Over the last few months, Republicans have been foaming at the mouth about the supposed cost of the Green New Deal, with many citing a totally wrong estimate that claims the plan would cost 93 trillion dollars. As we all know by now, there is no cost for the Green New Deal since it's not actually a specific policy but a non-binding resolution. What’s more, the GOP’s focus on the cost of action distracts from the extremely high price we pay for not enacting climate legislation.
And that cost could already be as much as $467 billion, which is the amount we would have saved had cap-and-trade passed in 2009. Using that figure, a new study published in Nature Climate Change this week and summarized by Carbon Brief concluded that lobbying efforts against the American Clean Energy and Security Act 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, cost society $60 billion.
The Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the in the House in 2009 but ultimately failed in the Senate, would have established a cap-and-trade system with the aim of reducing carbon emissions 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. This is the only national legislation aimed at addressing climate change that a congressional chamber has passed, and more money was spent lobbying this bill than any other between 2000 and 2016.
An analysis at the time pegged the social cost of the failed legislation at $467 billion. In other words, if the bill had passed and emissions had been cut, that’s how much we would see in benefits.The $60 billion price tag for lobbying comes into play because the study found that lobbying made the Waxman-Markey bill 13 percent less likely to pass. Therefore, analysts concluded that $60 billion of the ultimate $467 billion total is the amount that could be blamed on lobbying.
This is the first time an analysis has been able to pinpoint and quantify the impact of anti-climate lobbying. The authors did this by taking the unique approach of looking at both lobbying records and stock market values, so they could impartially determine if a company stood to gain or lose from the bill.
What they found is pretty intuitive: the more a company was expected to have its stock value impacted by the legislation, the more money it spent lobbying it.
Now, there was lobbying both in favor and against the bill, but the report found that those lobbying against were more effective. It’s not entirely clear why, but given the history of success industry has had lobbying against climate action, and that fact that industry tends to spend ten times what environmentalists do, perhaps it's a case of practice makes perfect.
And remember, this was the potential savings from just one piece of climate legislation, and the cost of inaction is only going to grow. In just one year, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria cost the US at least $265 billion. By 2100, the Fourth National Climate Assessment estimates that, even with modest emissions reductions, we will see hundreds of billions of dollars in costs every year, and the entire economy could shrink by 10 percent.
Now according to the report, one option of what to do with this information is to offer companies that have a lot to lose from climate change legislation more credits under the cap-and-trade system in the hopes they don’t lobby against it.
But we shouldn't have to bribe companies to not actively lobbying against the future existence of the human race. And if the corporate sector really does want to make a difference on this issue, maybe it can start by footing the bill for that $60 billion it cost us.