Bill Clinton’s Message: ‘Saving The Planet Is Better Economics Than Burning It Up’

Clinton: “If you’re an American, the best thing you can do is to make it politically unacceptable for people to engage in denial. I mean, it makes us — we look like a joke, right? You can’t win the nomination of one of the major parties in our country if you admit that the scientists are right? That disqualifies you from doing it? You could really help us there. It’s really tragic because we need a debate in America, and in every country, between people who are a little bit to the right and people who are a little bit to the left about what the best way is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. What is the most economical way to do it? What will get more done quicker? There are all these things that in any other country would occupy a lot of space on the ideological spectrum from right to left, and we can’t have this conversation because you’ve got to deny it?”

John Wihbey has a good collection of Clinton quotes on climate at The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, in his piece, “How President Clinton, ‘Explainer-in-Chief,’ Frames Climate Change.”

The quote above is from last year’s Clinton Global Initiative (9–21–11). Here’s another, from a talk at the London School of Economics (7–12–12):

“My strategy on [engaging deniers] is very simple. Some people who are climate skeptics are climate skeptics because it’s in their interest to be. They just want to preserve the old energy economy, and there’s not much I can do about that. But what I am trying to do, literally all the time, is to prove that saving the planet is better economics than burning it up. Not 10 or 20 or 50 years from now — [but] now. There are a lot of climate skeptics but their reasons are being chipped away…. There are a lot of people who have a different view. Their view is, ‘Look, this may be good, this may be bad. But God almighty the world is coming apart at the seams economically and we’ve got other fish to fry. We have to deal with other things.’ [For] those people, you must prove it is good economics to change the way we produce and pursue energy…. So what I do to try to overcome the climate skeptics is to figure out how to solve the financing problems, because fundamentally all the financing problems look alike. Whether you’re dealing with clean energy or energy efficiency, the costs are all up-front and the savings are all in the back….”

No question Clinton has the arithmetic right:

  • Intro to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar
  • Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must

One final quote, also from LSE this year:

“Every now and then I’ll give a speech on this … but I try not to give many speeches on this energy stuff, the environment. I just try to do one project after another. I figure if we just keep lining ’em up and pushing ’em down, and lining ’em up and pushing ’em down, at some point denial will no longer be an effective strategy. And that’s what I recommend to you: Do something, no matter how small it is.”

Hear! Hear!