This afternoon, the EPA is said to be sending its economic analysis of the climate bill proposed by Kerry and Lieberman to the Senators’ offices. It’s a scoring of how the legislation would affect the American economy.
Hopefully that analysis will include the benefits, not just the costs of the measure.
The agency has not incorporated benefits into its past economic analysis of climate legislation. Usually it looks exclusively at the price tag, giving legislators nervously poised to vote on the controversial proposal a clear view of the downsides but none of the upshots.
It’s like telling someone in the market for a home to pay $200,000 without telling them the property is a mansion on Fifth Avenue or a mountain ranch in Colorado.
The legislation to curb our dangerous carbon emissions might come at some cost, but you know what costs more? Not curbing them. To know how to address the problem of climate change, our representatives must have a clear understanding of the pros and the cons. A rational decision cannot be made without both sets of information.
And, of course, with millions of gallons of crude gushing into the sea, now might be a good time to examine what we gain by curbing our carbon emissions. But even without accounting for a catastrophe like the one in the Gulf, an analysis of the economic upshot of Kerry-Lieberman is likely to prove it to be worthwhile.
In an analysis last fall, Policy Integrity conducted a benefits analysis and found that the Waxman-Markey bill would generate between $750 billion and $1 trillion in benefits between 2012 and 2050, dwarfing the costs of the bill.
Using what’s known as the social cost of carbon — a calculation of what society pays every time a ton of greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere — we were able to estimate what would be saved if carbon emissions are reined in. It includes everything from food that will be more expensive, insurance policies that will cost more, to, eventually, the drastic measures that would be needed to adapt to the worst effects of climate change.
Even though the estimate we used was the conservative number the EPA prefers, the bill delivered massive benefits in excess of costs. Wouldn’t it be good for legislators to know that’s the return on their investment before they cast their vote?
Though it is hard to know if the net benefits of Kerry-Lieberman will match Waxman-Markey, they are likely very significant. And whatever it the numbers are, they are certainly worth noting.
Hopefully the EPA agrees and has included the benefits in its analysis of the legislation.
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