June 24, 2014 Leave a Comment
Michael Bloomberg is one of the few known-to-be-a-Republican big names who has squarely talked about climate change and the dangers we are facing. On Sunday, another Republican, well known, added his voice. Henry Paulson, Secretary of Treasury when the economy went to hell, and now chair of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, is unambiguous:
THERE is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage.
For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do.
We’re making the same mistake today withclimate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.
This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. Paulson : The Coming Climate Crash
I’m not sure who he means by WE but I’d offer that ‘my friends are sitting on their hands” would be closer to accurate. There are plenty of US who have been consumed with the problem of too much CO2 and too little action for years, some for decades. Paulson describes having the dry-heaves from tension during the worst weeks of the financial crisis. It’s a familiar feeling, Hank — everytime another weather anomaly breaks out, everytime we hear an elected Republican say that climate change is a bogus, lied-up plot by tens of thousands of scientists anxious to curry favor with their funders. [Who else could dream up such an accusation but those who are fully aware of how such liaisons work?]
And Pauslon has a solution, at least a point of view.
The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax.
And how is that going to come about? Is Hank Paulson with Michael Bloomberg going to grow think-tanks and funding sources to counter the baleful influence of their fellow Republican deniers, the Koch billionaires foremost among them? Has he heard any recent Heritage Foundation nonsense?
Their action to quantify the cost of inaction – the Risky Business project — is good, but great? Enough? Not by a long shot.
Paul Krugman’s response to Paulson’s Opinion piece was cogent, as usual.
[his] … was a brave stand to take.
But not nearly brave enough. Emissions taxes are the Economics 101 solution to pollution problems; every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.
Yet there are a number of second-best things (in the technical sense, as I’ll explain shortly) that we’re either doing already or might do soon. And the question for Mr. Paulson and other conservatives who consider themselves environmentalists is whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers, and in particular whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers implemented by the other party. If they aren’t, their supposed environmentalism is an empty gesture.
So, thank you Mr Paulson but some of us have the dry-heaves about this. Could we get this show on the road and put the pedal to the metal? Otherwise the coastal populations around the world are going to be following in the footsteps our end-of-ice-age ancestors, beating a retreat (in our millions) for higher ground as the rains keep falling and the oceans keep rising. And there’ll be deaths aplenty as our grandchildren battle for food, shelter and dry ground.
And, by the way:
Air quality has improved significantly in the past 20 years because of federal and state laws and regulations, and researchers in North Carolina have found an associated decline in rates of death from respiratory disease.
Let’s call what we now have carbon pollution and get on with cleaning it up…