China, India, Global Warming

Yesterday, I made the point that I didn’t see what use it would be for the United States to cut back on greenhouse gases, while China and India raced ahead, spewing pollution at a rate that makes the West look squeaky clean. They haven’t signed up for Kyoto; and they will rightly complain that we weren’t ham-string while we were developing our economies, so why should they? Several of you countered my point. Here’s the most succinct expression of the other view:

The best argument that I can make about China and India, is that if the United States were to really tackle our CO2 emissions, we would do it by producing technology that would produce CO2-free energy in a cost-effective way, or similarly technology that makes substantially more efficient.  That is something that Chinese and Indian companies would readily purchase from us, especially as global pressure increases to comply on the issue.

The thing to remember is that these countries are growing so much, but they still have a great ways to go, and they are about as agressive as any nation when it comes to adopting new technologies.

I can see that. But that means primarily a pro-growth, pro-tech green emphasis, rather than on old-style environmentalism in which government intervenes to prevent certain pollutants. I can see the point. A policy that greatly increased the gas tax, while slowing greenhouse emissions through tradable permits might well prompt the private sector to come up with cleaner energy resources. Whether those resources would be economically attractive to the developing world is another story. My skepticism is muted, but not abolished. A global push for clean drinking water might alleviate far more human suffering far more reliably than a compromised and uncertain attempt to halt global warming.