Tragedy

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

In the past week we witnessed the failure of our elected officials passing a comprehensive climate/energy bill that would have imposed a price or limit on carbon.

Many media pundits (mostly of the FoxNews genre), Chamber of Commerce reps, and oil industry execs laud this failure as a “win” for the American economy.  Their perspective is that since carbon is a byproduct of almost everything our economy does – from the generation of electricity, to manufacturing, to transport – if carbon is priced, the American economy will suffer as a result.  But study after study reveals that pricing carbon would have a very minimal impact on our GDP.

Conversely, not enforcing a price on carbon will simply perpetuate our current system of pumping millions of tons of CO2 unabated into our atmosphere through burning coal and oil for energy, causing untold immediate and long-term (climate change) damage.  Calculating the true cost of climate change is impossible – but one thing is sure, that its cost to our economy and our wallets will be staggering.  What is ironic is that the very sectors of our economy that lobbied against a climate/energy bill will likely be the worst affected by climate change.  All sectors of the economy – most notably infrastructure, agriculture, energy, and transportation – will be negatively affected.  This does not even take into account the damage to our global ecosystems, on which our quality of life relies.

This entire argument of pro/anti a price on carbon goes back to Economics 101.  The fact that carbon is not aggressively priced to makeup for its negative effects on our ecosystems and human health is called a “tragedy of the commons“.  What the oil, coal, big business, and big ag industries have denied and failed to communicate to the American public, is that their continued spewing of Co2 into the atmosphere IS costing the US and the globe untold sums.  Emitting carbon into the atmosphere is technically free at the moment, but its repercussions are far from free.  A simple comparison is the Clean Water Act.  In 1972, Legislators recognized that unabated corporate pollution of America’s waterways was bad for the common good.  Thus, the created a law that enforced pollution limits and fines for breaching these limits – essentially instituting a price on and regulating water effluent & discharge.  Our nation’s waterways went from being flammable to considerably cleaner, all while our economy has expanded many fold since 1972.

Corporate (specifically coal and oil) greed triumphed last week.  The rest of us will have to pay the price.

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