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A Debate on Global Warming that is Anything but Goofy

February 22, 2007

Tony is no longer playing fetch. He clearly left the reservation (or at least the ranch) on the issue of global warming. It was bad enough that the British government published that holier-than-though-pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later report last November. Then he sent Sir Nicholas Stern, his chief economic advisor to the W’s alma mater last week to defend his thesis. My guess is that Tony is banking on the fact that Dick is preoccupied with feeding Scooter to the Big Man (by the way, did Ted Wells really belt out a couple of choruses of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out during his closing?) to pay attention to the fact that the British government is taking the position that we either tax carbon emissions as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or face economic ruin.

The 700-page Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change makes the Inconvenient Truth look like a puff piece. The thesis underlying the Stern Review is that if global warming goes unchecked it will wreak global economic havoc on the scale of the world wars and the Great Depression. The lesson of the report is clear: endure some short term economic pain to bring greenhouse gasses under control to avoid an economic Armageddon. Last week in New Haven some heavy weights in the field of economics debated the merits of the Stern Review. Sir Nicholas was in one corner and a number of prominent American economists were in the other corner, including William D. Nordhaus, William R. Cline, Scott Barrett, Robert O. Mendleson and Jeffery Sachs in the other.

While some of the comments were very critical of the British government’s report, it would be a mistake to consider these economists straw men for the current administration. When you listen to their issues with the Stern Review you realize that this type of debate about climate change has been missing here in the United States for too many years.

I understand that I have a heavy geek quotient (inherent in being an environmental lawyer), but the issue of global warming is starting to get interesting again. When do you get an opportunity to hear Boyden Gray, the US ambassador to the EU, calling the EU emissions trading system goofy. The United States should and will make very valid points as to the problems with the current approach under the Kyoto Protocol, but considering our posture for the past six years I certainly don’t think you can waggle your finger at the EU and call them goofy. Especially if your name is Boyden.

-Mark Dowd

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