« Posner's Comment on Sustainable Growth | Main | Sustainable Growth--Posner's Response to Comments »

09/18/2005

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c031153ef013482fcee77970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On Sustainable Development-BECKER:

» annuncio offerta lavoro lombardia from annuncio offerta lavoro lombardia
annuncio offerta lavoro lombardia [Read More]

» corso polizza vita from corso polizza vita
corso polizza vita [Read More]

» uniform rape from uniform rape
uniform rape [Read More]

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Anonymous

I agree to your view. Just one point not directly related to the discussion: I believe the report you are referring to is from Cambridge "Energy" Research Associates (i.e. not "Economic").

Patrick R. Sullivan

What's interesting about Jevons' The Coal Question, is that the concern arose because of the increased efficiency of steam engines (thanks to James Watt).

Paul N

I agree with Becker.

Minor edit: should be "BRCA1 and BRCA2"

monkyboy

Just a few calcs for nuclear power replacing oil:

The U.S. uses about 21 million bbls (blue barrels) of oil a day.
18 million of those barrels goes into gasoline production.

At 100% efficiency, the U.S. would have to build 1200 new nuclear plants to replace the amount of energy those 18 million barrels represent. Due to the production and transmission losses inherent in electrical power, we would actually have to build around 5000 nuclear plants to replace the oil we burn powering cars and trucks...that's 100 new nuclear plants per state.

Each nuclear plant costs about $5 billion to build, so figure about $25 trillion + all the new transmission lines, gas station modifications, waste storage, etc... call it $50 trillion.

There are only 441 nuclear plants operating worldwide today...109 in the U.S.

FN

"This term is typically not defined carefully, but sustainability requires that improvements in the living standards of the present generation should also be attainable by future generations."

I take it Dr. Becker that your more "careful" definition assumes maintaining the present world status quo where 1/10th of the world's population consumes most of the fossil fuels.

How about calculating "sustainability" using an economic model where the rest of the world gulps fossil fuels on the scale of the USA to enjoy the same kind of living standards and not just better health and "full income".

Also, please visit the countries in the sahel region of Africa to see the impact of environmental change on people's very basic livelihoods. It gives a very graphic meaning to the whole issue of economic sustainability.

Michelle

What I find to be really at issue, is that certain suppliers, i.e. Saudi Arabia, believe that they will always control the 'supply.' There's no use describing what the supply really is, we don't know. Most likely there's more than we would ever pessimistically predict, people are very concerned about saving their lives, and when it becomes critical, then people stop whining and start working.(or start intimidating, for real) Oil could be 'fools gold' so I really worry that Americans are being deceived and that this is a form of 'taunting' when frankly, America is a giant already.

I think the best thing to do is to look for alternative solutions and to try to manage it so that we're not so intimidated by foreign bogeymen who will suddenly make us all sink into anarchy. Really, it can't happen, parasites would be too stupid to kill of their host, they're greedy so they're not mad.

Zathras

It's interesting that both Becker and Posner address this question assuming "other things are equal": in other words, that no major series of natural catastrophes, epidemics, or wars significantly influences what kinds of economic development are "sustainable" and which are not.

There have been eras -- such as the last 50-odd years, and the last half of the 19th century -- when this assumption was mostly well founded. It could be in the next 50 years as well. But maybe not. Rapid, even spectacular advances in medical knowledge and technology may do great good for some people, but a major flu pandemic could kill millions of the people medical advances could have helped. Demographic "bubbles" (an abnormally large number of old people, for instance, or poor people) could be deflated by the same mechanism. A nuclear exchange or even a major accident somewhere in the world, internal political turmoil in China or India or protracted warfare in the Persian Gulf region, unforeseen technological breakthroughs and perhaps other major events could significantly alter our ideas about sustainability, as did the momentous events of the last century's first half.

Wes

I am reminded of Einstein a hundred years ago. In 1905 he published major discoveries in the fields of quantum physics (the photoelectric effect), statistical mechanics (brownian motion) and relativity (magnetism and special relativity). I don't know whether he felt good about the coming century or not but many people in his position would have been feeling rather optimistic.I wonder if Einstien had any idea that a decade later Europe would be plunged into WWI and a couple decades after that the fighting would resume with WWII and that in the process he and other members of his ethnic group would be driven out of Europe (if they were lucky enough to find a country willing to take them) or killed (if they weren't).In 2005 it is easy to look at recent scientific progress and feel optimistic about the coming century but there's no guarantee that this century won't unfold the same way as the last one.

