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Poor Countries Shouldn’t Sacrifice Growth to Fight Climate Change

A man walks through a flooded field to his home in Mikocheni area of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on April 12
A man walks through a flooded field to his home in Mikocheni area of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on April 12Photograph by Daniel Hayduk/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, a draft of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the potential impact of rising global temperatures was leaked to the press. According to news accounts, the panel is set to report that the world may soon approach a temperature where the Greenland ice sheet starts irreversibly melting. Over a few centuries, that could raise sea levels by as much as 23 feet. The Obama administration, meanwhile, disclosed that it’s looking for a strong agreement on carbon emissions at next year’s United Nations Climate Summit—the strongest it can forge without needing U.S. Senate consent.

Obama’s push for more aggressive global action should be especially welcome news to poor countries, since the developing world will be most affected by climate change. Yet developing countries need more economic growth and more energy today—and nothing should stand in the way of that progress. Although it would be nice to believe there’s no trade-off between sustainability and development, such a trade-off undeniably exists. And sustainability for tomorrow should not be burdened on the world’s poorest today.