In the halting, measured language we’ve come to expect from his impromptu public remarks, President Obama posed a core dilemma of climate change yesterday at his first post-election press conference. Explaining the possible repercussions of failing to act now, he said, climate change “is going to have an impact and a cost down the road, if we don’t do something about it.”
Whether to pay for an energy transformation now, or take our chances with climate impacts and costs “down the road,” is a key, polarizing economic question within climate change policy. Another way of framing it is this: What’s the future worth to you?
People alive today and people alive 100 years from now have the same moral value it seems to me and different economic value. That sets up all sorts of trickiness. As economist Richard Tol has put it, placing an even greater economic value on the future than economists do “may be morally preferable but is clearly out of line with common practice.”
Money tends to lose value over time. A dollar today is worth much more than in 2112. We tend to believe that the economy will grow, we’ll all be richer later, the value of a dollar will gradually fall — and with it the cost of adapting to a new climate. It’ll be cheaper to adapt to changes in the future than anticipate them and pay for them with more valuable dollars now.
Part of it is also just human psychology. We live in the present, not the future, so why don’t I just take that dollar now, thank you. As J. Wellington Wimpy — yup, Popeye’s friend — expresses the problem, “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” When he’s staring at a lightly charred, grease-oozing meat patty wedged into a bun, Tuesday sounds as agreeable as anything because it’s practically synonymous with “never.”
Like many other developed economies, Canada is facing a major demographic change as the baby boom generation begins to retire. David Foot, co-author of the best-selling book, Boom, Bust & Echo tells BNN the country’s universities will face enrollment challenges as the country’s population ages.
“The peak number of births occurred in 1991 and started down in 1992, so add 19 to that and you get 2012 and that’s the beginning of smaller-entering college and university classes,” he says.
“We’re right at the peak now.”
Foot says universities in Eastern Canada — where the demographics are about 5 years ahead of the rest of the country — are already showing declining enrollment.
[You can see the video of the whole interview at the link below]
Strange Random Ageing Quote:
“Sympathetic cracks. A term frequently used by architects and surveyors in terms of ageing houses. I know what they mean.” – Ted Dexter
- Budgetary watchdog warns of rapidly aging population (ctv.ca)
- Demography / Economy / Population Aging : Markets are those that make the adjustment, not governments (skillsinfo.wordpress.com)
- Crying out for more babies (familyinequality.wordpress.com)
- Think Tank: Youthful Northern Canada Is Future’s Key (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Aging Canada will boost budget pain, watchdog says (cbc.ca)
- Our ageing population; one more reason to change the Government. (greenvoices.wordpress.com)
- Trade News: From Euromonitor – European Outlook, Aging Populations & Obesity (worldtradedaily.com)
As the world faces recession, climate change, inequity and more, Tim Jackson delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future.
Strange Random Economics Quote:
“Economists are pessimists: they’ve predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions” – Barry Asmus
- Tim Jackson- consumption and living (atyoursenses.com)
- Is economic growth incompatible with sustainable development? (mantrameds.wordpress.com)
- Does Economic Growth Undermine Prosperity? (treehugger.com)
- You: As the dream of economic growth dies (ourworld.unu.edu)
- Ten Essential Economics Books (edinburghcoffeehouse.com)