Can Democrats Retake Cap And Trade Debate?

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows costs of climate change.

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Earlier this week I posted about the reasons cap-and-trade isn't appealing to the American electorate. What I didn't go into were the possibilities that could change the game for cap-and-trade and its mostly Democratic supporters.

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows the kind of arguments they need to emphasize. It's full of concrete examples of costs Americans may have to pay for if nothing is done about climate change. Lexi Schultz, deputy director of the Climate Program at UCS, says "if we don't address global warming, you can imagine a cash register going 'ka-ching' all across the country." But the report also shows some of the difficulties with making economic appeals to voters to support climate-change legislation.

What are some examples of the "ka-ching" in the report?

California: Annual heat-related health costs could reach an estimated $14 billion by 2100, while rising ground-level ozone levels would boost medical bills by another $10 billion. The cost of protecting low-lying coastal property from sea level rise and the resulting storm surges, particularly around San Francisco Bay, would range from $6 billion to $30 billion annually by 2100.

There are plenty more examples in the full report, but one thing they have in common is the timeframe. They are all far-off scenarios that won't fully come to pass until toward the end of this century. That poses two problems for supporters of cap-and-trade and other forms of climate change control.

1. As Jimmy P pointed out, voters will always put the short-term costs before long-term costs.

2. I'm no climate scientist so I can't pass judgment on the accuracy of these predictions.  But it is hard for me to believe that anyone can guess with much reliability what the world will look like one hundred years down the road. I don't mean in terms of temperature predictions, but in terms of the level of technological development that will mitigate these potential costs of global warming. That's an x factor that can't be predicted, so it is not fully captured by the models of future costs.