The story begins in a village a few miles to the west of London. The government proposes to flatten Sipson in order to build a third runway for Heathrow airport. The public consultation is about to end, but no one doubts that the government has made up its mind. Its central case is that the economic benefits of building a third runway outweigh the economic costs. The extra capacity, the government says, will deliver a net benefit to the UK economy of £5bn. The climate change the runway will cause costs £4.8bn, but this is dwarfed by the profits to be made. [...] Consider the implications. On one side of the equation, human life is being costed. On the other side, the value of delays to passengers is being priced, and it rises according to their wealth. Convenience is weighed against human life. The richer you are, the more lives your time is worth. The people most likely to be killed by climate change do not live in this country. Most of them live in Africa and south Asia. Hardly any of the economic benefits of expanding Heathrow accrue to them. Yet the government has calculated the economic benefits to Britain, weighed them against the global costs of climate change and discovered that sacrificing foreigners - especially poor ones - is a sensible economic decision. I can accept that a unit of measurement that allows us to compare the human costs of different spending decisions is a useful tool. What I cannot accept is that it should be scrambled up with the price of eggs and prefixed with a dollar sign. Human life is not a commodity. It cannot be traded against profits or exchanged for convenience. We have no right to decide that others should die to make us richer. (George Monbiot, Juggle a few of these numbers, and it makes economic sense to kill people)Din Free Exchange de la The Economist:
Of course, valuations of human life are carried out in an explicit manner all the time. Insurance markets depend upon such valuations, as do court judgment in wrongful death cases. How is this different? [In cazul analizelor cost/benefit legate de incalzirea globala.] Qualitatively, answers Mr Monbiot. In the case of the Heathrow runway, we are setting the lives of dead Bangladeshis against a few minutes saved by wealthy London businessmen. The affront to justice is only worsened by the fact that the rich are judged to have more valuable lives than the poor. If we cannot place a monetary value on life, we're stuck with an insoluble equation. We're left to conclude that any life is too dear to sacrifice, and so all activities contributing to global warming--or any other potentially fatal economic process--should be halted. Mr Monbiot doesn't want this, but the placement of any monetary value on life, no matter how high, essentially values that life in terms of consumption. If a life is worth $10 million and a burger worth $1, then we cannot avoid saying that a life is worth 10 million burgers, unappealing as that sounds. The larger failure in this argument, however, is a lack of recognition that material progress contributes to material welfare, including reduced mortality. The capitalistic push for ever more consumption has done wonders for global economic output, allowing the earth to sustain billions more people than it could a century ago at a higher standard of living than ever before. We don't set the value of life against income because income is more precious than life. We set life against income because income sustains life. The things we do that encourage economic growth improve living standards around the world. Curtailing those activities will reduce those improvements, generating loss of life relative to the alternative. When we try to determine how to respond to warming we have to balance the life cost of reduced growth against the life cost of warming. We have to work in similar metrics on both sides of the equation, and monetary values are the easiest way to do this.