By Zack Colman
Republicans claim the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — a number that would dwarf the economic output of every nation on Earth.
The figure is bogus.
But that isn’t stopping the eye-popping total from turning up on the Senate floor, the Conservative Political Action Conference and even “Saturday Night Live” as the progressive Democrats’ sweeping-yet-vague vision statement amps up the political conversation around climate change.
The number originated with a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum, that made huge assumptions about how exactly Democrats would go about implementing their plan. But the $93 trillion figure does not appear anywhere in the think tank’s report — and AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin confessed he has no idea how much exactly the Green New Deal would cost.
The number is so large as to be nearly incomprehensible, but it dwarfs other massive endeavors such as building the Interstate Highway System, which cost $241 billion in today’s dollars, for example. And the AAF study does not distinguish between government and private-sector spending, nor does it attempt to quantify the benefits of reducing pollution or other policies. For example, Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson estimated that eliminating the electricity sector’s carbon emissions would avoid $265 billion in annual U.S. damages beginning in 2050.
“A central challenge to climate policy-making is there are costs right away and the benefits emerge over time,” said Michael Greenstone, an economist and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. “But just because the benefits happen over time doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
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