True, it is not certain that global warming will destroy the earth. But nothing is certain when you’re talking about climate change.
The cost of doing something about that potential climate change, meanwhile, is small relative to the possible benefit.
As a result, argues Robert Frank in the NYT, we should phase in a $300/ton carbon tax, which will result in U.S. gas prices rising by $2.60 per gallon. The Europeans have already adapted quite nicely to gas prices that are $4 a gallon higher than they are here, so the argument that this will destroy the country seems a bit hysterical.
If we do nothing, meanwhile, global temperatures seem almost certain to rise, no matter who is doing the predicting. The consensus model at MIT, which includes the forecast of global warming denialists, shows a zero-per cent chance of no temperature increase over the next century–and a 10% chance of a catastrophic 12-degree one.
Given the odds that global warming will inflict serious global pain over the next century, the cost of taking action seems low.
Of course, because the causes of global warming seem natural and unobjectionable, we won’t take action, especially in a country in which cheap gas has come to be viewed as a constitutional right. As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert puts it:
“If climate change were caused by gay sex, or by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.”
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