Not Denying the Problem
To the Editor:
Reviewing my book, “False Alarm,” in the Aug. 9 issue, Joseph E. Stiglitz misses its main argument: Climate change is a real, man-made and substantial problem. For instance, the U.N. Climate Panel estimates that hurricanes might become fewer, but fiercer, resulting in more damages.
The total negative climate impact is estimated by climate economics, spearheaded by the only climate economist to win a Nobel, William Nordhaus from Yale University. Studies show that while the cost of stronger hurricanes will rise, resilience from richer societies will counteract this effect. By 2100, one highly quoted Nature article suggests that fiercer hurricanes will cost the world 0.02 percent of G.D.P. Similarly, climate will mostly make agriculture harder, although adaptation will mitigate this impact. The largest empirical study finds the total cost by 2100 at 0.26 percent of G.D.P. Adding up these and many other costs, we can come to a total cost of unmitigated climate change by 2100 of about 3 percent of G.D.P.
That makes climate change a problem, but it seems counter to much end-of-world media coverage. That is because most climate stories are told without realistic, moderating effects. The recent headlines that 187 million people will be flooded by 2100 assumes no adaptation. With realistic adaptation, the actual number is 600 times lower.
Climate policies are also costly. Cutting 80 percent of the E.U. emissions by 2050 will cost 5 percent of G.D.P. Going net-zero, as proposed by the presidential candidate Joseph Biden, has been independently assessed by only one nation, New Zealand. It found the cost would be at least 16 percent of G.D.P.
The fundamental insight from climate economics is that we need to endure both the cost of climate damage and climate policy damage. Cutting too little carbon makes the world endure higher total costs, but similarly, cutting too much will lead to more total suffering.
I take issue with many other aspects of Stiglitz’s central argument. Crucially, in his rush to rubbish my book, its central point, with which I think Stiglitz would agree, gets lost: Since many climate policies are inefficient, we should be careful to tackle climate change with smart and effective policies like a carbon tax, green innovation and adaptation.
To the Editor:
Jon Meacham’s moving Aug. 2 essay on Jackie Robinson’s autobiography “I Never Had It Made” overlooked an important moment in Robinson’s history — and America’s. It happened on July 18, 1949, when the baseball star denounced the singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson before the House Un-American Activities Committee. White America’s Red Scare had tried to turn one Black hero against another.
Robinson was midway through his finest season when he was summoned to the office of the Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey. The success of their “great experiment,” Rickey said, was at risk unless Robinson testified in Congress against Robeson. “Mr. Rickey demanded that I go” to Washington, Robinson wrote. “At that point in my life, if Mr. Rickey had told me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, I would have said, ‘Head first or feet first?’” Weeks after his testimony, concertgoers at an outdoor performance by Robeson were attacked by a rock-throwing mob that set a cross on fire.
Meacham notes the disappointment Robinson felt at the end of his life about America’s failure to act against racism. But, as “I Never Had It Made” also shows, he reflected on his own actions as well. “I knew that Robeson was striking out against racial inequality in the way that seemed best to him,” Robinson wrote. But “I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the white man than I have today.”
David M. Friedman
Fight the People
To the Editor:
I’m surprised to see Bill Keller write, in his Aug. 2 review of Anne Applebaum’s “Twilight of Democracy,” that “virulent populist movements have always existed in America, on the right (the Klan, say) and the left (the Weather Underground, say).” There was nothing populist about the Weather Underground. One of their early slogans, in fact, was: “Fight the people.” They thought that “bringing the war home” to America would help revolutionaries in the third world, not Americans. Not a very rousing appeal in the United States!
The writer is the author of “The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.”