In an NY Times editorial today, The Climate Domino, Paul Krugman responds to the “predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the EPA’s proposed rules on carbon” which he characterizes as “conspiracy, cost and China.” He starts with addressing the absurdity of the idea that there is any conspiracy to climate change, and describing what, if any, “cost” from the proposed carbon rules. As to the argument that we shouldn’t act on climate change because China is going to continue to emit CO2 anyway so what’s the use, he explains why that is precisely why we do NEED to regulate carbon emissions.
It’s worth reading the whole essay, but here is what he says regarding China:
America can’t expect other countries to take strong action against emissions while refusing to do anything itself, so the new rules are needed to get the game going. And it’s fairly certain that action in the U.S. would lead to corresponding action in Europe and Japan.
That leaves China, and there have been many cynical declarations over the past few days to the effect that China will just go ahead and burn any coal that we don’t. And we certainly don’t want to count on Chinese altruism.
More specifically, if and when wealthy countries take serious action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, they’re very likely to start imposing “carbon tariffs” on goods imported from countries that aren’t taking similar action. Such tariffs should be legal under existing trade rules — the World Trade Organization would probably declare that carbon limits are effectively a tax on consumers, which can be levied on imports as well as domestic production. Furthermore, trade rules give special consideration to environmental protection. So China would find itself with strong incentives to start limiting emissions.
The new carbon policy, then, is supposed to be the beginning, not the end, a domino that, once pushed over, should start a chain reaction that leads, finally, to global steps to limit climate change. Do we know that it will work? Of course not. But it’s vital that we try.
Taking action on carbon emissions the US is contributing at far to great a rate, is just the right thing to do. We can’t justify putting our energy “waste” into the atmosphere. In the end everyone will pay the price for doing so, although the fossil fuel companies are currently repeating the benefits.