Economic Issues for Environmentalists

Ideopolis links to an interesting new briefing paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Titled “Four Economic Issues That Environmentalists Should Care About,” the paper argues that the following four economic issues have important environmental ramifications that receive little attention. The economic issues are:

1. The energy consumption ramifications of choosing an American economic model over a European one.
2. The language of free trade and free markets versus protectionism.
3. Falling birth rates in high-income countries.
4. The cost of reducing global climate change.

After reading the paper, I believe it brings up important ideas concerning items 1 and 3; items 2 and 4 are certainly important for environmentalists to consider, but I’m not convinced that this paper does an adequate job of spelling out the arguments in terms of environmental impact. For instance, I think it’s fairly obvious that the term “free trade” is little more than a marketing slogan, but what does that mean in terms of environmental impact, or the counterarguments that the environmental community needs to make on this issue? Similarly, I don’t think it’s enough to demonstrate that military spending may well create negative economic effects and use that as a parallel to spending on climate change — that seems like an approach that will set us up for an “apples and oranges” rebuttal — and little else. All of these issues need consideration, and I’ll be very interested to see what kinds of follow-up articles come from CEPR or other progressive think tanks.

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