By Paul Krugman
Today’s column was about reasons right-wing politicians believe they can lie to their supporters about what the Biden administration is up to, especially although not only with regards to climate policy. As I said, the Republican line is that Democrats are going to take away all the good things in life, when the reality is that the Biden team is very much not calling for any serious crimping of Americans’ lifestyle.
But why does the current administration imagine that we can save the planet without making major sacrifices? A lot of the answer has to do with extraordinary innovations in energy technology that have taken place over the past dozen years, innovations that make achieving a low-emission economy look like a medium-difficulty technical problem rather than something that will require drastic changes in the way we live. The cost of electricity from wind power has fallen 70 percent since 2009; the cost of electricity from solar panels has fallen 89 percent.
Thinking about these developments, I remembered something I wrote back in 2010, when Democrats were trying unsuccessfully to push through legislation creating a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions. The economic costs of such a system that model-builders estimated at the time were significant, although far from economy-killing. But I suggested that it was a good bet that the models overstated the economic costs of climate action, largely because they didn’t allow for creativity. Indeed, what we got was innovation that transformed the whole proposition.