The costs of addressing climate change, and the cost of not

Plant Scherer, a coal-burning generator in Juliette, Ga., is ranked as the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. (AP)

Plant Scherer, a coal-burning generator in Juliette, Ga., is ranked as the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. (AP)

Writing in Sunday’s AJC, Dan Chapman and Greg Bluestein take a look at the climate-induced changes already underway along the Georgia coast and at the continuing sense of denial by the state’s political leadership:

“Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, wouldn’t answer questions about the governor’s views on climate change. U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a Republican who lives on Sea Island, a barrier island threatened by rising seas, said “the scientific community is not in total agreement about whether mankind has been a contributing factor.”

As they report, a tidal gauge off Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island documents a sea-level rise of 11 inches over the past 80 years, with the pace accelerating since the 1990s. Should that trend continue, as scientists warn it will without effective action, most of the state’s barrier islands will disappear in the next century, as will much of the sea marsh that makes our coastal region so beautiful and so ecologically diverse and productive.

It’s true that, as Perdue puts it, “the scientific community is not in total agreement” about mankind’s role in those changes. However, “total agreement” strikes me as a peculiar standard for taking action. In most other policy areas, the overwhelming consensus of the acknowledged experts, augmented by the fact that since the 1980s that expert opinion has been validated by visible changes in the field, would be enough to push policymakers to take action, particularly when the potential consequences of doing nothing are so profound.

That’s certainly been the approach taken by the Obama administration. Under its new climate-change plan released earlier this month, Georgia will be required to take action by reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 25 percent over the next 15 years.

That’s a considerably more modest target than state leaders had feared, but the reaction to it has been predictable: Such a reduction can’t be accomplished, opponents claim, or if it can be done, it will come at enormous cost to electricity customers and the economy.

To quote Perdue again, “The damaging effects of this hostile executive action will drive up energy prices for Georgia families and businesses, while the ripple effect throughout our economy will increase costs of basic necessities for those already struggling to make ends meet.”

We’ve been through this before, repeatedly, both as a nation and as a state. Back in the early to mid-’90s, for example, the federal government classified metro Atlanta as a serious non-attainment area for air pollution, requiring the region to set a strict schedule for air-quality improvement. The reaction then was much as you see today.

Georgia Power complained that it would send electricity rates soaring. The new standards were supposed to be the “death knell” of economic development in the region, and the degree of air-quality improvement required was claimed by some to be all but impossible.

Then-Gov. Zell Miller wrote an angry letter of protest to the EPA, warning of “enormous economic and jobs consequences.” For a short period, highway projects were canceled and the region was stripped of federal transportation money until it compiled and committed to an improvement plan. (The state’s auto emissions-inspection program is the most visible outcome of that plan.)

Today, despite the naysayers, the air in metro Atlanta is demonstrably clearer than it was two decades ago. The eye-stinging, throat-burning ozone that routinely accumulated on hot summer days is now a rare occurrence. It’s safer for human beings to play outside, work outside. It is safer to simply breathe. What supposedly couldn’t be done — or couldn’t be done without turning metro Atlanta into a economic wasteland — has in fact been largely accomplished at relatively low cost, although continued improvement is still necessary.

In many ways, complying with the Clean Power Plan should be even easier, because many of the required changes are already underway. Georgia is already getting credit for taking coal-fired generation out of service and replacing it with nuclear power. And just a few years ago, Georgia Power steadfastly dismissed solar power as a possible option in Georgia, saying it was too expensive and the state didn’t get enough sunshine; today it says that “the future of solar is bright in Georgia.”

Judging from his own measured response, Gov. Nathan Deal seems to accept that reality. Rather than grandstand, Deal has instructed state officials to find the best possible way to meet the new standards. As a report last month by researchers at Georgia Tech concluded, a strategy of renewable energy and energy efficiency here in the South would not only bring us into compliance but produce “substantial collateral benefits including lower electricity bills across all customer classes, greater GDP growth, and significant reductions” in air pollution.

Doing nothing is not an option. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Reader Comments 0

688 comments
THEFEEBLELIBERAL
THEFEEBLELIBERAL

oh no


the comments hit 666


its the end of the world


another SIGN


StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Donald Trump will take care of Cruz with his birther committee, he will take care of Rubio with his down with immigration committee and he will take care of Carson with his "no more black president's" committee.  

THEFEEBLELIBERAL
THEFEEBLELIBERAL

UNITED KINGDOM


colonized and killed more people around the world than anybody


not exactly the standard bearer of greatness


lol

Wena Mow Masipa How
Wena Mow Masipa How

SHEETZ!!!


ABORTION SHEETZ!!!!


Strap in. Cover up. It's gonna be wild and bloody. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

I mean, just think about that. Police in the United Kingdom are able to resolve matters without killing suspects in all but a handful of cases each year. 

In the US, they kill that many in a few hours time. 

Which PROVES the fact that this is about POLICY, not culture. Things are as they are in the US because that is how the political leadership wants it.

honested
honested

@LeninTime 

In the UK, the State shoulders some of the burden of the suspects survivors.

If that were the case in the US, more deliberation might be undertaken before firing.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@honested @LeninTime They also have to have a VERY tense situation going on for guns to be checked out from an armory.


