Countering Manzi, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Ryan Avent responds to Manzi:

...because of our temperate location, we will be spared many of the most severe consequences of warming to come this century, which will instead be focused overwhelmingly on poor countries. This is illiberal and immoral. We don't have the right to invade whomever we please for the sake of a few percentage points of GDP growth, and we don't have the right to conclude that since this generation needn't worry about warming there's no need to change our behavior.

Another tricky but important consideration is that whatever version of W-M passes is extremely unlikely to be the final word in climate policy. Obviously, there is no responsible way to build the potential for future emendations into a current cost-benefit analysis. Still, this should be taken into consideration. The record of environmental regulation in this country is one of steady revisitation and improvement of rules. It is also inconceivable that Congress would not address any serious and unexpected economic issues that may arise; if low-income households are getting hammered, legislators will face significant pressure to make some changes.

The question that many greens have been grappling with is whether it is better to pass an imperfect bill now under the expectation that it will be improved later, or to continue building the constituency for a better bill, to be passed at some future point. This isn't an easy matter to resolve. But given the history of environmental rules, and the difficulty the Congress has had passing any carbon pricing bill at all, it seems clear to me that we should seize the opportunity to pass what's passable, and clean the bill up over time. Manzi would say that he'd prefer no bill to a perfect one, I think, but as I mentioned above, that's not a very sound approach to the issue.