Pro-Growth Climate Economics

Dave Roberts’ latest efforts on disputes within the community of people who accept that climate change is real and undesirable has a wise conclusion:

This exercise is clarifying, I think, but it shouldn’t obscure the fact that virtually every serious economist recommends action. Nordhaus puts it well: “While there is debate about whether the ‘right’ number for a carbon price is $10, $20 or $100, the global average today is close to $1 and moving nowhere. So we have a long, long way to go before we even enter the range of debate.”

There’s no excuse for inaction.

I think it can’t be emphasized enough that there are lots of early-stage efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that should be uncontroversially growth boosting. Shifting the tax burden off labor income and onto pollution is pro-growth tax policy, completely aside from the environmental benefits. And one could say the same about congestion pricing for roads, relaxing restrictions on high-density real estate development, and curbing subsidies to fossil fuel producers. Had we already done all those things it would then be interesting to debate the ethics of the tradeoffs between short-term growth and longer-term climate devastation entailed by further measures. But that’s a long way from where we are now.