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What's the local versus global debate about?

Writing in a recent Rutland Herald, state Rep. Floyd Nease says, Rep. Komline [she wrote an earlier piece in the Herald] writes that global warming is a global issue, and it is noble that Vermonters want to do their part to help mitigate its effects. Actually, climate change is a Vermont issue, and most Vermonters who want to do something about it are motivated not by noblesse oblige, but by the bottom line.

What is a local issue and what is a global issue?

If Vermonters spend $10 million a year to reduce phosphorus going into Lake Champlain, the lake will be measurably cleaner. If Vermonters spend $10 million a year to reduce carbon emissions, there will be no measurable change in the carbon content of the atmosphere. That suggests to me that climate change is a global, not a local problem.

And, if Rep. Nease is going to use business terminology, like the "bottom line," he ought to consider that what ends up on the bottom line is a subtraction of costs from revenues, or more globally, costs from benefits. That means we need to measure, or at least attempt to quantify, the benefits and costs of any action we take. Since the costs of climate change, as well as the benefits, are measured over decades, if not centuries, it's hard to do that in 200 words, much less on a bumper sticker.

Rep. Nease goes on: It also represents an opportunity to save money, create jobs, and grow an economy focused on renewable energy.

I've written on the saving money issue before. And if saving the planet is going to create jobs in Vermont, the question is where are the people who are getting those jobs going to come from? Currently unemployed Vermonters? Unlikely. Most have few marketable skills. From people currently working? Then there will be job losses elsewhere and no net new job creation. Rep. Nease could benefit from reading Frederic Bastiat's analysis of this from 150 years ago, or just my summary here.

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