Ryan Avent

Ryan Avent is a freelance economics writer living in Washington, D.C. He blogs at ryanavent.com, and at The Economist's Free Exchange.

Costly climate

The Freakonomists weigh in on the effects of warming

Manzian (as in Jim Manzi) climate policy skepticism stems in part from a fairly simple idea: The cost of legislation is unlikely to be justified given likely savings from averted warming effects. In other words, warming, in the short-term, just isn’t going to cost that much. But what does that mean? Well, for one thing, it means that near-term bad effects from warming will be overwhelmingly concentrated in poor nations, and luckily for us, making the poor much worse-off doesn’t impact global growth all that much. Score! Here’s a paper on the subject, courtesy of the Freakonomists: This paper uses …

Unpacking the Panglossian economy

Is a consumer choice necessarily the best choice?

Jim Manzi, climate change voice of non-denialist conservatives, writes: But consider this at a common-sense level: you are forcing people, through rationing, to use something like 80% less of a substance that they choose to use because they believe that it creates net economic utility (prior to externalities) as compared to any available alternative. There is a respectable (though as I’ve argued in many articles, incorrect) argument that the negative externalities outweigh all those private benefits, but it’s crazy to assert that the private benefits are zero, which is what Klein and Roberts are saying. Call it economic denialism. You …

A huge tax increase?

The GOP disinformation machine settles on an angle

It seems that another way that the GOP will try to win on this issue is by painting carbon pricing as a massive tax increase. This is just dishonest, though politically it’s their best bet (assuming a complete lack of regard for actual outcomes). Let’s all think back to the Lieberman-Warner debate, when Bush did his best to scare the crap out of everyone by arguing that L-W would increase gas prices 53 cents-per-gallon by 2030. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine that the increased energy costs associated with cap-and-trade will be anywhere near as painful as the rise in …

The Grand Ostrich Party

Conservative heads increasingly buried in sand

Andrew Sullivan reads this Jim Manzi post (Conservatives are going to win on climate change! By doing nothing!) and says he’s on board. He then proceeds to blow my freaking mind: The key will be private and public innovation of non-carbon energy, and possibly carbon capture technology. Frankly, however painful it is for many, the high price of gas is perhaps the best anti-global warming non-policy there is. Now, why is it that the high price of gas is the best anti-global warming non-policy there is? The reason, of course, is that the higher prices are producing a demand response …

Screwing the goose that lays the golden eggs

Better cities, better growth

The Overhead Wire directs us to a Christian Science Monitor write-up of a new Brookings report on how we might want to support metropolitan economies: “If you’re going to get serious about the economy, then you’ve got to get specific about how you’re going to leverage metropolitan economies,” says Bruce Katz, director of the metropolitan policy program at Brookings. Even though America’s 100 largest cities generate two-thirds of U.S. jobs and three-quarters of domestic economic output, much of the policy coming from Washington — and from the presidential candidates — is still rooted in a Jeffersonian ideal of hamlets and …

In China, we'll win or lose

China’s emissions are an argument for, not against, America taking action

The fight against global warming: China has clearly overtaken the United States as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas, a new study has found, its emissions increasing 8 percent in 2007. The Chinese increase accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the year’s global greenhouse gas emissions, the study found. But here’s the kicker: The United States still has a vast lead in carbon dioxide emissions per person. The average American is responsible for 19.4 tons. Average emissions per person in Russia are 11.8 tons; in the European Union, 8.6 tons; China, 5.1 tons; and …

Richer, greener

Focusing population growth in the right places will make us both

The New York Times looks at the impact of high gas prices in communities across the nation today and concludes that increases are most painful in rural areas. Part of this analysis involves an examination of money spent on gas as a share of total income. The big middle of the country does badly, and Appalachia and the deep South do very badly. We can explain some of the excessive spending on fuel in these places by noting their dependence on trucks and the lack of transit alternatives, but the biggest factor, without question, is simply that those places have …

Conservatives and climate change, continued

A carbon policy is likely to be less devastating than nature, or oil markets

Reihan responds. Let me just say a few more things. First, I described his characterization of carbon pricing as “insane” based on this: What we need is a $100 billion prize or set of prizes to the person or firm or non-profit entity that can devise a cost-effective means of scrubbing the atmosphere of carbon emissions. This sounds insane, I realize. It is less insane than the far costlier, far less egalitarian regulatory alternative. Just to clarify. Next, Reihan may be right that our disagreement over Monica Prasad’s view is a matter of squeezing too much complexity into too little …

The conservative climate change problem

An acknowledge-and-do-nothing strategy is little better than denialism

Reihan Salam writes an incredibly disappointing, and boggling, blog post here, on his preferred strategies for dealing with climate change. Disappointing, because if Reihan, one of the best conservative writers out there, doesn’t get the logic of carbon pricing, then there’s little hope for some sort of conservative renaissance on climate change policy. Boggling, because Reihan is too smart a guy to get so many things wrong in such a short amount of time. Let me start by addressing the main argument in his post — that carbon pricing will hurt American families, particularly those with low incomes. His starting …

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