Paul Krugman: GOP So Far Down the 'Black Hole' That They Might Not Be Able to Stop Progress

Krugman writes in his Monday column that maybe we can breathe a little -- the Paris climate agreement shows perhaps a new kind of impotence. "Republican attitudes haven’t changed, except for the worse: the G.O.P. is spiraling ever deeper into a black hole of denial and anti-science conspiracy theorizing," he writes. "The game-changing news is that this may not matter as much as we thought."


It’s true that America can’t take broad-based action on climate without new legislation, and that won’t happen as long as Republicans retain a lock on the House. But President Obama has moved to limit emissions from power plants — a big part of the solution we need — through executive action. And this move has already had the effect of restoring U.S. climate credibilityabroad, letting Mr. Obama take a leading role in Paris.

Still, what reason is there to believe that the accord will really change the world’s trajectory? Nations have agreed both to emission targets and to regular review of their success or failure in meeting those targets; but there are no penalties other than censure for countries that fail to deliver.

And achieving those emission targets would definitely hurt some powerful special interests, since it would mean leaving most of the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground, never to be burned. So what will stop the fossil fuel industry from buying enough politicians to turn the accord into a dead letter?

Krugman argues technology is "changing the rules":

...[C]osts of solar andwind power have fallen dramatically, to the point where they are close to competitive with fossil fuels even without special incentives — and progress on energy storage has made their prospects even better. Renewable energy has also become a big employer, much bigger these days than the coal industry.

This energy revolution has two big implications. The first is that the cost of sharp emission reductions will be much less than even optimists used to assume — dire warnings from the right used to be mostly nonsense, but now they’re complete nonsense. The second is that given a moderate boost — the kind that the Paris accord could provide — renewable energy could quickly give rise to new interest groups with a positive stake in saving the planet, offering an offset to the Kochs and suchlike.

Of course, it could easily go all wrong. President Cruz or President Rubio might scuttle the whole deal, and by the time we get another chance to do something about climate it could be too late.

But it doesn’t have to happen. I don’t think it’s naïve to suggest that what came out of Paris gives us real reason to hope in an area where hope has been all too scarce. Maybe we’re not doomed after all.

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