The Vine

A New Conservative Line On Climate Change

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Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard reports from a recent governor's conference on climate change:

Moments later, Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… put the cost [of curbing carbon emissions] even higher, envisioning an international regulatory regime under which, "in 2013, the growing cost to the global economy will be less than 3 percent of GDP." Who among us would be willing to pay so much?

Almost nobody. Not to mention, history shows that the rich pay for environmental remediation, not the poor; a world poorer by 3 percent a year will be that much less able to adapt to unpredictable changes in climate.

This may be the clearest distillation I've ever encountered of the right's ignorance-meets-insensitivity approach to... well... everything, but particularly climate change. On the one hand, it's just plain innumeracy. There's a huge difference, after all, between a "cost to the global economy [of] less than 3 percent" of what worldwide GDP would have been without climate action, and "a world poorer by 3 percent a year." But this is also an extremely blinkered view of the costs and consequences of environmental damage. What "history" really shows, of course, is that environmental degradation is much more harmful to the poor than to the wealthy, even if the costs of addressing that degradation come from taxes on the rich. But nonetheless, when it comes to climate change, the guiding principle for conservatives is a familiar one: Rich people should keep polluting so they'll have enough money to pay for the damages created by all of their pollution.

--Brian Beutler

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