Saving the Planet a Real Bargain

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With the Pelosi Congress blazing climate change denial is quickly going out of style, which makes sky-is-falling economics the next-best stalling tactic. The way ExxonMobil and its political stalwarts frame it, you’d think a cap-and-trade on greenhouse gasses is going to send us into the next great depression—one where we will look up wistfully at over-priced windmills with the downtrodden expression from a Dorothea Lange dust-bowl photograph.

Admittedly, averting climate change won’t be cheap, but what is? (check out iconoclastic Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz’ predictions on the final dollars and cents costs of our escapades in Iraq). The two proposed bills (the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act and the much more timid proposal offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), which would only reduce carbon-intensity as a percentage of GDP, but would not necessarily reduce total emissions) are in fact more of a bargain that one may realize.

As for content, neither bill calls for the kind of emission reductions likely necessary to avert the cataclysmic global warming tipping points Mother Jones contributing-writer Julia Whitty warns about, but an imperfect bill would be a good start towards showing the world that we don’t have our head completely in the sand. (Pew knocks out a superb comparison of the two bills).

On whether a climate bill will break the bank, economists at the Federal Energy Information Administration–who have produced arguably the most objective bean counting on the subject—don’t seem to think so. They project a shockingly small negative impact on the economy from either choice of legislation. Bingaman’s proposal would put a 29 billion dollar dent in our inflation adjusted GDP by 2025. McCain’s would hit the pocketbook a bit harder at $89 billion. Put that into perspective by checking out a clever recent New York Times‘ graphic showing war-time spending against some other possible uses for making our world a better place.

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