Opinion

The Great Debate

The price of ignoring climate change

Home destroyed nearly five months ago during the landfall of Superstorm Sandy in Mantoloking, New Jersey March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The effects of climate change, driven by carbon pollution, hit Americans harder each year. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and droughts are growing ever more frequent and severe.

Beyond our borders, these changes are hitting developing nations.

Since our nation’s founding, America has stood as an example for the world. Now, we owe it to ourselves and to other nations, who look to Washington, to lead the way on climate change by putting a price on carbon pollution and taking other steps to minimize the harm being done to developing nations — and our own.

In many of the world’s poorest regions, the sun scorches drought-stricken farmland and parches freshwater sources. Fierce storms bring ravaging floods. Warming, rapidly acidifying oceans and shifting seasons drive off economically valuable species and foster pests and disease.

This year, the worst flood in a decade killed at least 38 people in Mozambique and left 150,000 homeless. Warmer weather allows malaria-bearing mosquitoes to move into previously unaffected altitudes, infecting cities like Nairobi, which had purposely been built above the “malaria line.” Ten of the 15 largest cities in the developing world, including Shanghai, Mumbai and Cairo, are at risk of flooding from rising sea levels or coastal storm surges. Rising seas are swallowing low-lying land in countries such as Bangladesh and India.

Cost of cap-and-trade for U.S. households

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

How much are U.S. households prepared to pay to avert the threat of climate change? According to the latest polling data published by the Washington Post, the answer is not very much, probably not much more than $25 per month or $300 per year.

Most respondents (65 percent) believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories, including those who believe this strongly (50 percent) or somewhat (15 percent). Only a minority think the government should not regulate them (29 percent).

A stimulating energy policy

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- Robert Engle is the Michael Armellino Professor of Finance at New York University Stern School of Business and a Nobel Laureate. His views are his own. -

We have faced energy crises before. The last energy crisis was about running out of oil. This one is about the fear that we might not. The future health of our planet is jeopardized by the greenhouse gases emitted by our industrial society. But can we afford an expensive energy policy in this time of economic distress?

The simplest and best solution to reducing emissions is thought by most economists to be a comprehensive tax on the emission of greenhouse gases. Only in this way will individuals and businesses that avoid the tax be doing what is socially desirable. Only in this way will it become profitable to find substitute energy sources; no longer would it be necessary to subsidize alternatives. The price of oil will rise naturally when we begin to run out, but in this proposal, the price would rise before we reach the bitter end. It is only a matter of timing.

First 100 Days: Obama’s first climate change target

Mary D. Nichols– Mary D. Nichols is Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, the lead agency for implementing California’s landmark climate change law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The views expressed are her own. –

After eight years of inaction on climate change by the federal government, we can now look forward to the Obama administration tackling global warming head on. With not a minute to lose, Lisa Jackson, the soon-to-be new head of the EPA, should move quickly to capitalize on the momentum of states that have so far been the leaders in fighting global warming. There is no better place to start than by establishing a national greenhouse gas emission standard for automobiles based on California’s landmark clean car law.

California has always been a pioneer in setting tough automobile emission standards. Our regulations paved the way for lead-free gas, the catalytic converter, and many other innovations that were later adopted as the national standard. As a result, we have eliminated 99 percent of harmful pollution pouring out of autos today compared to a 1960s era car, leading to clearer skies and cleaner air in our cities.

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