The False Choice Between Economic Growth and Combatting Climate Change

When I was a child, half of Austrias rivers were polluted to the point where swimming in them was considered a hazard. The air was so toxic in certain areas that birds fell from the sky and sour rain killed the forests. That’s all old history – I would gladly swim in any river in Austria today. The days of the cowboy economy are long gone. But some still eel the need to over dramatize in order to give the wheel another spin. People die of bad air and from bad water. Dead forests are a potent sign that things are very wrong. But carbon is not on the same level. Its not a poison like those other substances – it’s actually the foundation of life. We must change our perception of CO2.

In 1974, the economist William Nordhaus described the transition from a “cowboy economy” to a “spaceship economy.” In the former, he wrote, “we could afford to use our resources profligately,” and “the environment could be used as a sink without becoming fouled.

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