natural gas. The U.S. is 6 of
30, we’re a fifth. Now mind you, we are 5 percent of the world’s population
emitting 20 percent of the world’s emissions so we’re four times the
average per capita emissions on the planet. Of those emissions from
fossil fuel use, oil, gas and coal all play
their important role – coals about 2.1 billion
tons, oil 2.5 billion tons, natural gas 1.4 billion
tons of emissions. Now what we could
expect economically is that the U.S. economy
will roughly double in size between now and 2050. That’s taking as
given some slowing down of our underlying growth
rate to a pure per capita growth of about 1 percent per year which I think is a realistic
assumption plus a population growth that will take us
to by mid-century to– I don’t remember the number
exactly so don’t hold me to it. But somewhere probably close to about 350 million Americans
compared to 310 million today. So if our GNP or gross domestic
product doubles and we are able to double our energy efficiency
as a rough measure, we could say that perhaps we can get
by with the current amount of energy use, that’s
probably the case if we make a huge effort
at energy efficiency. We can’t save energy net
most likely compared to today in a growing economy
at this rate but we could probably
hold the line. That’s not good enough though
if we’re gonna reduce emissions. That would just stabilize
emissions. For that we have to change
the way we use energy and roughly get to one-third of
the carbon emissions per unit of energy that we have now. That is not an easy thing
to do but that’s the scale of the challenge and
this kind of scale of challenge is what every
country in the world faces. You can see why it’s
so easy to throw up your hands and say forget it. Let someone else worry about
it because it is not easy at all to accomplish this. Can it be done? Well, if you look
at the proportions of our energy use right
now, about 40 percent of our total primary
energy comes from petroleum, that’s our oil import
dependence. Another quarter roughly comes
from coal, almost all domestic, another quarter from gas
and then roughly one-seventh from renewables or nuclear. So it’s a hydro,
nuclear, a little bit of biomass and so forth. We’d have to change the mix and
change how we use the energy in order to be able to get
to a reduction to one-third of our current emissions. Now part of the mix can be
changed if possible by moving from coal to natural gas. Natural gas as you
know burns cleaner. Coal is essentially all
carbon with a little of hydrogen attached whereas
natural gas is a carbon with four atoms of
hydrogen attached. When methane or natural gases
combusted, you get water and carbon dioxide is
part of your energy mix. When coal is combusted, you
just get the carbon dioxide. So you get roughly not quite
twice the carbon dioxide per unit of energy from coal
as you do from natural gas. Converting to gas would be
one way to reduce the amount of U.S. emissions but it would
only take us a very small way. It wouldn’t take us to a
reduction of two-thirds. It would take us to a
reduction of maybe 15 to 20 percent in total. It’s no solution overall though
possibly it can add to the mix. The other part surely
is moving to renewable or low-carbon energy sources. Nuclear, solar, wind
or using fossil fuel and capturing the carbon and
safely storing it geologically, what’s called carbon
capture and sequestration. Another popular idea though
not very popular with me, remains to be proved,
is biofuels. The problem with biofuels
which we’ve embarked on in a big way is that they are
competing directly with land. Land that should be
used for food and land that should be used for nature, and photosynthesis is probably
just not a good enough way to fuel our economy and the
idea that we’re gonna get a lot out of biomass in my view is
still an unproven proposition perhaps not wrong but I
remain to be convinced. Well, if we moved from
14 percent to 50 percent of the energy mix to non-carbon,
we’d start to get there. But how could this be done? It would mean drastically
curtailing our use of oil of course and it would
mean using the fossil fuels in different ways. Larry who was here
and had to leave was, as many of you may know,
the lead of the project which is today’s headlines
in the Detroit news, the Chevy Volt, he was
GM’s Vice-President for Product Development and
Research and Development and made one of the most
consequential contributions which is a pathway from an
oil-based fleet of automobiles to electric or fuel cell,
also electric, but the grid or fuel-cell based fleet
of vehicles in the future. If you can do that
and power the grid with clean primary energy
sources, then one can begin to make a huge dent
in this energy mix. So there are lots of choices
that are at least potential. Nuclear wind, solar, carbon
capture and sequestration, possibly biomass, conversion
to electric vehicles, conversion from home
and building furnaces to electric heating
driven by heat pumps, industrial fuel cells at large
industrial scale and so forth. Lots of possible technologies
but there’s a huge problem which is why we’ve done
essentially none of it yet. We have to decide
