In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Ezra Klein highlights the extraordinary ways that innovation has addressed climate change and other environmental issues. Klein also documents many ways that energy accessibility and abundance have contributed to societal progress. As Klein writes:
Klein’s last point is often absent in climate and energy discussions. Energy abundance and pro-growth policies are necessary to reduce emissions in the long term and improve prosperity across the globe. All too often politicians focus exclusively on how to lower emissions, negating how their policies can hamstring human progress and burden families with higher energy bills. As C3 has written before, climate policies should not be worse than climate change.
The economy or the climate? Why not both?
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Reaching environmental objectives starts with increasing global energy access and abundance to drive economic and climate progress. In a Stanford University study, researchers found that communities in Uganda that had access to power were able to increase their wealth at about twice the rate of those that did not have access to electricity. Unleashing economic freedom is one of the most impactful things that can be done to address environmental issues. With the basic needs of its citizens met, governments can begin to allocate resources to infrastructure, energy innovation, or climate resilience efforts to reduce natural disaster-related deaths.
Economic freedom also delivers noticeable societal benefits. Strong institutions and property rights protections lead to substantial decreases in government corruption which nurtures economic growth and human prosperity. Decreased corruption is also linked to higher literacy and education rates, which improves societal health and life expectancy.
As Klein points out,“[C]lean, abundant energy is the foundation on which a more equal, just and humane world can be built.”
Recognizing the importance of energy abundance, lawmakers should pursue technology-neutral policies to catalyze innovation and global energy access. This starts with modernizing ineffective regulations that impede progress and exporting advanced technologies to cleanly power developing economies. Solutions must be pro-human and pro-growth.