Paul Krugman wants you to know that it would cost very little to fight climate change, Errors and Emissions. In fact, he wants you to know that doing so might actually improve the economy and spur economic growth. I want him to know that I already knew that. I discussed this last year, Environmentalism Good for Economy Right Now. But he does provide some new work that shows things are even better than anyone thought.
The problem is that this doesn’t matter in the least. Let us consider the twentieth century during which time many tens of millions of Americans had their lives shortened and degraded all in the name of cigarette company profits. Was this good for the economy as a whole? Certainly not. People actively poisoning themselves did not make the auto industry more competitive. It didn’t expand the steel industry. It didn’t make the United States the biggest in the world. No. It made a very small number of people very rich. And in the name of those profits, we let millions of people die. The damage continues to be done.
So even if we discovered that taxing carbon would increase the standard of living of Americans by 50% and make roses smell ever so much better and provide lollipops for the kids, we would not tax carbon. I hate to be a killjoy, but this bears repeating at least a hundred times per day: we do not live in a democracy. It doesn’t matter what is best for the people or the country. What matters is what is good for the powerful. And even though doing something about global warming might be good for the computer industry, the privilege of the computer industry will stop it from standing with the people and against the oil industry.
If the government chooses the people over of the oil companies, who’s next? First they reduced the profits of the oil billionaires and I did not speak out — because my billions came from a different industry…
You know how conservatives are always complaining about how poor people lack impulse control? They are a paragon of virtue compared to the rich. At least the poor know that there are limits on their power. For example, they know that if they jaywalk, some police officer might shoot them in the head because he was “afraid.” But the rich live in a different world where their economic desires are all fulfilled. Thus, they have no impulse control. And why should they have impulse control? Global warming is very unlikely to be so bad that they can’t move to a good location and watch the billions of little people suffer and die from a distance.
Still, I think it is important to get the news out that addressing climate change is not bad for the economy. There are a whole lot of people who argue that it is. I’ve discussed before the three stages of global warming denial, It’s Raining, But Not for Long:
- There is no global warming!
- There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
- Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do!
But the truth is that there is a fourth stage: “There are things we could do about global warming but it will destroy out economy!” And so it is satisfying to bat down that claim as well. But it won’t matter. There will always be another stage of global warming denial. If all else fails, they will start claiming that addressing global warming will not really provide lollipops as I promised earlier. So it’s hopeless!