Monday, December 6, 2010

Needs of the New Industrial Revolution

The Mexican Pavilion this morning featured Sir Nicholas Stern, the renowned economist and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Linking global carbon emissions to our processes of production and consumption, Stern stressed the need for cooperation between ministers of the environment and ministers of finance to overcome the rising levels of greenhouse gasses.

While history has shown the long connection between rising greenhouse gasses and anthropogenic activities, the major rise that we see today is a result of three stages of industrial revolution. Unlike the textile revolution of the past, today’s industrial revolution—which is manifested in information technology—has the power to fix many of the climate problems that it created. It has allowed the rapid spread of renewable and efficient technologies at rates never seen before and, if we use it to our advantage, we can mitigate climate change by ‘leapfrogging’ less developed nation into a clean and green future. Thus, the fundamental role of industrialized nations is to discourage underdeveloped nations from adopting old inefficient modes of agriculture and energy production. Also central to Stern’s focus on industrial revolution was the failure of markets to price-in greenhouse gasses. Public policy makers need to be at the heart of the new industrial revolution, and provide various ways to mitigate carbon emissions (from tax incentives to increased regulations), as markets are complex and disparate parts of the community require different solutions.

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