we wanna do it. Because all of this
is more expensive than what we’re doing right
now, which is just burning coal and using the electricity
the cheap way. It is the case that the highest
carbon emitting energy source is also the world’s most plentiful
and also the cheapest to use. And so the world
is actually more and more moving towards coal
even though that’s moving away from a solution to the
climate change crisis.>>And the world’s leading
economy that depends on coal of course is China
where about 80 percent of the electricity is coal
fired and where 50 percent of the overall primary
energy is coal. Unbelievable, the
implications of that in such a rapidly
growing economy. It is meant that
in the short period of time China has
overtaken the United States. Even though it’s only half
the size of our economy, it’s overtaken the United
States in total emissions. China is the number 1 leading
emitting country in the world. And not per capita of
course, it’s one-fourth of the US per capita ’cause
it’s 4 times the population and roughly the same emissions. But it is the leading
emitter because it has such a coal-dependent economy. And the amount of coal that
it’s adding every year even as it looks to other fuels
as well is staggering and threatening to
the entire planet. So the same set of
calculations that I’m about to mention
briefly here definitely and even more importantly
are necessary in China, and within a decade or two will
be vital for India and for Asia in general, which is more than
half the world’s population, and soon will be more
than half or half at least of the world’s total GNP
or total world product. The problem is that we’re gonna
have to pay an extra price. Now why would we do this? To avoid the even greater
ecological devastation. And the cost benefit
analysis is pretty clear, at least if you have a
time horizon of 40 years. If you have a time
horizon of 100 years and you actually think we
have some responsibility to generations in the next
century it’s unequivocal because the current trajectory
is so devastating that any sense of risk would cost us to
have a massive change. The problem is that we have
not come to accept that and our political
cycle is obviously with the time horizon inevitably
of 2 years to the maximum, that’s on election
day and the day after election day the time
horizon is 2 years minus 1 day and the countdown is
relentless, and we’re already in presidential election season. And though we’ve barely
blinked and I don’t think that President Obama has even
finished filling his team yet for the first administration
before he’s got a full fledged effort of running
for reelection. So how much is this
likely to cost? Here some basic calculations
suggest the following, and I think this is
really the main point. To make the kind
of transformation that we would need
to get to one-sixth of emissions can be done
with known technologies or with technologies that are
at a near commercial scale. Those technologies will
improve overtime as we learn from actually implementing. There’s probably nothing that
needs to be done that isn’t at least on the drawing
board, the mockup or the demonstration
scale by now. The electric vehicles, the heat
pumps, the greener buildings, the fuel cells, the solar, the
wind, the nuclear are all there. And the one that is
consequential that’s not yet tested but all its pieces
are tested is the carbon capture and sequestration. The big question there is both
cost and geologic availability of reliable storage sites. But the evidence is the more
one looks at it that the costs of making this transformation
are within actually rather
low bounds. But that the transformation
is decades long to make because the power
plants, the vehicle fleet, the buildings last for decades. What would be expensive is to
knock everything down and try to start over, impossible. What is not prohibitively
expensive is to roll out the old stuff and
roll in the better stuff. And the difference in cost looks
to be something on the order of 50 to 100 dollars
per ton of CO2 avoided. Now if it’s 50 dollars
per ton and we have to avoid 4 billion tons
of it we’re talking about an annual cost
on the order of about 200 billion
dollars a year. Small stuff with what they
play within Washington. That currently is
about 1 point– what is it, 1.35 percent of GNP. So it’s between 1
and 2 percent of GNP. If instead you allow for the
energy efficiency as well and still assume that
high price, not abate– not declining overtime you’d
get something by the middle of the century that would be
well under 1 percent of GNP. And indeed if you phase in this
transition you could stay less than 1 percent of GNP
through the entire transformation process. And this I think really is the
bottom line of the reality. We can lose the planet because
we don’t want to do this or we can decide to invest
something a little bit less than 1 percent of
our income each year. Given that where America these
days I don’t know what we’re gonna decide. But as rational human being
who care for ourselves and for our children I think
the choice is pretty obvious when it’s laid out clearly. Now– I can’t go
