There is a group of people who will say whatever it takes to cast doubt on global warming science. But if all else fails, their default position is that even if global warming is real and dangerous, trying to solve it wouldn’t be worth the economic cost. For example, here’s our old friend Jason Steorts in the National Review:
Even if warming is predominately the result of human activity, and even if its harms will outweigh its benefits, the question is whether it will be bad enough to justify the economic castration that significant greenhouse-gas reductions would require.
In today’s Washington Post, columnist Sebastian Mallaby efficiently dispenses with this argument:
In 2004, for example, the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration analyzed a carbon-cutting plan advanced by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman, which aimed to stabilize greenhouse emissions. The energy administration estimated that reaching this target would cause U.S. GDP to be 0.4 percent less than it would otherwise have been in 2028. Since GDP was projected to grow by 90 percent between the time of the study and that year, this meant that the nation could address climate change and still experience growth of 89.6 percent over the period.
In 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most prestigious authority in the field, carried out a similar exercise . It calculated that stabilizing carbon emissions at an acceptable level — defined as slightly higher than today’s — would cause world GDP to be 4 percent lower than it would otherwise have been in 2050. Again, that is a modest cost — roughly one year of decent growth for the world economy.
Even on a global level, combating global warming is relatively affordable. Of course, what’s always missing from the analysis of those who insist that our climate policy should be determined by cost-benefit analysis is the cost of doing nothing. I wonder why?