The Very Real Consequences Of Not Acting On Global Climate Change

March 24, 2009

Matt Yglesias nails it:

“Here’s one thing I completely agree with William Galston about: A strong cap-and-trade program seems relatively unlikely to pass. Many Democratic Senators represent relatively coal-dependent states, Republicans seem determined to mount uniform opposition to even the Obama administration’s most popular initiatives, and given the economic downturn voters seem maximally likely to be open to pollution lobby arguments that letting them destroy the planet is crucial to America’s economic health. I also agree with Galston that one might deem this looking collision between Obama’s policy goals and the realities of congressional politics a ‘catastrophe.’

Where he goes wrong is that he seems to see this primarily as a political calamity in terms of the administration’s standing both domestically and in the eyes of international participants at the coming Copenhagen conference. That’s all true enough, but I think it’s important for people not to write about this issue without mentioning that failure to start reducing carbon emissions in the very near term is a substantive human and ecological catastrophe. Absent emissions reductions, the globe will continue to warm. That will, year after year, keep altering weather patterns around the world. A world inhabited by six billion people based on patterns of settlement established under existing climactic patterns. Climate change means drought and famine, flood and forest fire, all in new and unprepared places. People will die. In the developing world where large numbers of people still subsist in an essentially malthusian state, the stress on resources will lead to armed conflict and even more death, but here in the developed world things won’t be pretty either. Essential as it may be for the administration to savvily adapt its goals to political reality, it’s even more essential for members of congress to adapt their political goals to real-world reality.”

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