through all of that. But let me say the following. There are probably
fairly clever, low intrusive ways to do this. Much better than the ways that
had been proposed in Washington and had so far been rejected
by Washington ’til now. And the way that I’m roughly
proposing this without going into all of the gory details
is to give an incentive for new low-carbon producers
by subsidizing the gap between essentially their
current higher cost and the cost of coal and guaranteeing
that subsidy out for a period of 25 years each year
on a rolling basis as new produces bring
clean technology online. Now how would you pay for that? Since we started out
with essentially a coal, gas and oil economy if you
put a tiny tax– sorry. If you put a tiny tax
on coal, oil and gas and then you give a
pretty robust subsidy, 5 cents a kilowatt hour, 6 cents
a kilowatt hour differential to the low-carbon
sources you bring them on with very low disruption. Over time as more and more of those new low-carbon
sources come online you have to give a wider subsidy. You raise that lower tax up
but that pushes up the price that consumers are anyway
paying for their energy. And it means that
you can also pull down slightly the
cents per kilowatt hour that you’re subsidizing the
new producers coming online and you create essentially
a rolling system. And I’ve illustrated it here. I won’t go into detail. But you phase in over a
40-year period, mind you, 4 cents per kilowatt
hour on the energy bill. You can’t make it
softer than that. And over time that ends up
raising the energy bill by total in the year 2050 by
about 0.7 of 1 percent of GNP according to
this calculation. Now it may be that the
technologies get even better on these renewables and
they compete on their own. It could be that
as a recent article in Nature magazine
had it two weeks ago, maybe we’ve over estimated.>>This is not exactly
easy news. It’s not great news but it
changes the calculation. Maybe we’ve overestimated
the amount of coal that’s under the ground. And rather than actually having
fairly unlimited supplies of coal just enough to wreck
the planet at a low price. Maybe the coal was
actually gonna rise in price and rise right pass the price
of solar and wind and so on so you wouldn’t need
any subsidies at all. We’ll just be led to these
alternatives by the market without even needing to take
into account the externality of climate change destruction. Whichever it is my
point is that we at a quite low price can
make this transition. It is essentially a
technology transition. It’s essentially based on the
idea of mass electrification of autos and of buildings and then converting
the electricity itself to a clean grid. Those are two essential
steps of this. Electricity is the fuel carrier. And the primary energy converts
either to carbon capture and sequestration or to a zero
or low-carbon energy source. And some of the best
technologies combine natural gas with wind or combine
natural gas with solar. You wanna make that combination
because of the intermittency of the renewables themselves. The costs are completely
manageable but we’ve never seen a plan. And this I really do fault
the administration for it. Instead of a plan they went
to congressional negotiations. They went to the back room,
they went to the lobbyists. They said if we give you these
many permits, if we do this and that will you come on board? And it was a pretty
awful process. Most of you were not watching
it as closely as the process of healthcare which was
another awful process in terms of how the lobbyists
swarmed around the system. Rather than having a plan with
the logic we had, unfortunately, the way we do is scrammed and
ended up partly with a mess. And on energy we didn’t
even end up with a mess. We ended up with the mess
that was passed in one house and was defeated in the other
house but we never saw a plan and this I think is
absolutely missing. Not that you can plan
from here to 2050 but you can certainly
bound a strategy and you can certainly use a plan to say what should we
do from here to 2020? And then we’ll recalibrate
along the way what’s called the adaptive programing but we
haven’t even started to do that. We went for cumbersome cap and
trade system which is a bit of a mess on many
accounts rather than a simpler gradually
rising transparent carbon tax because supposedly the
lesson was learned in 1993 when President Clinton
tried to put in the BTU tax, he never mentioned the
word tax, that maybe true. We do have part of
the electorate which is completely obsessively
and I use the word advisedly against us paying for
our most minimal needs and our most urgent
needs I should say. But the fact of the
matter is the cap and trade was immediately
branded a tax which implicitly was and
it was the end of it anyway and it was a much
less direct way to get where we needed to go. Obviously, we would need a
gradual phase in of subsidies as new producers come online. And that’s why the actual
budget outlays can be pushed to the future but paid for by an
identified gradually rising tax. We need a lot of
research and development. I don’t have time to
