May 29, 2014
Smoke plumes from several spots along the Slide Fire heads skyward as the fire burns up Oak Creek Canyon on Friday, May 23, 2014, near Flagstaff, Ariz. The fire has burned approximately 7,500 acres and is five percent contained. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Smoke plumes from several spots near Flagstaff, Ariz. The fire has burned approximately 7,500 acres. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Ed Rogers wrote yesterday that liberals are to blame for the poisoned nature of the political debate on climate change, not Republican “intransigence or denial.”  Ed argues that climate “alarmists” are vague or dishonest about the costs and effectiveness of efforts to lower carbon dioxide emissions. In a strange way, I think Ed may be evolving on this issue and that if other Republicans share his views, maybe there is hope for a new conversation.

For if you read Ed’s post, you’ll notice that he didn’t contest the science of global warming, even going so far as to say, “what scientists say about global warming isn’t the problem.” That assertion passes for progress and puts Ed to the left of many in his party who still deny that the Earth is in imminent danger from years of increased carbon emissions. If you deny the problem, then talking about solutions isn’t going to be fruitful. But, perhaps,now there is an opening to move on and have a discussion about what needs to be done and what it will cost.

First, let’s talk about cost. There are a few things that Ed and others who seemingly accept the reality of climate change, but despair of the solution, might want to consider. First, pumping more and more carbon dioxode into the atmosphere from coal and other dirty energy has significant costs. Scientists agree that climate is distinct from isolated weather events, but they also say that the pattern of extreme weather we are now witnessing is the result of global warming. How much do droughts cost farmers and grocery shoppers? How much do wildfires in May tax local firefighters in lives and money? How much do stronger storms cost insurance companies, homeowners, state and local governments? How much is the flooding of its aquifer going to cost the people of Florida? You don’t have to have a precise number to say that we are already paying a huge price for climate change, and we haven’t even gotten to the really rough stuff. Second, the cost of wind, solar and other forms of clean energy are coming down dramatically, although they still have trouble competing with coal if its plants aren’t required to pay to reduce carbon dioxide or external contributions to the costs of climate change not accounted for in the price. Third, together China and the United States produce more than a third of the world’s carbon emissions. Both countries have dramatically accelerated their investments in renewable energy and both could soon be locked in a positive struggle to see which country can achieve the prestige and economic benefit from winning the clean energy race.

So, if one accepts the science of climate change, some of the costs associated with it and the advantages of combating it, then the argument for dramatic action becomes compelling. At least for me.  For Ed, probably not, but maybe he and others are making an important first step from, as we say in politics, a “hard” to a “soft” no.

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