Senate GOP on Climate Change: The Greater the Challenge the Slower the Response
Returning to the subject of yesterday’s Senate Climate hearing, I wanted to note the slightly surreal tone of the debate regarding uncertainty. The public testimony and Q&A shifted from typical explanations of what has been studied and reported by the CBO and others, to an almost philosophical discussion of man’s ability to know reality or in this case the reality of the cost climate legislation. I half expected them to start talking about “known unknowns”.
The GOP Senators loved hearing the experts admit there is a lot of uncertainty, but what does that uncertainty actually mean? If Climate legislation is cheaper then expected then the transition to a carbon free economy is easy. If climate legislation is more expensive than expected then the transition will be harder, but does that really constitute a reason for inaction? I’d argue the difficulty of the transition makes it only the more important to start sooner.
The first area you’d want to look at it why the climate change legislation would be more costly. The only likely reason for significantly higher cost is that science would find there simply are not discoverable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels no matter how much the market creates incentives to create them. If this was the case climate change legislation would be more costly and alter the cost benefit analysis.
However, it wouldn’t likely change the cost benefit analysis enough to make ignoring climate change the best path, nor would it mean to we could continue the status quo even if there was no climate change. Once you honestly evaluate the cost of inaction, it’s hard to imagine the costs would be higher. Further, there are limited fossil fuels available and if they are really impossible to replace as a power source it would be better to gradually phase them out then just proceed to use as if they’ll never run out risking economic catastrophe and continuing to ship money out the country while our competitors invest for the future.
The proper point of comparison is the cost of climate legislation starting today compared to the cost climate legislation waiting even longer when we’ve continued to increase our fossil fuel consumption even higher then it is today. In that comparison you’ll find that higher costs in today’s climate legislation will only be meet by even higher costs if we delay moving towards less fossil fuels, greater efficiency, alternative energy sources, and conservation.
It’s not a question if we should act on climate, it’s question of how much longer we pretend we have any choice in the matter.