elaborate on this today because we don’t actually know
a lot of what needs to be known. How will carbon capture
and sequestration work? How will the Chevy Volt operate? How will batteries
improve in the future? How can a national grid be
properly and robustly managed when it relies on not
the base load of coal but a much higher
proportion of wind and solar and other interment sources? I’m told by all of my
engineering colleagues that we just don’t know the
answers to these things. They are knowable
but they are known. And we’re certainly going to need a broad mix
of technologies. Anyone that rules out a
major category probably has to think again. Sad to say we’re gonna need
nuclear and it’s sad to say because it’s a big
problem in this world. And the risk of, example,
proliferation politics are real but it is also a low-carbon
energy source that dozens of countries will use
for their electricity and that the United
States is going to need and continue to use. And we’re probably gonna
need carbon capture and sequestration. Clean coal, another
of those tagged words. Now there’s another
fight brewing which is about the natural gas deposits
and the hydrofracking so called, of blasting out of the
shale rock of the Marcellus so shale underneath New
York and Pennsylvania, massive deposits whether this
can be done ecologically soundly or not. Nothing is assured
in any of this. Everything has to
be done adaptively. The only thing that
unfortunately is assured is that the current course
is a course of disaster and a disaster that’s
already underway. We start today in Cancun. There will be no
agreement, maybe next year. But it’s a very odd process. It’s basically the wrong people
at the negotiating table. It’s very nice diplomats. I love diplomats. When they’re good they
keep us out of war. But they are not good engineers. They don’t design systems. They certainly don’t
design physical and technological systems. They don’t understand
the economics, and they don’t know
how to get us started. And unfortunately, these negotiations have kept
the business sector away and kept the analytical and
the academic sector away and so we don’t have
negotiations over the things that we need to be
negotiating on. I think the kind of framework
that I very loosely sketched of how to converge in 2050 to a one-sixth emission
standard is actually a basis for discussion, a kind of
convergence of technologies. And I think that China and India and other low-income countries
right now accept the fact that they want to
converge on incomes and that they would
also have to converge on technological standards. And how to do that and
who to pay for some of the extra costs are
valid issues of negotiation. But focusing on how to make that convergence process work
I believe is the right way to negotiate but we’re
not there yet at all. And we’ve simply not
cast these negotiations in the context of technology. Now, finally, let me
turn back to us here. These are the numbers from the
most recent few center survey on American attitudes
towards climate change. They are horrifying. What’s happening to us? We’re a weird place. We’re in a complete
anti-science rant right now and it’s getting worse. Since climate has been big news
in recent years the numbers of people who believe
that there’s evidence for it has fallen sharply, down
from 50 percent who believe that there is human-induced
climate change in the 19– 2000– sorry– 2006 poll to
just 34 percent last month. So well over half of the American people either
believe this is a natural process for which the scientists
have looked up and down at changes of solar radiation
and every other kind of process that could conceivably be part of this can’t find
those fingerprints or that it’s not
happening at all. In the lower left hand part of the chart you see the
answers by political party. Only 16 percent of
republican respondents said that there’s human-induced
climate change.>>We’re in an extraordinary
moment when a really life and death issue for the planet
has become a completely partisan issue as well and were
beliefs on the basic facts are so profoundly different
across the divide. So 53 percent of democrats,
16 percent of republicans and the independents right in
the middle with 32 percent. And among our newly ascended
tea party it’s 8 percent. Eight percent of those who
among the republicans who said that they agree with
the tea party also said that there’s human-induced
climate change. What’s happening here? It’s really hard to know. Of course it is true you can get
25 percent of Americans to agree on any proposition you can name and so there is something
to that. But the aggressive
anti-science that we’re living in right now is not
entirely an accident. I have seen over the
recent years and many of us in academia feel it, the most
relentless assault on science that I certainly recall in
my professional lifetime and it’s led by identifiable
and powerful interests that are doing a profound
disservice to the planet. Number 1, Rupert Morduch. Definitely the most destructive
individual on this issue and many others in the world
because he commands the media in a way that almost no other
