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A further note on sacrifice

The discussion thread on sacrifice is interesting, and makes me realize that I glossed two fairly important points that need to be made more explicit.

Point 1: the people arguing that climate change will require sacrifice are generally the same ones arguing that we shouldn’t do anything about climate change.

I am not, of course, referring to the readers of this blog. But please be aware that the rhetoric of the debate over global warming has shifted dramatically. Before, global warming was a hoax, the science was uncertain, etc. Now that that argument has been lost, global warming is too expensive to fix, the proposed solutions will be ruinous to our economy and our way of life, etc. There has been a steady drumbeat of this over the past few months, and it’s going to get worse — a lot worse — as we get closer to passing some actual legislation.

That’s the funny thing about these calls for sacrifice. They rarely seem to come from people working hardest to address the crisis. Environmental Defense Fund, for example, recently put together an excellent report citing the absolute urgency of addressing global warming, and putting the cost to Americans at “pennies a day.” EDF isn’t calling for sacrifice. They are calling for good laws that will put us on a path to clean energy.

Addressing climate change will not threaten our prosperity, full stop. The people claiming it will are the same ones arguing for inaction. Don’t be fooled. More importantly, when you hear this untruth passed along as conventional wisdom, speak up. Study after study suggests the economic impact of climate change legislation will be minimal.

Point 1a: did I mention we’re in a recession?

There’s a reason opponents of climate change legislation push the sacrifice idea. It’s because they know it will scare the hell of out of already scared voters.

Point 2: conservation and “sacrifice” aren’t the same thing.

Curtailing demand for energy is one of the best levers we have — especially in the near term — for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Conservation certainly won’t get us all the way to where we need to be, but it can buy us a lot of time. Best of all, conservation is the proverbial lunch we’re paid to eat. Many energy-saving practices pay for themselves in short order.

There’s a lot more to be said on this topic, which I’ll save for a future post. There’s also a very boring semantic debate to be had on the difference between conservation and sacrifice and where exactly one bleeds into the other. But let’s skip it, screw in some CFLs, and start lobbying our representatives for meaningful change.

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