To those who have already suffered from climate impacts, like the Native Americans displaced by sea level rise in Louisiana and permafrost melt in Alaska, or those who lost their homes in wildfires or lives in heat waves, the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page has a message: you’re expendable.
That’s the gist of a pair of pieces responding to the NCA this week. The report says explicitly that climate change is already making extreme weather like hurricanes and wildfires worse, is already raising sea levels to the point that coastal communities are flooding on sunny days, and is already hurting the health of Americans across the country. Despite this, all the Journal seems to care about is money.
In a piece published on Monday, Steve Koonin argues that the report says “the overall economic impact of human-caused climate change is expected to be quite small.” To reiterate, this is the report that says many coastal communities will likely flood daily regardless of emission reductions, and that the entire $3.6 trillion dollar coastal real estate market is on the line.
The NCA also suggests there will be hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses, primarily from three factors. First, Americans dying prematurely means lots of hospital spending but not much else (turns out the dead don’t buy much). Second, there will be losses in outdoor worker productivity as entire swaths of the South becomes so hot that sustained outdoor work would literally be lethal. And thirdly, sea level rise will put coastal communities under water, literally and financially.
But because the economy will grow between now and then, Koonin claims that the costs won’t be so bad. As a country, we’ll be four times richer by 2090, so what’s a few hundred billion dollars lost every year by then?
Holman Jenkins Jr. follows Koonin’s lead, and on Tuesday put a finer point on his misplaced priorities of profits over people.
In reference to the report’s $510 billion in potential losses by 2090, representing thousands of dead Americans, Jenkins quips that “paying this bill would be a nuisance, not Armageddon.”
Sure, a nuisance. What a great way to describe grandmothers dropping dead of heat stroke, or children gasping for air as asthma rates in communities of color climb even higher.
Jenkins helpfully advises the climate community, which he’s spent years insulting, to slip a carbon tax into a larger tax reform package, because “the biggest holdup to direct action on climate is showing that preventing these changes would be cheaper than enduring them.”
Apparently, $500 billion dollars a year in dead Americans, flooded coastal communities and the scorching of the South’s agriculture industry is affordable, but switching from fossil fuels to renewables now is just too expensive.
While most deniers are clearly funded by fossil fuels, it’s starting to feel like the WSJ’s biggest advertiser might be the coffin-makers.
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