The Danger of Climate Doomsayers
We need to solve climate change, but we also need to make sure that the cure isn’t more painful than the disease. Abandoning fossil fuels as quickly as possible, as many environmental activists demand, would slow the growth that has lifted billions of people out of poverty.
PALO ALTO – Most people on the planet wake up each day thinking that things are getting worse. It is little wonder, given what they routinely read in the newspaper or see on television. But this gloomy mood is a problem, because it feeds into scare stories about how climate change will end in Armageddon.
The fact is that the world is mostly getting better. For starters, average global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900 and is now above 70 years. Because the increase has been particularly marked among the poor, health inequality has declined massively. Moreover, the world is more literate, child labor is decreasing, and we are living in one of the most peaceful times in history.
In addition, people are better off economically. Over the past 30 years, average global per capita income has almost doubled, leading to massive reductions in poverty. In 1990, nearly four in ten of the world’s people were poor; today, less than one in ten are. That has helped to transform the way people live. Between 1990 and 2015, for example, the proportion of the world’s population practicing open defecation halved to 15%. And in the same period, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved water sources, bringing the global share up to 91%.