We may find out if Republicans actually do trust the free market.
For years, activists have been touting the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is manmade, hoping that would inspire Republicans — who first advanced the idea of a cap-and-trade system to slow carbon emissions — to break their pledge to the Koch brothers and do something about the coming climate crisis.
It didn’t work.
A recent poll found a majority of Republicans — 58 percent — believe that climate change is a hoax. This explains why the right-wing media regularly laughs at the idea of doing anything to slow carbon emissions.
But there’s one group that seems to believe 100 percent that climate change is real and a serious threat to their existence. It’s the group that has the most to lose if we do nothing: the insurance industry.
Indeed, if free-market conservatives really want evidence of climate change, they ought to look towards the insurance markets that would bear much of the cost of catastrophic climate change. All three of the major insurance modeling firms and every global insurance company incorporate human-caused climate change into their projections of current and future weather patterns. The big business that has the most to lose from climate change, and that would reap the biggest rewards if it were somehow solved tomorrow, has universally decided that climate change is a real problem. An insurance company that ignored climate change predictions could, in the short term, make a lot of money by underpricing its competition on a wide range of products. Not a single firm has done this.
In fact, a recent report from the Geneva Association, “Warming of the Oceans and Implication for the (Re)insurance Industry,” suggests that climate change is making certain regions — including Florida and the United Kingdom — uninsurable.
Lehrer argues that the free market way to deal with a free market problem is the same solution offered by pioneering climate scientist James Hansen — a carbon tax:
Since carbon emissions do present a real problem, simply repealing the current regulations without replacing them would be both unwise and politically impossible. The least-intrusive and most economically beneficial way to deal with the problem appears to be a carbon tax, particularly a revenue-neutral carbon tax that could be used to offset and/or replace other taxes.
According to that Koch pledge, which has been signed by a majority of Republicans in Congress, any carbon tax would have to be matched by an “equivalent amount of tax cuts.” But since President Obama’s speech on climate change in June the Koch agenda has become more strident. “Over the next several weeks, the online ads will alert activists to urge their lawmakers to block carbon taxes, support domestic production, and get government out of the way of abundant, affordable energy sources,” read a message recently posted on the website of their front group Americans for Prosperity.
But money talks. Perhaps when they can’t insure their Palm Beach homes, the cost of inaction will be too much for even this Republican Party.
Photo: Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research University Network via Flickr.com