El clima de la seguridad

CAMBRIDGE – Si bien George W. Bush ha comenzado a admitir los riesgos del cambio climático global, su administración no tomó la delantera en el tema durante ocho años. Esto puede cambiar después de las elecciones norteamericanas de 2008. Ambos candidatos presidenciales, Barack Obama y John McCain, prometen tomarse el cambio climático más seriamente.

Las emisiones de dióxido de carbono, un gas de tipo invernadero que se acumula en la atmósfera y es una causa importante de las crecientes temperaturas, es un producto derivado de una amplia gama de actividades económicas normales. Y, como las emisiones de CO2 son lo que los economistas llaman una “externalidad negativa” –los emisores no cargan con el costo total del daño que causan-, existe pocos incentivos para reducirlas.

El consumo de cigarrillo es un ejemplo similar: los que no fuman deben cargar con parte de los costos incrementados de la atención sanitaria que impone el hábito de fumar. Pero, a diferencia del consumo de cigarrillo, que se puede desalentar a través de impuestos y regulaciones, no existe ningún gobierno global que regule las excesivas emisiones de CO2, y los países se sienten tentados de dejarle el remedio a otros. Es más, algunos países, como Rusia, que podrían beneficiarse económicamente si Siberia fuera más cálida, tienen diferentes incentivos que países como Bangladesh, un país pobre que probablemente termine inundado como consecuencia de los crecientes niveles del mar que acompañarán el calentamiento global.

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