Triple Crisis bloggers Kevin Gallagher and Frank Ackerman published the following opinion article in the Guardian on the economic case for tackling climate change and why it has the potential to persuade US policymakers to take action.
Cancún and the new economics of climate change
The failure of US climate legislation, following last year’s disappointing negotiations at Copenhagen, casts a pall over the round of climate talks in Cancún this week. And the global recession and budget-cutting crisis makes this seem like the worst time for new climate initiatives. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of delaying action: the laws of physics don’t need 60 votes in the US Senate to continue making the world’s climate less and less liveable.
There are two battles over climate change. The legitimacy of climate science has been challenged in the media, but repeated reviews have found only scattered typographical errors in IPCC reports and other assessments. Last year’s theft of emails from climate scientists revealed the shocking news that leading researchers can be rude and competitive – but not much else. While science-deniers remain prominent in US politics, most of the world has moved on.
What the debate has moved on to, though, is concern about the costs of climate policies. Bjorn Lomborg, the poster child of climate scepticism, is no longer attacking the science; instead, he now claims that the damages from climate change would be small, while the costs of doing anything about it would be enormous. The new Lomborg (“Scepticism 2.0”) relies heavily on a few conservative economists, notably Richard Tol and William Nordhaus, to suggest that we can’t afford real climate solutions.