Scott

It seems to me that Becker's analysis can be summarized as follows: lots of bad things may happen because of lack of sustainability in the energy industry, but it doesn't matter because medicine will advance so much that our overall happiness will increase anyway. That seems to be a very silly way to analyze a situation. It suggests that we should stop working on one set of problems just because there will likely be progress somewhere else. Instead, we should work on all of our problems. There are enough people to do that, but it won't happen if we gloss over the problems. Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but I believe we can clean up the environment, improve people's health, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, AND address the problem of inequality around the globe. We shouldn't pick only one problem to work on.

ben

Wes,

I think there is cause for greater optimism in this century than the last, because a number of factors relevant to war are different now.

The world is much more interconnected by trade, aid, communications and political connections, than 100 years ago. Multiple overlapping economic and political coalitions now exist. These connections raise the cost of going to war.

The rise of information as a good has weakened the connection between economic power and geography. The death of mercantilism has essentially broken the connection between natural resources and wealth.

The development of mass communications and media has made it more difficult to secretly mobilize for war, and to incite or sustain human atrocities (true, atrocities still occur but I suspect they occur less frequently and when they do they are smaller - I can't prove this).

Also, the lessons of last century, in particular the contrasting outcomes after the first and second world wars (Versailles vs Marshall Plan) remain relevant and are unlikely to be forgotten.

For these reasons, I think it is unlikely we will see another world war this century.

An area that is of concern is that as nuclear technology is more widely disseminated there is an increased likelihood that either a) an accidental detonation, or b) a terrorist gaining access to a nuclear weapon. This is, of course, a different kind of problem to that faced a century ago.

I'm no historian but I believe Einstein could have predicted a European war in 1905 or shortly after. Having read a history of the early 20th century I was struck by the political volatility that existed in Europe 90-100 years ago, and the contrast with the cordial relations of today.

Barrett

Scott,

"It seems to me that Becker's analysis can be summarized as follows: lots of bad things may happen because of lack of sustainability in the energy industry, but it doesn't matter because medicine will advance so much that our overall happiness will increase anyway.....That seems to be a very silly way to analyze a situation. It suggests that we should stop working on one set of problems just because there will likely be progress somewhere else."

I don't think he ever suggested that it wouldn't matter or that we should quit working on one problem just because there might be offsetting gains in another area. Obviously, working on both problems would maximize utility, to use the economics lexicon.

Wes

I'm no historian but I believe Einstein could have predicted a European war in 1905 or shortly after.Whether he could have predicted it, he did manage to find a way to live through it. That may be the most important lesson: that people manage to live their lives in spite of the wars that occur in their lifetime. Then again, the people who don't live through the wars aren't around to talk about it so the fact that people who are around to talk about it have lived through wars may not actually mean very much.Having read a history of the early 20th century I was struck by the political volatility that existed in Europe 90-100 years ago, and the contrast with the cordial relations of today.My, admittedly limited, understanding of WWI is that the root cause was jockeying for power and influence. This led to a situation where no one felt they could back down and they all jumped into what was supposed to be a minor war (over the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand) in order to "defend" their interests.It's interesting that Bush recently said "The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us," The statement lacks any precise interpretation but the general feeling it conveys is similar to the attitude of the main players in World War I just prior to World War I - that bad things will happen if a country doesn't go to war at the first opportunity.I didn't trust Clinton to keep his personal life in order (and I didn't care if he didn't) but I did trust Clinton not to start World War III. I'm not sure I can say the same about Bush and the leaders who follow in his footsteps.

Anonymous

delete me

Seth Ayarza

Is this guy brilliant or what? I have trouble even attempting an argument. His writing and thinking is genius. Anyone got something substantive to throw against him?

Anonymous

مركز تحميل

Anonymous

بنت الزلفي

Anonymous

Thank you, you always get to all new and used it
شات صوتي

Anonymous

Sasjxg

Anonymous

Thank you, you always get to all new and used it
ÿ¥ÿßÿ™

ÿØÿ±ÿØÿ¥ÿ©

Anonymous

thanksss
ÿ¥ÿßÿ™ ŸÖÿµÿ±
--
دردشة مصرية

Anonymous

ÿØÿ±ÿØÿ¥ÿ©
___
صور

Anonymous

Good afternoon. Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.
I am from Marshall and , too, and now am writing in English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "But your perfect mexico vacation might be more along the lines of finding the perfect cantina to sit and listen to music while looking at the other beauties mexico offers."

With respect :-(, Adelle.

Anonymous

Very interesting site. Hope it will always be alive!

Anonymous

Great site. Keep doing.

Anonymous

It is the coolest site, keep so!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Become a Fan

March 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31