On Saturday, the New York Times ran an article dispelling the common myths that impede successful climate change policy.
Among conservative politicians, there are several outspoken critics of climate science. Some are willing to admit that the climate is changing yet adamantly refuse that it is a man-made problem. Both oppose enacting any substantive policies that would combat climate change at its source: Greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane).
But when outright denial is not the basis for their arguments, the discussion inevitably turns to the economy. Whether carbon is or is not to blame for extreme weather, regulating its emissions would be prohibitively expensive. NYT writer Robert H. Frank composed a list of reasons why this idea is bunkum.
First, to those who say passing a carbon tax would destroy jobs, the argument is easily overturned by the very spirit of capitalism itself. By gradually phasing in a carbon tax, Frank writes, existing energy processes would become obsolete. This would force businesses to put their efforts and investments into more efficient processes that would create new, sustainable jobs.
Second, to those who say reducing carbon dioxide emissions would be bad for the economy and the common taxpayer, Frank offers a brief education in tax policy. By taxing carbon emissions, billions of dollars in revenue would flow into the government. “But every dollar raised by a carbon tax is a dollar by which other taxes can be reduced,” Frank writes. “The actual cost of reducing CO2 emissions would be only those costs associated with the cleaner processes we’re led to adopt, and they promise to be low.”
Also to consider is the international stage. Even if the U.S. were to enact climate change policy, it would not be enough to solve global warming. This is absolutely true. For an effective, long-term reduction in greenhouse gases, every industrial country needs to get involved. But what this argument fails to consider is how big an obstacle the U.S. has been up to this point. America is the second-biggest producer of atmospheric pollution on Earth, and the country’s policy has been to ignore or abandon any major climate policies thus far.
Finally, to those who say it’s more prudent to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to climate change, to learn if it really is as bad as scientists predict it will be, one needs merely to pay attention to what disasters climate change has already wrought.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, in the past few decades, countries across the globe have experienced a surge in wildfires, increased flooding, increased droughts, more intense hurricanes, heatwaves and diseases. As temperatures rise, malaria and dengue fever will spread; the higher winter temperatures will no longer prevent diseases and disease vectors from reaching beyond their current borders.
When it comes to enacting climate change policy, there is no time like the present, because the future could be quite unpleasant.