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An Open Letter to CBS News Radio Commentator Dave Ross

Posted By Don Boudreaux On August 9, 2012 @ 4:46 pm In Cleaned by Capitalism,Environment,History,Seen and Unseen | Comments Disabled

Mr. Dave Ross
KIRO-FM
Seattle, WA

Dear Mr. Ross:

In your segment “What happened to global warming being a hoax? [1]” – aired during today’s 1pm hour on Washington, DC’s, WTOP radio – you played a clip of U.C.-Berkeley scientist Richard Muller saying that “all of this warming over the last 250, 260 years has been caused by green house gases emitted by humans.”

Being no physical scientist myself, I accept Mr. Muller’s claim.  But contrary to most people’s reaction to this news, my reaction is “What a deal!”

In exchange for slightly warmer global temperatures, humanity gets off-the-charts benefits never before enjoyed by ordinary men and women – benefits that began to flow only 250, 260 years ago.  In industrialized countries, these benefits include a near-tripling of life-expectancy; a growth in average real per-capita income to a level at least 30 times higher than it was a mere three centuries ago; an end to famine and plagues; abolition of the multi-millennial-old institution of slavery; widespread literacy; and an unprecedented expansion in women’s rights and opportunities – all these wonders, and more, from bourgeois commerce and industry powered in part by fossil fuels.  Has humanity ever gotten so much at such a puny price?

Asked differently, who among us would choose to exchange modernity and its stupendous prosperity for whatever reduction in global temperature we’d enjoy had all the greenhouse gasses emitted over the past 250, 260 years never been released?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

P.S. None of the above suggests that, at the margin, reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions aren’t desirable.  They might or might not be, depending on the attendant costs and benefits.  But historical perspective – which is utterly lacking amidst popular and media commentary on this question – is necessary.  If the choice were between, on the one hand, all the commerce and industry and its attendant greenhouse-gas emissions over the past 250, 260 years, and, on the other hand, none of that industry and (hence) no industry-released greenhouse gasses over the past 250, 260 years, how many rational people would choose the latter?

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