By David Rothbard & Craig Rucker

This article originally appeared in The Washington Times opinion section.

The Cancun, Mexico, climate summit had barely begun when the topic du jour became how much “climate debt” the developed world “owes” developing countries for emitting carbon dioxide. The developed world stands accused of causing “imminent global climate disruption,” or whatever the politically correct term is this week. The facts are quite different.

The developed world is healthy and prosperous primarily because it created legal, political and economic systems, entrepreneurial opportunities and technologies that enabled it to develop. Poor countries aren’t poor because we have emitted CO2 or used some of the globe’s vast storehouse of energy and minerals in the process. They are poor because they have not yet adopted a proven economic system or the energy and other technologies that South Korea, China, India and other rapidly emerging countries are using to jump-start their economies and give their people a chance to improve their lives. Countries such as China and India languished for years, until the day they opened their markets and let their people get to work. Look north from South Korea and compare freedom with control.

Many climate campaigners in Cancun are tempting developing nations with handouts. Countries that really want to succeed should ignore this siren call and follow this successful path forward:

1. Abundant, reliable, affordable energy is the key to your future. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that energy will be hydrocarbons for 70 percent to 90 percent of the energy you need to modernize and improve health, opportunities and welfare. Nothing else will suffice. Anything that curtails your right to that energy will keep you impoverished. Your environment will be cleaner and your citizens will lead better lives with energy than without it.

2. Sadly, there is no way wind, solar or biofuel energy can replace hydrocarbons – not now and not for another decade or more. You need plentiful, affordable, dependable energy today – unless you are content to leave your children in poverty, misery, disease and despair for more decades to come.

3. There is still no actual, factual evidence that humans are causing dangerous global warming or that carbon dioxide has replaced the powerful, complex natural forces that drove countless climate changes in the past – many of them rather sudden, some of them disastrous. Computer models are not evidence, nor are they reliable.

4. The developed world can help you by providing the technology, expertise and advice that will enable you to thrive. It can do this only if you want these things. You must not allow decisions made in Cancun to cripple the economies of developed nations.

5. Your legal and economic systems must support this progress. Nothing will do more for your people and the environment of all nations than free elections, free markets and the rule of law.

Radical greens like professor Kevin Anderson are saying we must “halt economic growth in the rich world over the next 20 years” to reduce global carbon emissions. This is insane. Developed nations are supposed to shackle and strangle their economies – then somehow find hundreds of billions of dollars to send to poor countries, while demanding at the same time that developing nations refrain from using fossil fuels? Should poor nations develop magically? This kind of thinking defies common sense and all human experience. It will ensure that impoverished countries remain poor indefinitely – and rich nations will become poor.

Ignore Mr. Anderson’s prescription, so popular on the left. Instead, partner with the developed world to create the legal, political and economic systems that will help you become modern, healthy and wealthy yourselves. Develop or import the infrastructure and technology that will enable you and your children to lead better lives. By becoming healthy, modern and prosperous, you will be able to adapt to whatever climate changes nature (or anything else) might cause in the future.


David Rothbard and Craig Rucker cofounded the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and are its President and Executive Director, respectively.