Any self-respecting doctor would tell you it’s more cost effective to treat an ailing patient when the symptoms arrive than years down the road when the illness has grown.
Some of our nation’s legislators have taken wise note of the “ounce of prevention” philosophy by introducing a preliminary draft of a comprehensive climate bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The draft was released on March 31 by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass.
This historic legislation proposes to set strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions, requiring polluters to pay for the carbon dioxide they currently dump freely into the atmosphere.
The bill aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, while also creating millions of clean energy jobs, setting federal renewable energy standards and promoting energy efficiency efforts.
However, other lawmakers continue to delay.
A group of Republican lawmakers, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, have been trying to undermine support for the Waxman-Markey proposal, by trying to scare the public with bogus numbers, while failing to mention the risks that climate change, if not addressed, poses to communities across the country
Specifically, opponents have been busy with a misinformation campaign erroneously claiming that the bill would cost American families more than $3,000 per year. The basis of the campaign was the misuse of an MIT study, which Boehner was quickly reprimanded for misrepresenting (even by members of his own party). In the end, the study’s author John M. Reilly wrote to Boehner explaining that Boehner had misinterpreted the study and inflated the numbers by a factor of 10.
The nation simply can’t afford to let the naysayers triumph.
In fact, delaying climate legislation by just two years would require more than double the annual cuts in emissions necessary to achieve the goal of preventing a 2 degrees C warming, according an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund.
And if we don’t let the healing begin, the economic toll of global warming will be all the more devastating when you factor in damage from rising sea levels, more frequent and intense hurricanes and wildfire and the costs associated with drought, to name a few.
The cost of inaction could lead to damage costing between 5 to 20 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, according to Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist for the World Bank.
Losses to state economies would be massive, and, according to testimony before Congress by the Reinsurance Association of America, “the sheer magnitude of climate change could impact a large number of industries to such an extent that sustainable insurability may ultimately be put into question.”
If we act now to curb carbon emissions, the cost will be far lower, and will yield the huge economic and social benefits that come with a clean energy economy.
By Laura Bailey