Monday, December 29, 2008

Wealthy, developed nations have a duty to help poorer ones clean up so they don’t repeat the same mistakes

A. James Barnes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The United States and other highly developed nations should provide financial and technological assistance to China and other developing countries to facilitate their use of clean and sustainable energy technologies.

Ideally, such assistance would be structured as part of an agreement where all the major developed and developing countries agree to cap and then reduce their emission of greenhouse gases. But we should not delay such assistance pending a comprehensive global agreement; it is in our national economic interest as well as our national security interest to provide it — and we have a moral imperative to do so as well.

As the Council on Foreign Relations notes, "Unchecked climate change is poised to have wide-ranging and potentially disastrous effects over time on human welfare, sensitive ecosystems and international security." We should take reasonable measures within our control to address this prospect, even if at times it may allow others to a "free ride."

…The United States faces the prospect of having to invest billions of dollars to adapt to the climate change that will take place. It can be more cost-effective to help other countries avoid contributing to the buildup of greenhouse gases that will occur if they use dirty, inefficient or unsustainable technologies. As the old saw goes — "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." And increasing the global demand for low-carbon technologies that we develop can boost jobs in this country.

…. How can we in good conscience ask poorer countries to restrain their hopes for economic development and to avoid coming up to our per capita levels of carbon emission — and not be willing to help? That is morally indefensible. As the old Indian saying goes, the earth is not inherited from our fathers but is borrowed from our children. We should act responsibly to pass a viable earth on to all the children of the world.

The Alchemist, 1663, Cornelis Pietersz Bega

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