On the front page of Wednesday’s NYT, we learned that Midwestern Democrats hate the climate. Or something. The ostensible point of the article was to highlight the geographical split between the climate change policymakers from the Obama administration and the House — predominantly from the East and West coasts — and the moderate Midwestern and Plains-state Democrats in the Senate who, according to the NYT, actually care about jobs.
For the record, the article, while admitting that President Barack Obama is, you know, Midwestern, ignored the fact that Ray LaHood and Tom Vilsack, Secretaries of Transportation and Agriculture, respectively, 1) are also from the Midwest, and 2) will have a significant role in devising an economy-wide solution to climate change.
And this is not to underplay the legitimate concerns that representatives from coal-dependent manufacturing states have. But this mostly just points to the greater weakness of the article — the way it plays into the idea that addressing climate change will be some kind of job-killing catastrophe. This from the same newspaper that could write a feature on the tremendous job creation underway in Iowa related to wind-turbine manufacturing, a serious growth industry given that the nearby Plains states are considered the "so-called Saudi Arabia of wind." Keep in mind that enormous wind turbines will likely never be imported from abroad since one of these monstrous steel blades can barely fit on an oversize tractor-trailer much less be flown around the world on a 747. Indeed, the industry’s potential for the Midwest led President Obama to visit a turbine factory in Ohio just the other week.
The economic upside to addressing climate change isn’t just a fevered dream of environmentalists, mind you. The McKinsey Group has actually done a lot of work on this subject through its McKinsey Global Institute. Back in June, they published a report on just how much it would cost to maintain atmospheric carbon below 500 ppm — the cutoff for avoiding Doomsday. Here’s the key takeaway (h/t Joe Romm):
The macroeconomic costs of this carbon revolution are likely to be manageable, being in the order of 0.6-1.4 percent of global GDP by 2030. To put this figure in perspective, if one were to view this spending as a form of insurance against potential damage due to climate change, it might be relevant to compare it to global spending on insurance, which was 3.3 percent of GDP in 2005. Borrowing could potentially finance many of the costs, thereby effectively limiting the impact on near-term GDP growth. In fact, depending on how new low-carbon infrastructure is financed, the transition to a low-carbon economy may increase annual GDP growth in many countries.
Not exactly the feeling you get from the NYT article.
So, I’m not concerned about the cost in jobs of saving the climate. What does concern me is the extent to which members of this Senate "Gang of 10" climate moderates are smelling fear rather than opportunity. The low-carbon economy offers the chance to remake the automakers and actually revive manufacturing in the Midwest since (at least in much of the alternative energy world) manufacturing proximity actually matters again. Perhaps the Gang of 10 should talk directly to Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — the person who will be writing the House legislation — rather than to a NYT reporter. Markey would probably say the same thing to them that he said to John Broder.
Every single wind turbine takes 26 tons of steel to construct … A lot of new jobs will be created if we craft a piece of global warming legislation correctly, and that is our intention.
You’d think they’d be jumping for joy.