This paper ran an editorial on Tuesday, April 2 on the subject of Governor Cuomo’s “Green New Deal,” his most recent crack at reducing New York State’s carbon emissions. It’s no surprise that many are apprehensive about pursuing a revolutionary transformation of how humans have powered our society and economy since the Industrial Revolution. Still, the cost of not addressing global warming will be far greater than any minor mandates for municipalities or utility companies.
The main gripe with government environmental policies in general, and New York State’s Clean Energy Standard in particular, is the cost associated with renewable energy requirements. But how much will it cost if we keep burning through our natural resources and extreme weather events continue to wreak havoc on our land and infrastructure? Dozens of federal agencies and panels of the world’s economists have estimated that the effects of climate change will cost just the United States hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.
There are innumerable examples in the real world of the economic devastation caused by extreme weather, pollution and the rest of it. Droughts in California are more extreme and last longer, causing wildfires that decimate entire swaths of land, destroying homes and businesses, forcing government to act in expensive ways. Midwestern farms’ crop yields shrink when drought-flood cycles intensify. Municipalities are squeezed for cash but they can’t afford to have polluted lakes, rivers and tap water. Tropical storms are not only more frequent, they are more destructive. Hurricane Sandy caused massive flooding in New York City and leveled a good bit of road and train infrastructure that we are still paying for repairs. Imagine the economic impact of rising sea levels wiping out Miami, LA or Manhattan. We aren’t prepared for that.
Bold environmental proposals have entered the mainstream, hopefully not too late. Thankfully at least, we are now having the conversation about the right way to address climate change rather than the old “debate” about whether it was even happening despite the scientific consensus. For too long, environmentalism was perceived to be at odds with business interests. Regulations would put an economic burden on small businesses, or tree-hugging hippies just wanted everyone to drive a Prius. That isn’t the case. Quite the opposite: the severity of the threat combined with good ol’ American ingenuity could produce drastic environmental improvements along with investments, new jobs, new technologies…you name it. We can’t afford to not address global warming in a big way.