, Volume 89, Issue 3-4, pp 207-218,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 08 Jul 2008

Stern’s Review and Adam’s fallacy

Abstract

The Stern Review has played an enormous role in making the world of business aware of the challenge of long-term climate change. In order to make real progress on the basis of this awareness, it is important to pay attention to the difference between human suffering and losses of gross domestic product (GDP). The Review has compared climate change to experiences of suffering like World War I. That war, however, hardly affected global GDP. The long-term damages to be expected from business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions include loss of the coastal cities of the world over the next millennia. This would be an act of unprecedented barbarism, regardless of whether it would slow down economic growth or perhaps even accelerate it. Business leaders worried about climate change need to pay attention to the tensions between ethical and economic concerns. Otherwise, a credibility crisis threatens global climate policy. An important step to establish the credibility needed for effective climate policy will be to gradually move towards a regime where emission permits are auctioned, not handed out as hidden subsidies. The revenues generated by permit auctions should be used to establish a global system of regional climate funds.