By Maxine Joselow
Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202!
A Washington Post investigation published this morning found that Russia allows methane leaks at the planet’s peril. But first:
Economists say the true costs of climate change are getting lost on Capitol Hill
Floodwaters slowly recede in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Lafitte, La., on Sept. 1. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
As Democrats in Congress face pressure to lower the price tag of their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending package, economists are sounding the alarm over climate spending that might be scaled back.
Prominent economists say climate change will impose astronomical costs on the United States in the coming years through natural disasters, lost labor productivity, energy costs, migration and other impacts. And they argue that spending more money to address climate change today is a smart investment that will pay off later.
“I think we have substantially underinvested in climate action for a very long time, but certainly since 1988, when Congress had its first hearings on climate change,” said Robert Kopp, a professor at Rutgers University and co-author of “Economic Risks of Climate Change: An American Prospectus.”
“The longer we wait, the more damages we’ll have to deal with, and the more costly it will be to lower our emissions in a way that avoids future damages,” Kopp said.
Economists aren’t only concerned with the price tag of the reconciliation bill. They’re also eager to see the bill include a carbon tax, a policy favored in economic circles but long considered “political kryptonite,” The Post’s Jeff Stein and Steven Mufson reported.
The idea is to tax each ton of carbon emissions released by major oil and gas producers. The revenue could then either help pay for Democrats’ spending package, or be sent back to consumers as rebates to compensate for higher energy prices.
“It is difficult to think of any climate policy that would be as effective and as ultimately inexpensive as an economywide carbon tax,” Michael Greenstone, a noted climate economist who directs the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, told The Climate 202. “In terms of cost per ton, carbon taxes rock.”