Conservative Economics, the Windmill Technique & Climate Change

Posted on May 25, 2010

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The world recently stood on the edge looking over and down at what looked like a collapse of the global economy.  With a little backward bending and strategic windmilling of arms from numerous governments—a balancing act with stimulus packages—the world teetered from that brink.  Yet the whole affair is still more than a little unstable, as anyone can notice now with the stock market again uneasy, and the Europeans grooming their fingernails impromptu with their teeth.

Last time it was bundles of bad mortgages tied up with string.  This time, apparently, the problem began with a bunch of Greeks back-door and window dodging whenever the taxman showed.

It doesn’t really take much to send our global economy a-wobbling, it seems.

And the economy is presumably the tool that we’re going to use to fight climate change when the consequences of that plot line start kicking in.

Of course.

That makes us all feel safe.

Let’s wait until later before fighting back, as some conservative voices suggest.  And no silly carbon tax, or inconvenient regulations about carbon pollution.  That would hurt the economy, they say.

We can’t have that, you know.

So what will climate change look like, if we wait and do nothing now?  Crop failures.  Persistent droughts.  Floods.  Nations and shorelines sinking beneath the sea.  Collapse of much of the ocean’s fisheries when ocean acidification (the nasty but chemically related cousin of climate change) starts attacking coral and shellfish.  Mass population movements.  People objecting to these movements.  War.  Shifting vectors of disease.

Stuff like that.

Inevitably (unless somehow I got my history lessons wrong) governments and economies will collapse, and there will be bad debts everywhere.

Okay, here’s our cue, say our conservative brethren.  Now we employ our tried and true waving-of-the-arms technique.

Will it work?  Perhaps I should remind you that it hardly worked the last time, and there was nothing really wrong except on paper.

And, unlike now when action is still possible, in the near future when global climate change is really upon us, there might not be a government package capable of fighting back—short of an international mobilization scheme which, in terms of scale, would make World War II look like a dress parade with firecrackers.

And that particular effort will have to be made when the world is both broke and broken, when governments are unstable, when a whole bunch of people everywhere are entirely concerned with just staying alive.

Good luck with that plan.

I prefer the alternative, fighting climate change now while we still have an economy to fight it with.

It’s not like–after looking at and examining the matter soberly and honestly–we have any genuine choice.

Posted in: climate change