A “Cascade of Uncertainty” – Economics of Growth and Climate Mitigation

14 Jul

From the country-wide ramifications of a dam on the Mekong River to the viability of emissions trading, the second full day of PSIGCC 2009 frequently came back to economic considerations. Led by two Henry L. Stimson Center scholars – Dr. Richard Cronin and Mr. David Michel, the participants were asked throughout the day to place their local and regional solutions within the context of economic reality.

In the case of the Mekong, Dr. Cronin’s presentation revealed the fragility of the ecosystem and the vulnerability of a huge swathe of Vietnam’s population to the changes a new dam could effect. This case study is particularly germane to the wider field of climate change because it pits many interrelated forces against each other: local versus regional policies, development versus environmental degradation, upstream versus downstream countries. The at-risk fisheries and the Mekong Delta as a whole, the working groups decided, must benefit from multilateral cooperation between Vietnam’s government and local communities, Cambodia, China, developers and other interested parties. Similarly,  Mr. Michel broke the participants into groups to wrangle over the relative merits of carbon caps or taxes. After a spirited discussion Michel concluded the session by suggesting that governments may arrive at workable solutions not by focusing on the burdens of emission controls but by looking for public goods generated by sound environmental policies.

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