a Talking Point from the Center for American Progress Action Fund
Global warming deniers have frequently argued that, even if global warming is real, it is too expensive to mitigate. The National Review’s Jason Steorts said it would require “economic castration” to reduce greenhouse gases. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said “economic calamity” would result. Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that taking action is not a cost worth the consequences: “[W]hat’s at stake is the U.S. economy, folks, what’s at stake is our lifestyle.” Rush is right, but for the wrong reasons; the economy and our lifestyles are indeed at stake if we continue to listen to the deniers. A new report commissioned by the British government puts the “disastrous” consequences of inaction into numerical terms. Authored by economist Sir Nicholas Stern, the report warns that unchecked global warming will devastate the world economy on the scale of both the world wars and the Great Depression combined.
- The economic costs of global warming are too dire to ignore. The Stern report paints a bleak picture, warning that rising sea levels would create hundreds of millions of environmental refugees from low-lying coastal areas, water shortages would effect up to one in six people as a result of melting glaciers, and severe drought would bring about the extinction of up to 40 percent of wildlife species. “This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime,” said Blair. The British report affirms the results of a U.S. report earlier this month. The study produced by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University states, “[I]f nothing is done to restrain greenhouse gas emissions, annual economic damages could reach US $20 trillion by 2100 (expressed in U.S. dollars at 2002 prices), or six to eight percent of global economic output.”
- The U.S. is not setting a good example when it comes to tackling global warming. The United Nations reports that the industrialized world’s emissions of greenhouse gases are growing again. The world’s biggest emitter, the United States, has rejected the agreement and refused to participate in the Kyoto accord. “Among countries bound by Kyoto, Germany’s emissions dropped 17 percent between 1990 and 2004, Britain’s by 14 percent, and France’s by almost one percent.” Between 1990 and 2004, emissions of all industrialized countries decreased by 3.3 percent, but in the U.S., emissions grew by almost 16 percent in that same period. The U.S. accounts for approximately two-fifths of the industrialized world’s greenhouse gases, yet the Bush administration’s response to climate change has been to question the science, break from international treaties, and call for weak voluntary measures for industry to reduce global warming pollution. Instead, we need an aggressive and comprehensive approach that immediately moves to reduce carbon emissions, while increasing preparedness to plan for and mitigate the anticipated impacts of global warming.
- There is little hope that the Bush administration will take serious action on global warming. A Washington Post editorial today states, “After the coming election, President Bush is likely to face a Congress more apt than the current one to take strong action on climate change. He will then face a fateful choice: Does he want to spend his final two years in office blocking action and pretending that voluntary curbs on greenhouse gases will solve the problem of global warming, or does he want to help shape solutions? ...” The world’s climate negotiators aren’t holding out much hope for the Bush administration; instead, they’re waiting for a U.S. regime change in 2008. “A new administration will have a different policy on the matter,” said Matthias Duwe of the Belgium-based Climate Action Network Europe. “I would imagine [U.S. involvement] would take place after the next presidential election,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta.
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