person on the planet does. I don’t know whether he’s simply
the most cynical or ignorant but somehow he is
the most destructive. Sometimes I believe the Wall
Street Journal editorial page is just designed to get my
blood going in the morning because my wife knows that I’m
absolutely bouncing off the walls every morning by
about 6 a.m. out of control. So it’s morning exercise but it actually has a
very powerful effect. David Koch who some
of your may have read about in the New Yorker
earlier this year. The owner of America’s
largest privately owned oil and gas company,
Koch Industries, big philanthropist in New York. You go to Lincoln Center,
you go to Koch Theater. You go to the American
Natural History Museum you go to the Koch Exhibition. More destruction of financing
anti-scientific propaganda than perhaps any
other person other than Rupert Murdoch himself, and
this stuff works in today’s age. And we’re facing something more
than problems of communication. More than problems of what was
called climategate last year of injudicious statements
by a few climate scientists that I can assure you
had absolutely zero to do with the climate science
and with its reliability, its depth, its knowledge. But it was taken on
as a massive campaign by the Wall Street Journal who everyday wrote the most
vicious nonsense saying that not only was
climate science wrong but it was a deliberate global
scientific hoax and fraud and conspiracy by all of those
climate scientists looking to get rich under
government grants. And I kid you not. And as one who tries to
help keep these people able to do their marvelous
research, they’re not in it for the bucks I can tell you. They are in it because they know that not only is the
science fascinating and deep but the stakes could
not be higher. And for us ladies and gentlemen,
the stakes that we have as citizens now to get
our country reoriented in the right direction
could also not be higher. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] [ Inaudible Remarks ]>>Okay, maybe a couple. Yeah. Okay.>>Thank you very
much for both a sober and passionate assessment and a concrete policy
analysis and proposal. We are very short of
time but we are going to take just two questions. And I’m going to ask
for one from each side. And if you could
say the questions and then we’ll turn back to Jeff for a quick response,
that would be great. So, perhaps one on
each side first. Here.>>Please.>>Yes. Hi Jeff,
I’m Mary Albertson. I’m from Results Global
Group in the area. I wanna thank you
for your friendship and your support to Results. What I wanted to ask you about
was if you would please comment on the importance of investments
like a global fund for education and why this is doable and
needed even in this economy for educating the people.>>Great. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, let’s take one more, yeah.>>Thank you also for a
lucid and enlightening talk. You’ve talked much about
the quantitative needs for more energy to
meet economic growth and human aspirations
primarily using the first law of thermodynamics
that is talking about X number kilowatt hours
of BTUs to do that work. Yet as we give up oil,
natural gas, coal we’re going to energy that’s
much less intensive, much less power packed
than those fuels. We’re going to the very general
harvesting of solar and wind and so on which means that we’re
probably not only gonna have to increase our effort but
also change our lifestyles to solve problems that lower
temperature energy sources could do like living closer together. Giving up the American dream
of sprawl and living in cities where we can walk, use
transit and bicycle. Could you comment on that?>>Sure. So first on the
question about global fund for education and I wanna first
thank Results International which is a marvelous,
marvelous organization which mobilizes public
awareness for purposes of global sustainable
development. And I love everything
that Results does. I didn’t talk about
problems of puberty per se. But what this chart shows
is I think perhaps useful very briefly. The red triangles are
conflict areas and the yellow on the map are dry lands. And what’s happening, the
point that I’m making. This is taken from a book
that I wrote a couple of years ago called
“Commonwealth,” is that the ecological
stresses of the poorest places, the dry lands, are spilling
over into massive conflict. And we’re fighting in places
like Afghanistan or Yemen or Somalia or Sudan,
not by accident but because people
are hungry, desperate, poor and therefore those places
become vulnerable to terror or to internal conflict
or to demagoguery and extremism and the like. We are spending an
unbelievable waste of our resources fighting this
condition through military means which is useless because– [ Applause ]>>The problems are poverty. And we spend in Afghanistan 100
billion dollars a year right now and one-hundredth of that on the
poverty problems in Afghanistan and we go out of our way. We don’t care about Afghanistan. This is just about Al Qaeda. It’s mind boggling how
ignorant this process is. We’re just really in the hands of the military,
