20 March 2007

Economic Effects

Lisa Murkowski is apparently basing her decision on whether to support a cap-and-trade approach to reducing emissions on whether such a program would have an economic effect on Alaska:

Murkowski has asked the state university's Institute of Social and Economic Research to study the impacts of Bingaman's bill on Alaska's economy, Sweeney said. If it doesn't hurt the economy too much, she may vote for it, he said.
The problem with this approach is that the traditional measures of "the economy" don't include the resources that are really being hurt by global warming. Just look a little bit earlier in the article:
Warmer air and water have caused diseases in fish, plants and wildlife, the resolution says. Storm-bred waves are eating the ground beneath villages -- they're less protected by shoreline ice -- forcing a handful of villages to plan for relocation. Thinning ice has made winter travel on lakes and rivers riskier because snowmachines and people can crash through.

People in Shishmaref, a village of 581, are afraid walrus will stop coming, Weyiouanna said.

Walrus hunt from the ice, diving to sea bottoms to feed. If the ice moves out too far, above sea bottoms the walrus can't reach, they may not survive, he said.

Walrus habitat, the integrity of the shoreline, the health of fish or plants, the temperature of the permafrost, the thickness of the ice, and so many other immediate and clearly visible impacts of global warming are not easily measured by gross national product, per capita GDP, productivity, etc., etc. And yet it is absolutely these signs and indications that demand action on global warming.

The word "economy" is rooted in a Greek word ("oikos") that means household. Economics is initially based in what affects homes and families. The question Lisa Murkowski should be asking is what is the impact of global warming on the households of Alaska natives that are being devastated by warming temperatures.

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