Global Warming: Sacrificing Conventional Wisdom

At least Charles Gibson asked a question about global warming at Saturday night's presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire, which is more than you can say for many of his colleagues in the political press corps according to the League of Conservation Voters.

But the way Gibson framed the question couldn't have been worse. Here is what he said:

...reversing or slowing global warming is going to take sacrifice. ...Al Gore favors a carbon tax. None of you have favored a carbon tax. Is it a bad idea, or is it just so politically unpalatable that you guys don't want to propose it?

I have addressed the cap v. tax issue in a previous post, but it's also worth noting that Al Gore supports a cap on global warming pollution. He has also suggested a carbon tax as a complementary measure. He does not "favor" a tax over a cap.

Most troubling is the premise, stated as an indisputable fact, that "slowing global warming is going to take sacrifice." The Greatest Generation made real sacrifices, in blood and treasure, to win World War II. Winning the fight against global warming will be a picnic in the park by comparison.

How much of a sacrifice will it really be to drive plug-in hybrid cars, powered mostly by wind and biofuels, that get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline? How much of a sacrifice will it be live in well-insulated homes and work in offices that have better quality light using one-quarter as much electricity? Not to mention the payoffs: preventing catastrophic global warming, cleaner air, and an end to our dependence on foreign oil.

This doesn't mean that slowing global warming won't require big changes. It will. According to McKinsey and Co. we will need to redirect more than $1 trillion of investment over the next 25 years, but savings from energy efficiency improvements created by this investment will roughly offset the incremental cost.

Consumers may face higher energy prices, but with the right policies most will see their bills go down. The valuable allowances created by a carbon cap will need to be allocated thoughtfully to ensure that low-income consumers, mineworkers and autoworkers are not left holding the bag.

Creating the new energy economy we need to slow global warming is a huge opportunity, not a sacrifice. It's time for the political press corps to dig a little deeper and challenge conventional wisdom, rather than simply repeat it.