Wait and mitigate

This piece in the WSJ does a nice job summarizing the case for wait and mitigate:  the risk is hyped; the proposed global solutions range from trivial to futile to ridiculous (they’re also anti-democratic power grabs that hurt the poor); and in the future we’ll have the wealth and technology to do what we’ve always done: adapt.

The world saw modest warming over the 20th century but temperatures have plateaued over the last 15 years or so, a pause the climate models did not predict and cannot explain. The climateers say the warming must be taking place deep in the ocean, which could be right but for which they have little evidence. There will always be inherent scientific uncertainty regarding a phenomenon as dynamic and complex as the Earth’s climate, but the climateers admit to no uncertainty other than that the apocalypse might be worse.

As a business proposition, Mr. Paulson wants to gamble on new taxes and regulation to prevent even unlikely dangers—regardless of the costs and however minor the gains of U.S. decarbonization may turn out to be in practice. Yet China and the rest of the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for decades as populations grow, economies expand and living standards rise.

Turning over the U.S. economy to the green central planners may expose the country to even greater climate harms, to the extent that their ministrations impede economic progress. A wealthier future society will be better able to adapt and mitigate harm over time if Mr. Paulson’s side of the bet is right.

U.S. emissions have fallen to 1994 levels in large part because of the unconventional natural gas revolution, which burns cleaner than coal. That revolution might never have happened in a world of heavy carbon taxes. And the capital necessary to finance this and other innovation will be less available in a less prosperous country.

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