Can We Afford a Stable Climate?

Can countries cut carbon emissions without hurting economic growth?  The Wall Street Journal pursues this question today in its Journal Report.  It’s worth a read. The arguments come down to this: of course we can afford it, as we’re making progress on energy efficiency anyway, and the investment in clean energy will amount to less than one percent of global GDP per year.  The opposing argument is that if alternative energy were so cheap and superior, it would already be here, (and developing countries are not likely to jump on board at this point) so imposing it in place of cheap fossil fuels will be catastrophic for the global economy.

Absent these two opposing views is any sense that we’ve already slurped and burned the easy half of the earth’s supply of conventional oil. That is, renewables will become more competitive anyway.  The question is, do we want to transition the hard way or the easy way (never mind the costs of climate disruption)? We’re headed down the hard path, as evidenced by another article in the Journal Report about Texas state officials and business leaders concerned with the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

In the unlikely event that the bill remains in its current form, Texas and other high CO2-producing states would feel the effects of the increased cost of carbon, more than say, Oregon.  And if you’re a fuel-producing state, like Texas, so much the worse.  As has long been the case with energy policy, we’ll see support for the Clean Energy Act break down along economic and geographic lines. Will states like Oregon and Vermont prevail over places like Texas and Pennsylvania?

Other articles in this section look at carbon offsets, green travel and building retrofits. All worth a look.

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