I’m sorry to say. And if you read Bob
Woodward’s book on Obama’s war you can’t find
one sentence in the whole book of anybody that says one word about Afghanistan’s
real life conditions. Even though what’s
mentioned a hundred times by these generals is
winning the hearts and minds, they don’t have a clue as
to the hearts and minds. Not a clue because the poverty,
the hunger, the water stress, the ecological stress isn’t
mentioned one sentence in the entire book. And this is our disaster. So why do we need a global fund
for education or a global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, or help to make sure the girls
can stay in secondary school which is one of the things that
such a global fund would do, or help for small-holder
farmers to grow more crops.>>First, it would save lives;
second, it might save our souls; and third, it would be by
far the most reliable way to peace on the planet. And climate change is gonna make
all of these dreadfully worse because it’s the poorest
people who almost inherently, not inherently, but by dint
of history are poor in part because they’re living
in marginalized places that are already very difficult
and therefore more vulnerable to the kinds of dislocations
that are likely to come. Second question was about
the lifestyle changes and how we can manage on this. I think there are a
couple of things to say. First, let me make
a technical point that solar power
is very diffused but there is potentially
a lot of land available. This is one way that the deserts
really can fulfill a tremendous direct human need at very,
very low ecological price. And many of you have seen the
little square in the Sahara which collects enough
solar radiation to fuel the entire world. This is not fanciful that our
Mojave Desert or the Sahara or the Atacama Desert in
Chile and Peru and so forth or the Gobi or the
Taklamakan or the Thar Desert in India could actually
become places for major collection
of solar radiation. Yes, very, very large
arrays brought to people living in cities. I think it’s a pretty
interesting way to go when there’s something called
DESERTEC and DESERTEC Foundation which is looking to mobilize
the deserts for solar energy on a very large scale. And I find it a very
exciting thing. Now lifestyle changes absolutely
are part of I think any kind of improvement in our
quality of life aside from our environmental
sustainability. We’re finding that the
way we’ve designed sprawl, the way we’ve designed our
cities without walking, the way that our landscape
has led to more flooding and less percolation
of rainfall, less– more surface runoff and so forth
provokes major hazards for us, major health risks and
I think major problems of our own psyches right now. One of the interesting
things about economic growth that economists have understood
since Richard Easterlin at the University of
Pennsylvania brought the fact to our attention more
than 30 years ago is that after a certain point, this chase for higher
incomes is not leading to higher self reported
happiness or satisfaction. And what economists now
technically call SWB, subjective well being
in the opinion surveys. And it’s actually quite stark. You get big gains
when you’re poor. They are real gains. I can tell you living with
electricity rather than living without it, it’s huge. It’s huge. It keeps you alive. It allows you to have
a quality of life that we forget what
happens without it, perhaps. But after a point and we’ve
certainly reached the point that the statistic
show, it’s very hard to find much benefit directly
from per capita income per se as opposed to better
health, more longevity. But that’s not necessarily
coming from a higher GNP per capita. That’s coming from a smarter
lifestyle, a better way to live, walking rather than driving
every place and so on. And so I could only
say amen in general that there are many
things that cities and dense settlements
actually do very, very well. New York City’s CO2 footprint
per capita is one-fourth of the national average. You can see why people walk. Buildings, your building
heats the next building because you’re all
interconnected down the long blocks of the
row houses or the brownstones. And it shows up very
much in the results. So these kinds of
changes no doubt are part of what I call the energy
efficiency, getting more for less and getting
and being happier as a result of it as well. And I think that there is a
lot of that kind of learning and introspection to do. We are absolutely on what the
psychologists called the hedonic treadmill right now. We are running so fast,
we’re completely frenzied. And why we’re doing it and
what we think we’re getting out of it really
is a huge question but a question for
another lecture. Thanks. [ Applause ]>>Thank you Jeff. We certainly got a lot more. And we appreciate all of
your insights and comments. Thank you, all of you, for
joining us this afternoon. There are I think
some refreshments and hopefully a conversation
in the lobby. And I invite you to stay and
continue your discussion. Thanks again for joining us. [ Applause ]

Maurice Vega

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment