Feb 28, 2012

Climate Action that Won't Hurt the Economy

Question: What kind of large-scale, super meaningful, structural changes can we take on to protect the planet from climate change. Answer? All of it, apparently. According to Dr. Kristen Sheeran, executive director of Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3), a national network of more than 200 economists researching active environmental protection, it's totally affordable. I found this statement from a 2009 interview... 2009!
"The good news on the climate front is that when you look at what it will cost, what it will take to prevent climate change, to get us out of the risky territory where we face the potential for catastrophic damages, credible studies find that while it will be a significant investment it is well within the range of what most nations -- including our own, can afford. 
"Now this stands in sharp contrast to a lot of studies that get picked up and reported about in the media. But when you actually look at everything that's been done on this subject, and there is so much -- between think tanks, and government agencies, and universities, what you find is there are just a few outlier studies that get a disproportionate amount of attention. And perhaps not surprisingly a lot of these studies are proprietary studies, they're done by consultants for groups who are very clear in their intent to defeat climate legislation. So for example there's one that's done by a group called Charles River Associates for the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. This study is proprietary, their model is proprietary, nobody really knows what goes into it."
What does Sheeran say about claims that significant emissions reductions would be damaging to US economic growth?
"It's junk economics, really. And what it generates are results that scare people, that say climate change prevention will destroy jobs, will slow economic growth to the point where US livelihoods are diminished, the quality of life in the US is diminished. There's just no credible evidence to support that."  
Dr. Sheeran, Exec. Dir.
Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3)

Sheeran made this statement via podcast (download here or here), promoting her organization's release of the first independent economic report arguing the world can easily afford policies which lower carbon concentration, "The Economics of 350: The Benefits and Costs of Climate Stabilization," October 2009. From the report (truncated), 
"A number of economic analyses... suggest that more ambitious targets and quicker action make good economic sense. It has not become impossibly expensive to save the planet. We can still afford a sustainable future...We cannot afford a little climate policy, half-measures that would leave us all vulnerable to the immense risks of an increasingly destructive climate. Because the status quo is not sustainable, the most economical choice is to change, as quickly, cost-effectively, and comprehensively as possible. This study looks at both sides of the equation, beginning with the worsening news about climate risks (i.e., the costs of inaction), then turning to the costs of an adequate response."
See more E3 publications.
Learn more about Dr. Sheeran.
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