Thursday, October 9, 2008

The sunny side of a global economic collapse

It seems that some on the environmental left would like nothing less than a rollback of the Industrial Revolution, with a vastly reduced human population living sustainably: consuming only locally-produced durable goods and food (grown organically, of course), etc. Living in this manner would cut back on CO2 emissions in countless ways.

From this point of view, the worldwide collapse of financial markets is good news, because the resulting economic slowdown means a reduction in activities (manufacturing, transportation) that result in CO2 emissions. An October 7 Reuters article reports it this way:
A slowdown in the world economy may give the planet a breather from the excessively high carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions responsible for climate change, a Nobel Prize winning scientist said on Tuesday.

Atmospheric scientist Paul J Crutzen, who has in the past floated the possibility of blitzing the stratosphere with sulfur particles to cool the earth, said clouds gathering over the world economy could ease the earth's environmental burden.

Slower economic growth worldwide could help slow growth of carbon dioxide emissions and trigger more careful use of energy resources, though the global economic turmoil may also divert focus from efforts to counter climate change, said Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the depletion of the ozone layer.

"It's a cruel thing to say ... but if we are looking at a slowdown in the economy, there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage," Crutzen told Reuters in an interview.

"We could have a much slower increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere ... people will start saving (on energy use) ... but things may get worse if there is less money available for research and that would be serious."