Saturday, May 04, 2019

Fact: AOC's Plan For Climate Change Costs Much, Much Less Than The Republican Party Plan


As we mentioned Friday, when Pelosi appendage Ben Ray Luján noticed this his Senate primary opponent, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, is already campaigning on the Green New Deal, AND that his state party had unanimously endorsed the Green New Deal, he crapped his pants and then scurried over to AOC's office to ask to be a co-sponsor of her Green New Deal legislation. On May Day, Luján became the 94th co-sponsor of what is arguably the most important resolution introduced in Congress for over a decade.

The pushback from the establishment special interests and their corrupt conservative allies (in both parties) is intense and will get far more intense. The media, which does depend on ad revenues from these same sources, takes a "he said/she said" approach to something that is existential for our civilization, if not for humanity itself. The Big Lie about the Green New Deal-- which robotic Republicans repeat at every opportunity-- is that it will cost $93 trillion. They insist their own plan costs nothing, since their own plan is to do nothing. But, as Dave Levitan laid out for New Republic readers yesterday, doing nothing doesn't cost zero... it would cost far more than the Green New Deal.

The $93 trillion figure is not just more than the entire globe’s gross domestic product, it is also made up Republican gibberish. Levitan explains that the conservative think tank that invented it, American Action Forum, "added $5.4 trillion for a low-carbon electricity grid, $2.7 trillion for a net-zero emissions system, and $4.2 trillion for green housing-- which, fair enough. But then AAF added $36 trillion for 'universal health care' ... and $45 trillion for a jobs guarantee. More importantly, AAF refused to consider any net economic benefits from transitioning away from fossil fuels and zeroing out emissions. And why would they? As Amir Jina, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies, told me, 'You say any number like $93 trillion, people’s eyebrows are going to rise.' Democrats are trying to correct this disinformation campaign. Senator Ed Markey, who introduced the Green New Deal resolution along with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called $93 trillion 'a total fabrication.' And other legislators have started talking about the costs of inaction on climate change. But the Democrats aren’t doing enough to hammer home how expensive the Republican alternative to the Green New Deal really is."

The cost to America to do nothing about the climate crisis makes AOC's proposal-- even at that ridiculous made-up price tag-- look like pocket change.
The costs of inaction have been clear in broad terms for a while now. The Stern Review, a massive 2006 publication covering all aspects of climate economics, arrived at an eventual annual loss of between five and twenty percent of the global GDP, which would run into the tens of trillions of dollars. More recently, however, researchers have started to tease out some fairly specific costs associated with inaction-- and the numbers aren’t pretty.

The Climate Impact Lab, a consortium of researchers and experts (including Jina), published a paper in the journal Science almost two years ago that modeled the costs associated with things like agricultural output decline, mortality due to temperature extremes, and increases in electricity demand. They found that by the end of the century, the U.S. could be losing between one and four percent of its GDP-- or a few trillion dollars, most likely-- every single year. The estimated impact was geographically varied: Some parts of the country might fare better, losing little or none of its GDP, while others could be losing hundreds of billions every year.

A paper published in Nature Climate Change last month got into even more detail. In a high-end warming scenario, there would be $26 billion in annual losses due to worsened air quality by 2090; $140 billion due to temperature-related deaths; another $160 billion in lost labor; and $120 billion in yearly damage to coastal property. That was just four of the 22 sectors-- and we’ve already reached almost $450 billion in damages every year.

There’s more. Changes to electricity demand and supply would cost $9.2 billion per year. Damage to rail systems would cost $5.5 billion, and throw in more than $21 billion more for roads and bridges. Increased rainfall totals will stress urban drainage systems, to the tune of $5.6 billion per year. The mosquito-borne West Nile virus will expand its range dramatically, costing $3.3 billion. Inland flooding will cost $8 billion more, along with $4.6 billion due to water quality issues, and $2 billion in lost winter recreation revenue. Damage to various ecosystems will carry extreme costs, from $3.1 billion in damage to freshwater fish stocks to $4.1 billion in losses on coral reefs.

