The Economic Case For Fighting Climate Change

by Stuart Shapiro

Climate change is often posed as a tradeoff between economic prosperity and environmental concerns.  It’s not necessarily so, as Cass Sunstein points out Sunday.

Much the same can be said about climate change. Recent reports suggest that the economic cost of Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion and that in the current quarter, the hurricane could remove as much as half a percentage point from the nation's economic growth. The cost of that single hurricane may well be more than five times greater than that of a usual full year's worth of the most expensive regulations, which ordinarily cost well under $10 billion annually. True, scientists cannot attribute any particular hurricane to greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change is increasing the risk of costly harm from hurricanes and other natural disasters. Economists of diverse viewpoints concur that if the international community entered into a sensible agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the economic benefits would greatly outweigh the costs.

Good environmental policy is often good economics, and climate change is an extreme example of that.

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