Dave Roberts sketches the differences between how economists and climate scientists think about climate change’s impact on our overall future quality of life. Permit me to state my opinion. Climate science progress will simultaneously help us to mitigate and to adapt to the real threat of climate change. As we learn more about what climate change will mean for different parts of the globe, political moderates will be willing to “vote green” and enact California AB32 style regulation. Learning by doing, and California’s “Green Guinea Pig” effect will lower the financial price for buying products such as solar panels and electric cars. Rising income will allow us to afford to purchase such non-fossil fuel products. This logic makes me optimistic that over the next 30 years that carbon intensity for our economy will sharply decline.
On the adaptation side , the kosher research conducted by the climate scientists will act as an “early warning” system educating the public about the specific challenges that different geographical areas will face. Self interested households, firms and governments will respond to this information by making nimble investments that will allow us to continue to thrive. Necessity is the mother of invention. Our nerds will step up their game and invent products that will help to protect us against heat waves, floods, crop yield variability, and drought. So, climate science yields crucial information that helps us to make better investments under uncertainty. You should worry about the death toll from future natural disasters. My own work highlights that richer countries suffer much less per-capita death from such events.