Global Warming · Paul Krugman

Going non-carbon wouldn’t hurt the US economy a bit.

Paul Krugman column in the NYT on June 1, 2017.

Paul Krugman says that a low-emissions economy would look a lot like the economy we have now.  It would mostly run on electricity which would be generated by wind, solar and nuclear, all of which have become much less expensive recently.  Sure, the sun doesn’t shine all the time but this problem is solvable.  Things like pumped hydro and dynamic pricing are already good solutions to help match solar energy production with electrical needs.  And these solutions are just two of the many that already exist..

Krugman says life in a solar power economy would be a lot like life right now.  Sure, energy would be a little more expensive but not by much.  And there would be lots of advantages.  For example air pollution from burning all that coal would be gone and the health advantages from this alone would go a long way to paying for the extras costs of solar energy.  Not to mention all the huge costs climate change would cost us, like the costs of saving flooding coastal cities, just to name one.

Taking on climate change like the Paris accord wants to do used to look like a hard job, but due to new technology, it now looks relatively easy.  Krugman says that, “We have almost all the technology we need, and can be quite confident of developing the rest.”  All of this will clearly take time, and there will be unforeseen problems to solve, but it really can get done.  Krugman makes it sound easier than it will be, but he is right.  Any civilization that can build mega cities and industrial infrastructure like ours, can  change its energy structure.

So, why then does the right keep trying to block climate action, and even try to sabotage the progress that has  already been made? It really isn’t that scientists don’t accept climate change .  They do, they are as certain as they ever are about anything.  And it clearly isn’t about helping coal miners.  “Anyone who really cared about those miners would be crusading to protect their health, disability and pension benefits, and trying to provide alternative employment opportunities — not pretending that environmental irresponsibility will somehow bring back jobs lost to strip mining and mountaintop removal.”

And so what’s going on here.  Well, its partially the Republicans doing what they always do, protecting the rich and protecting the coal industry which gave almost all of its political donations to the Republicans in 2016.

But, Krugman says the whole thing is mostly about spite and vindictiveness.  The Republicans fight everything the Democrats are for, just because they are democrats.  Krugman says, “If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.”

If this looks just too petty and vindicate to believe, well, says Krugman, just look at the character of the man in the White House who is driving all this.

Tetons at dawn at the Oxbow on the Snake River in Wyoming

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