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Friday, June 06, 2014

Paul Krugman: The Climate Domino

On the administration's new climate rules:

The Climate Domino, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. ... Where are the eye-catching fake horror stories?
For what it’s worth, however, the attacks on the new rules mainly involve the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. That is, right-wingers claim ... it’s all a hoax promulgated by thousands of scientists around the world; that taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions would devastate the economy; and that, anyway, U.S. policy can’t accomplish anything because China will just go on spewing stuff into the atmosphere.
I don’t want to say much about the conspiracy theorizing, except to point out that any attempt to make sense of current American politics must take into account this particular indicator of the Republican Party’s descent into madness. There is, however, a lot to say about both the cost and China issues.
On cost: It’s reasonable to argue that new rules aimed at limiting emissions would have some negative effect on G.D.P.... Claims that the effects will be devastating are, however,... just wrong ... as I explained last week...
But what about the international aspect? At this point, the United States accounts for only 17 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, while China accounts for 27 percent — and China’s share is rising fast. So ... America, acting alone, can’t save the planet. We need international cooperation.
That, however, is precisely why we need the new policy. America can’t expect other countries to take strong action against emissions while refusing to do anything itself... And it’s fairly certain that action in the U.S. would lead to corresponding action in Europe and Japan.
That leaves China... China is enormously dependent on access to advanced-country markets ... and it knows that it would put this access at risk if it refused to play any role in protecting the planet.
More specifically, if and when wealthy countries take serious action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, they’re very likely to start imposing “carbon tariffs”... So China would find itself with strong incentives to start limiting emissions.
The new carbon policy, then, is supposed to be the beginning, not the end, a domino that, once pushed over, should start a chain reaction that leads, finally, to global steps to limit climate change. Do we know that it will work? Of course not. But it’s vital that we try.

    Posted by on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Environment | Permalink  Comments (14)



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