So the chance to shoot isnt even there. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LeninTime Which PROVES the fact that this is about POLICY, not culture. Things are as they are in the US because that is how the political leadership wants it.


I'd disagree there.


Even if the politicians wanted to disarm the police your average joe 6 pack would be going nuts over that. 


The gun culture in the States is driving that bus. 

honested
honested

@THEFEEBLELIBERAL 

Do you realize

That if you single space

Your inaccurate nonsense

Won't make you appear to be quite as big a fool.

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@THEFEEBLELIBERAL hahaha . . . cept in this instance the release allegedly happened during a clean up operation . . . you know, the government stepping in and protecting the rest of us from some now defunct 'job creator' who ran off with the $$ to clean up the mess leaving us to hold the bag. Laugh away. hahahahahaha

honested
honested

@consumedconsumer @THEFEEBLELIBERAL 

Now, now, we wouldn't want to saddle those 'job creators' with the externalized costs for the damage they have done.

What if such an idea swept across the country?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@consumedconsumer @THEFEEBLELIBERAL

Oh, you know that's not going to figure into what will surely be a weeklong orgy of wisecracks about how Gubmint workerz is all stoopit and if only we have a President who would Run The Country Like a Business none of this would ever have happened.

Unless there's something new on the "How is Babby Farmed" or "RecordkeepingcomplianceGHAZI" front to report, that is.


honested
honested

Odd that Jay makes the quite logical comparison to the massive improvements in Metro air quality due to a simple program to ensure automobiles combust fuels in the proper manner. 

One would wonder why those outside the Metro area haven't pushed to expand this simple, inexpensive and effective program state wide.


Don't those outside the Metro area want clean air for their children to breathe?

gotalife
gotalife

The gop are getting clobbered on the real issues and it is not even close.
Some lawmakers are gearing up for driverless cars to get a new bubble.
The future is looking better.

PudHead
PudHead

Let’s understand that the world’s mean temperatures have been rising at a pretty constant rate of about one degree Ferenheight (0.6oC) over the past 100 years, and is likely to continue , although with both warmer and cooler  fluctuations, for many hundreds of years into the future. Over each of the past several centuries, including the last one, sea levels rose by about 7 inches (18 cm).

Accordingly, neither the overall warming trend or sea level rise began with the fossil-burning Industrial Revolution… nor have they changed in any detectable way due to human influences. And we can’t even really know that the second follows the first. Sea levels rose during the Little Ice Age from about 1400-1859 AD… a period which was considerably colder than now.

Incidentally, do you remember when presidential candidate Obama declared during his June 8, 2008 victory speech as Democratic Party nominee that his presidency will be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”? Well although some tidal gauge data does show deceleration, since it started in 1960, the year he was conceived, he probably can’t take full credit for that.

Penses
Penses

@PudHead 

ROFL. Well...in truth...there was a 97% consensus among knowledgeable liberals that Obama would heal our planet. Or maybe that was lawyers (98% of whom who vote Democratic)?

LeninTime
LeninTime

Number killed by police in the US in the past week: 18.

Number killed by police in Germany per year: 10

Number killed by police in the UK per year: 3.

Penses
Penses

Ooops:


news.yahoo.com/attorneys-prosecutors-hid-evidence-freddie-gray-case-174331022.html

Penses
Penses

@gotalife 

Umm..hiding exculpatory evidence from the defense is not a "right". It is a wrong. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Penses 

Did you hear, Penses, police in the US have killed more people in the past week than what the UK and Germany combined average each year.

Really an amazing fact, no?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@barkingfrog @Penses @gotalife  Attorneys for the six police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death say prosecutors steered investigators away from allegations about Gray's behavior in past interactions with law enforcement. The attorneys claim detectives were told Gray had a history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes in which people hurt themselves to collect settlements — a piece of information attorneys say would be useful for their case.


You mean the defense attorneys are claiming the prosecutors don't have a case


Gosh that has never happened before. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@LeninTime @Penses

 killed more people in the past week than what the UK and Germany combined average each year

I'm sure some here consider that a pretty good start.

Wena Mow Masipa How
Wena Mow Masipa How

@Penses

It's an ongoing litigation proceeding. Maybe the defense is introducing evidence that will be admissible and germane; maybe admissible but not germane; maybe inadmissible and not germane. Time will tell.

You may get your wish yet. Or you may not.

td1234
td1234

@LeninTime I am betting that few if any of them could define fascist or even tell you who their own Representative is. 

td1234
td1234

@Nick_Danger Lets let the mob rule. Lets allow the thugs to go around unimpeded to rape, loot, steal and kill the innocent citizens of the country. 


This is the progressive way. 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@td1234 @Nick_Danger 

"Lets let the mob rule. Lets allow the thugs to go around unimpeded to rape, loot, steal and kill the innocent citizens of the country"

What a terrible idea, td!  Something's truly wrong with you, to suggest such a thing!

Penses
Penses

@LeninTime 

Then our inner city youths must be breaking all records, huh?

Penses
Penses

@td1234

LOL. Or...just grab them by the head at 23 weeks of age with a pair of forceps and squeeze the life out of their worthless bodies.