Ferries and boats on the river Buriganga in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2, 2008. 
Andrew Biraj / Reuters

THE COST OF COMBATING GLOBAL WARMING

At international conferences, people speaking for the developing world insist that it is the developed nations that feel endangered by carbon emissions and want to retard elsewhere the kind of development that has been enjoyed by Western Europe, North America, and Japan. A reduction in carbon emissions in the developing world, they assert, will have to be at the expense of the rich nations. Their diagnosis is wrong, but their conclusion is right. Any costs of mitigating climate change during the coming decades will surely be borne by the high-income countries. But the benefits, despite what spokespeople for the developing world say, will overwhelmingly accrue to future generations in the developing world. Any action combating global warming will be, intended or not, a foreign aid program.

The Chinese, Indonesians, or Bangladeshis are not going to divert resources from their own development to reduce the

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  • Thomas C. Schelling is Distinguished University Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland.
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