All told, the study suggests, largely unchecked warming would cost about $520 billion dollars across these sectors every year by 2090. If we manage to stave off the worst and instead settle on a more middle-of-the-road amount of warming, that would save $225 billion of that total.

As with most areas of climate science, every new study paints a more dire picture. Research just published in Nature Communications tried to update the computer models commonly used in projecting some of these economic impacts to better reflect reality. Specifically, it incorporated some particularly ghastly climate feedback loops, including carbon released from thawing permafrost in the Arctic and reductions in the planet’s ability to reflect sunlight back into space as ice and snow continue to melt.

With those updated models, the study found that economic losses from climate change would be almost $70 trillion higher than previously estimated for the 2 degrees Celsius warming scenario-- the limit that most countries are aiming for in their Paris Climate Agreement pledges. If the world managed to reduce emissions to a far greater degree-- and thus hit the extremely ambitious 1.5-degree target-- then this additional cost would decrease from $70 trillion down to a mere $24.8 trillion, the study found.

Yet another study found that even without taking into account the economic toll of climate change, a business-as-usual scenario would be more expensive than the strict cost of aggressive climate policies. A 2015 report by Citi GPS, the research arm of Citi, found that an “inaction scenario” where we just build the same way we’ve been building would cost $192 trillion out to 2040 on electricity, transportation, and other trappings of modern life. The “action” scenario, meanwhile, where we build solar and wind power instead of coal and natural gas and switch out the automobile fleet and so on, would cost $190.2 trillion.

“We have to replace quite a lot of our coal-fired power plants with something within the next 20 years,” said Geoffrey Heal, a professor at Columbia University Business School, who has modeled the costs of transitioning to a clean energy supply by 2050. “In some sense, the cost of replacing them isn’t an additional cost. We would have to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in replacing power plants as they die.”

The difference between the “action” and “inaction” scenarios may seem small, but the huge difference is that an “action scenario” actually makes money. A 2018 study by Greek researchers found a correlation between increasing renewable energy use and higher GDP; they concluded that “policy-makers … should take all the needed measures to increase [renewable energy sources] contribution to the energy mix.” A report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that “bold action” could result in a direct economic gain of $26 trillion by 2030-- a likely underestimation.

Specific policies supporting renewable energy would offer clear economic benefits. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that a “high-end” renewable energy standard could increase jobs in the sector-- which already employs close to a million people in the U.S.-- by 47 percent. The aforementioned Global Commission report found that “ambitious climate action” could generate more than 65 million new low-carbon jobs in 2030.

The Republican plan to do nothing, then, means America would be double-charged for its inaction: The country would lose trillions in missed opportunities for growth, and many trillions more due to a growing catastrophe. Passing a Green New Deal, or something like it, may sound expensive up front, but Republicans should see it for what it is: a sound investment that will generate the greatest returns imaginable-- a livable planet.
Goal ThermometerBlue America-endorsed congressional candidates are congressional candidates who have endorsed-- and are campaigning on-- the Green New Deal. We spoke with several of them Friday about how they talk with voters in their districts about the "how do you pay for it" question. Kara Eastman has been working on this in Omaha for a long time already, creating energy efficient and healthy housing. "The economic benefits to underserved communities are exponential," she explained this morning-- "increasing the tax base, creating jobs and reducing utility bills. We have to come up with bold solutions to tackle climate change because let’s be honest-- only the very wealthy can withstand its effects. A plan that gets us to invest heavily in renewables and also creates great paying, unionized jobs is something we should all be behind."

Michigan's Jon Hoadley is the newest Blue America endorsed candidate. He sure isn't running as a Republican-lite alternative to Big Oil shill Fred Upton. In many ways, the Green New Deal seems to sum up much of his congressional campaign: "The Green New Deal is, at its core, a jobs program to unleash American innovation while addressing the global threat of climate change," he told us. "Investing in our infrastructure will create jobs in the communities hit hardest by offshoring and outsourcing. Deploying new clean technology with an approach that values environmental justice can improve the health and quality of life for some of the hardest hit communities. Thinking ahead to build more resiliant building and trying to reduce ever more powerful storms will save lives and money for homeowners. It's time we face our challenges head on with fresh ideas, ideas like the Green New Deal."

