All Cost and No Benefit

Tyler Cohen has published his interim analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill (“cap and trade”). In short, it’s all cost and no benefit. I’m not surprised: this has always looked to me like an empty moral gesture. Of course, it’s no coincidence that the one certain result is that money will flow from ordinary people into the pockets of big Democratic Party supporters. Slowing climate change? Not so much.

Mr. Cohen suggests steps for attacking climate change that would have a better cost/benefit ratio, such as limiting meat consumption. That sounds like a non-starter to me – can you imagine the resistance from the agricultural states? In fact, I haven’t seen any proposal that isn’t either a non-starter or an exercise in futility.

There is a lot of “magical thinking” surrounding the global warming issue. Most of the ideas for “fixing the problem” sound implausible, and the more promising require a level of sacrifice and austerity that backing such ideas would be political suicide. Even the tiny steps taken so far will generate a lot of blowback once the impacts are felt and understood.

As a practical matter, I think we’re going to have to adjust to whatever climate change occurs. That may prove expensive, which is why I hope we don’t impoverish ourselves in the interim with empty moral gestures.


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