Climate Change and A Sustainable Economy

“In the end, the strongest economic argument for an aggressive response to climate change is not the much trumpeted windfall of green jobs. It’s the fact that the economy won’t function very well in a world full of droughts, hurricanes and heat waves.” Thus the ending of David Leonhardt’s column in the February 10 Sunday Review section of the Times speaks volumes about sustainability.

Mr. Leonhardt correctly points out that the entire concept of a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions is probably outside of the scope of this congress. He also notes that command and control mandates (he uses the term mandates) are costly relative to the gains that they offer on environmental protection.

The simple fact remains that there are many ways to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. We can use alternative technology for generating power, but this remains an expensive alternative (pardon the pun) so long as we insist on subsidizing the fossil fuel industry with tax dollars.

We can make spurious economic arguments that pollution prevention is too expensive and that by reducing pollution we hurt the economy. This one is laughable. Take a look at China and see how their rapid, short term economic growth which is fueled by resource exploitation and industrial growth that is unfettered by pollution prevention laws is slowly, and in some cases quickly, killing people with air, water and land pollution.

Air Pollution in China

Or we can initiate a reasonable free market approach that combines economics with sound public policy. Simply put, we can establish a cost structure to the emissions that are created by business, industry and our consumption of energy that encourages alternative forms of energy as well as generates interest in reducing our consumption of all forms of energy.

In prior postings I commented on a carbon tax. Mr. Leonhardt focuses on cap and trade. Both can work and both encourage lower energy consumption.

Whichever approach is ultimately selected as the correct approach for the reduction in resource waste (and energy is a resource), the goal must be a sustainable system that supports our health and our economy.

The current system is simply not sustainable. What is the cost for rebuilding after each severe storm…and such storms are predicted to become more frequent? Indeed, we can’t even get congress to agree that when people need help government should be there to help them…so what will happen after future storm events?

A sustainable economy demands that we confront climate change head on. We must encourage conservation of energy, use of appropriate alternative technology and realize that long term, sustainable economic growth requires that the use of resources must be paid for in full.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *