And we inevitably will get poorer at the margins. Montgomery describes the economic effect of greenhouse-gas suppression: "The need to adopt more costly methods of electricity generation, to invest in producing more expensive, low-carbon fuels and to undertake more intensive energy-conservation measures diverts resources that would otherwise be available to produce the goods and services that make up GDP."
Of course, certain parts of the economy might thrive that wouldn't otherwise, those involved in, say, ethanol or wind production. Democrats point to them and say, "Hurrah — new jobs!" But they are engaged in a classic instance of the "broken-window fallacy," as first explained by economist Frederic Bastiat. That is the assumption that breaking a window helps the economy because it creates work for a glazier. Actually it makes the economy poorer by one window. Carbon restrictions will act in the same way.
Given the planetary calamity we are said to be facing, Democrats shouldn't be promising a free lunch, but one, two many Kyotos. The treaty would have to be multiplied 30 times over to achieve the kind of emissions reductions that climate-alarmists deem necessary. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards criticize President Bush for telling people to go shopping after 9/11. But with the fate of the Earth supposedly in the balance, Democrats essentially are telling people that they can stop global warming even as we shop and grow as much as we like.
Can't we have a little straight talk with our environmental sanctimony?