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The Economic Argument Against Climate Action Replacing Science Denial for the Politically Shrewd

There is little left to debate about the science of climate change, and given recent extreme weather incidents across the globe, the public is waking up to that fact. While many Republicans in Congress can seem out-of-touch with reality sometimes it’s a wonder they remember to wear clothes, this does not mean that they are idiots.

Many of the more shrewd politicians have noted the shifting tides and stopped denying the science of climate change. According to POLITICO, House Speaker John Boehner is “the latest top Republican” to shift the climate change discussion away from science without denying it. “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” and instead told reporters that the Obama administration’s proposed solutions “involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs.”

A number of other elected Republican officials have used this tactic – dismissing the science discussion because they are not themselves scientists – while others have even gone so far as to concede the scientific point. Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm of New York, currently facing a 20-count indictment, told Chris Hayes on MSNBC that he believed the consensus, most likely because his district, Staten Island, was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Nicolas Loris, who debated (if you can call it that) Bill Nye on CNN’s Crossfire, has less trouble accepting the facts in an editorial he wrote discussing President Obama’s new EPA policy. “A near-universal consensus does exist that man-made emissions have some warming effect,” he wrote. Also, his claims that the new policy will make energy more expensive for the average American is also, sadly, most likely correct.

The Obama Administration’s bet is that by forcing these standards on carbon-emitting power plants, it will force companies to innovate: lowering emissions, investing in research into bettering alternative energy sources, and government flexing regulatorial muscle to make sure that people end up “saving money.” However, that’s a kind of naïve idealism that one would not expect from a group that lived through the Healthcare.gov fiasco.

The fact is, companies only rarely do the “right thing” when it interferes with their profit margins. If they are able to pass the cost of these new emissions regulations onto their customers they will most certainly do it, because what is the consumer’s other option? Live off the grid?

Conservatives agree that they’re bad, but can’t quite agree on how these regulations are going to destroy the world. Loris argues that it’s immoral to expect “developing nations” like China and India to cut their greenhouse emissions because energy is crucial to “lifting themselves out of poverty.” Other “conservative voices” calls this a “massive transfer of wealth” that is in line with President Obama’s anti-colonialist waking wet dream of destroying the country.

As usual, the ultimate answer lies in the hands of the American people. Will they accept the inconvenience of renewed efforts at energy conservation and higher energy bills on the mere hope that it will keep us from cooking the planet to death?

Photo by Pete Souza via the White House

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.