Blog Action Day 2009: Focus on the areas of disagreement

I’ve been seeing suggestions that the way to address climate change is to tackle areas of agreement first. Large numbers of Americans agree that solar and wind are the solution? Congress should finance solar and wind because we can agree on them even if solar in particular is not an important solution (yet).

My take is different—focusing on the hard issues is more likely to get us to meaningful mitigation. First, we need to solve the hard issues anyway. And Americans are going to continue to see climate change at the bottom of the environmental list if we don’t see more people clearly moving out of their comfort zone to solutions that are important.

Here’s my list of the hard issues:

• Easiest in this category are technology choices such as nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, and so on for those with strong feelings about particular technology choices.

• Harder is agreeing that climate change will cost, that we are going to pay for mitigation, and how. Economists estimate the cost at 1 – 3% of the gross domestic product per year for the next several decades (or forever) plus the cost of adaptation. This means in economists’ terms that we will lose one year of increased prosperity, and then the GDP will continue its upward trend. It also means that we in the US pay as much as $1400+ per capita per year. More if we insist on a strong solar component in our solution. Yes, mitigation is significantly cheaper than the alternative. Yes, our incomes would double in 29 years (instead of 28 years). Is this enough to madke negotiation easy?

[Example: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 3 (pdf, page 80) finds a cost of less than 3% of the GDP by 2030, though for lesser reductions. The number of their studies was small.]

• Hardest is finding ways to restrict our behavior. A number of people have told me that they obey the law, but find voluntary change difficult. How can we find ways to restrict flying, driving, buying big houses in the ‘burbs, and so on?

What is your list of hard behaviors?

Do you agree that we should start with the hard behaviors first?

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