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The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has joined with the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council to publish America’s Climate Choices, the latest definitive statement on the threat posed by climate change.  The report notes that damage from climate change is already serious, which is no secret to residents of the Red States that are currently suffering from the worst spate of climate-related damage in modern U.S. history.

Source: National Academies,

America’s Climate Choices

The map panel from the National Academies study shows why this is not surprising:  If the U.S. and the world don’t control carbon emissions, the Red States will literally turn red in this century from an explosion of high-temperature episodes, along with skyrocketing damage from increased droughts, wild fires, wind storms and floods. This is well underway already, as I have documented here, here and here, and has big implications for prosperity and security in the United States and globally, especially in the poorest countries.

Citing the obvious peril, the National Academies have flagged the way out:

The most effective way to amplify and accelerate current state, local, and private sector efforts, and to minimize overall costs of meeting a national emissions reduction target, is with a  comprehensive, nationally-uniform price on CO2 emissions, with a price trajectory sufficient to drive major investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.

This can be achieved with a carbon tax, as Yale’s Bill Nordhaus recently advocated in a meeting at CGD; or with cap-and-trade legislation like the Waxman-Markey bill that squeaked through the House in 2009, only to die in the Senate.  Federal climate legislation has been repeatedly stymied by hostility from America’s Red States, as shown in the accompanying map of Congressional votes on Waxman-Markey.  It is drawn from my CGD paper, Confronting the American Divide on Climate Change, which traces much of the hostility to higher carbon abatement costs in the Red States (reincarnated as Brown States in the map).

Source: David Wheeler, Confronting the American Divide on Climate Change

Unfortunately, as the National Academies map panel makes clear, the unyielding rejection of national carbon regulation by the Red States bloc amounts to a suicide pact.  Climate change is already hitting them harder than U.S. states that support carbon regulation, and their tragic losses will only mount.  At some point, the citizens of the Red States will wake up, dump the politicians who have abetted this madness, and ensure that Congress passes national carbon regulation.  Let us hope they wake up in time to save themselves – and the rest of us.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.