I am reluctant these days to post any criticisms of Jeff Sachs, since I know many people are tired of this never-ending back and forth. But I make an exception when my own daughter asks me to take him on. I want to protect her privacy and not involve her directly in what is at times a nasty debate, so let me just says she is a college junior who has studied and thought a lot about the environment. I have listened to her and learned a lot from her, but anything I say here is my own opinion and I don't want to or claim to represent her opinion.
Sachs' opinion column that provoked her was in the March 2010 issue of Scientific American. Sachs is impatient with the political process in the US on Climate Change and invokes the neutral technocratic solution:
Let’s hear more from the president’s science adviser, John P. Holdren, Nobel laureate energy secretary Steven Chu, the National Academy of Sciences and other authorities. The public will learn to appreciate that the scientific community is working urgently, rigorously and ingeniously to better understand the complex climate system, for our shared safety and well-being.
Except, just as in Sachs' approach to ending global poverty, there is no such thing as a neutral technocratic solution. Sachs' solution sounds instead patronizing and top-down. Any such solution has winners and losers, and the politically powerless poor at the bottom are more likely to be among the losers ( What about the poor in West Virginia who see their streams polluted and their mountaintops removed to get "clean coal"?)
More generally, and closer to my usual debate with Sachs: Why should the solution to global warming be decided by rich country technocrats? Is this an environmental version of the White Man's Burden, that rich country environmentalists patronizingly impose their solutions on the rest of the world?