Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.
So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”
It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.
So Paul Krugman wrote in his Friday NYT column, “It’s Easy Being Green.” He provides more detail in two blog posts, “The textbook economics of cap-and-trade” and “Pigou, Glenn Beck, and the false case against cap-and-trade.” For more, see my post “Intro to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar.”
Then on Monday, Krugman wrote another climate column, “Cassandras of Climate.” It delivers a key political message:
I’m not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.
Why? Because the climate situation is so damn dire. As Krugman explains:
If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.
And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.
What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.
The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras “” gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.
And we’re not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won’t take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.
For example, one 2007 paper in the journal Science is titled “Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America” “” yes, “imminent” “” and reports “a broad consensus among climate models” that a permanent drought, bringing Dust Bowl-type conditions, “will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.”
Yes, that is one of the studies I cite here a lot (most recently in “Dust Bowl-ification hits Eastern Australia “” next stop the U.S. Southwest“).
So if you live in, say, Los Angeles, and liked those pictures of red skies and choking dust in Sydney, Australia, last week, no need to travel. They’ll be coming your way in the not-too-distant future.
The bottom line of the two articles:
And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.
So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it’s long past. But better late than never.
You don’t need a Nobel Prize to figure that out, I hope!
- Krugman attacks “junk economics”: Climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities”
- Krugman strongly endorses Waxman-Markey: “The claim that carbon taxes are better than cap and trade is, in my view, just wrong.”
- Krugman slams Reaganite Feldstein on global warming economics
- Krugman takes on the “fantasists” of the “burn-baby-burn crowd” for opposing climate action that costs Americans 18 cents a day
- Krugman: Fear of carbon markets and speculation is “99% wrong and bad for the planet”
- Krugman calls climate science denial by House conservatives “a form of treason “” treason against the planet”
- Krugman eviscerates macroeconomics