Eva Putzova, who is challenging the Blue Dog "ex"-Republican in Arizona's sprawling first congressional district puts this into perspective for voters she talks with: "How did we pay for the 16 years of war? Where did the nearly $6 trillion come from? We have to recalibrate our priorities. When it comes to climate change, we are already paying for our inaction. The Green New Deal proposes investments that not only mitigate climate change but also revitalize communities that have been left behind. Shifting spending away from the Pentagon, ensuring corporations pay their fair share, and taxing excessive wealth are among the strategies to consider to front-load the Green New Deal investments."

The climate crisis has been a big motivator for many candidates running for office, Mike Siegel (TX-10) among them. "We have a moral obligation, for the future of this planet and the human race," he told me today, "to take immediate and profound action to address climate change, and the Green New Deal represents a framework that hits three key elements: restructuring the American economy to avert environmental collapse, caring for workers and families that will be displaced by this economic shift, and remedying the historic legacy of environmental racism. As to the cost, let’s frame it as a wonderful investment opportunity: to create bountiful good jobs that will improve the quality of our air, water and climate; to establish an example for the world to follow; to incubate new industries and entire sectors of the economy that will lead to innovation and sustainable growth. Building the Interstate Highway system was expensive, too, but it made a middle class lifestyle attainable for tens of millions of Americans. Even if the Green New Deal costs $93 trillion-- and clearly, it will not-- that would be money well spent if it meant that this country, and really the whole world, could experience a safer, healthier future for years to come."

Audrey Denney, up in the northeast corner of rural California is the first-- and so far only-- candidate endorsed by the Sunset Movement, which is the group that wrote the Green New Deal with AOC. "Climate change is not a threat in the distant future," wrote Denney. "It is threatening the lives, homes, and livelihoods of people who live in my district today. We have to take bold action to mitigate climate change and restore our forests to health. The Green New Deal is not a plan to mitigate climate change-- it is a bold commitment to the belief that we can. I want to be a policymaker who crafts pragmatic policies that support the vision of the Green New Deal-- tailored to benefit the people and the communities of California’s first district. I will be the voice at the table that represents rural America, our farms, ranches, and forests. A lot of misinformation about the GND has been propagated and folks in conservative districts range from skeptical to afraid of it. I believe the GND is a tremendous opportunity for us to push forward innovative policies that will help our farmers and ranchers prosper, make our forests healthy and our communities safer from wildfires, and restore our rural economies-- all while doing our part to mitigate climate change. We can equip farmers and ranchers with the technical expertise to implement practices that sequester carbon into the soil-- like cover-cropping, minimal tillage farming, and holistic managed grazing. We can create ecosystem service markets where farmers and ranchers are compensated for stewarding the public’s air, land, and soil. Farmers and ranchers can increase their razor thin profit margins and we can keep more family farmers on their land. Under a GND policy framework we can set the initiatives in place to do the large-scale, forest wide, restoration projects. Only by restoring our forests to health by doing the critical thinning, selective logging, and fuels-reduction work, will we be able to lesson our wildfire risk and mitigate the dangerous result of climate change. We can create economic incentives to find new industry utilization for the woody biomass removed from our forests. This will look like manufacturing sustainable building materials like cross laminated timber (CLT) and processing woody biomass into low carbon transportation fuels. We can set policies in place to support the career and technical education programs and apprenticeship programs that will be necessary to build the required local workforce. All of these opportunities mean high paying jobs and more economic opportunity for the real people of California’s first district."

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At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Climate change is a done deal anyway. AOC's plan won't work. trump's "plan" won't matter.

The problem that nobody will dare address, not even AOC, is there are 5 billion too many humans on earth (and that number is always increasing) for anything to ever make any difference.

When, not if, climate change starts killing 10s of millions of humans per year... or perhaps when it progresses to 100s of millions per year, all that will be left for the smart people will be to perform the post-mortem. Even then, the Nazis and the Christian taliban will deny that is the reason that humans will die off along with 70% of all species due to the actions of only humans.

They will deny... but they will still die. good riddance.


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