Monday, May 07, 2007

Irony on Climate Change

I came across a news article in the journal Nature discussing a new report by the IPCC. The study concludes that stabilizing CO2 concentrations at ~ 500 ppm would cost 0.12% global GDP per year over the next 30 years. By most accounts, this is good news. What caught my eye was the response from "James Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality," who said, "But no world leader will pursue a strategy that would lead to economic recession." Really? What about the Iraq War, which costs the US about $250 billion per year (~ 1.89% of GDP), most of which is above and beyond the $500+ billion defense budget? By the administration's own acccount, the US has not entered a recession as a result of the war, although that money could be better spent. Of course there might be recessionary impacts of the War, but presumably the administration believes they are worth it to achieve desired foreign policy objectives. Therefore it cannot reject on principle that it opposes policies simply because they may be recessionary, but must argue that gains from policy would be less than their cost. Of course, this would be difficult to maintain in light of the growing realization that the costs of reducing carbon emissions fall well below the theoretical benefits.