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Nicholas Stern has shown that market forces can be harnessed to reduce environmental damage, by making the hidden costs of such damage visible. The basic idea is that if the cost of a detriment can be identified, then spending a comparable amount to remove it means no diminution of overall economic wellbeing. (Think of the investment following the Clean Air Act after the great London fog of 1952: overall benefits vastly exceeded costs).

The most important figure in the Stern report is the placing of a monetary value on the costs of a tonne of carbon dioxide. This figure is…

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