Friday, February 01, 2008

Nothing Isn't Free

I can't say that I'm overly impressed with Jake Tapper's flacid mea culpa offered in supposed contrition over his recklessly negligent, if not deliberate, misconstruance of a statement made by Bill Clinton on the best ways to address global warming. The links contain the background story for those unfamiliar.

In his latest vain attempt at exoneration, Tapper tries to shift the focus to what he believes is the cenral issue, rather than his mischaracterization thereof. In Tapper's mind, we should all be focusing what the costs would be associated with combating global warming.
What action? How much will it cost? What possible "slowing" could it do to the
economy? Is it worth it to you?
For my money, the question is framed from the wrong perspective, and it doesn't even refer to the costs of inaction - as if they don't exist. Doing nothing is free! Far, far from it. The effects of global warming will be enormously expensive (likely catastrophic for many), and we're just starting to get a glimpse of the first few items on the bill. Worse still, there are known costs, costs that can be projected based on current models and then unknown costs that we cannot predict, but that will be produced by the self-feeding spiral of global warming.

That being said, there are practical limitations to how quickly we can move to rollback the emissions of greenhouse gases. Attempting an "at all costs" policy will likely fail, self-interest being what it is. But if we begin the cost/benefit analysis downplaying or ignoring the costs associated with the current course, the final recommendations will be similarly skewed.

Also, while action and inaction both carry costs, acting has the benefit of, you know, cleaning up the environment. Which should have a value beyond the bottom line.

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