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Earth Day Insight: On the ground tilling new economic growth to reduce emissions

Today is Earth Day 2014. What better day to reflect on the direction of efforts around the world to reduce air pollution? A slew of environmentally focused articles and opinion pieces have sprouted recently, as is the usual pattern for this time of year, and a theme – one that you’ve heard CCAP expound a lot – has emerged: Attacking climate change needn’t hurt economic growth. In fact, bottom-up solutions devised by local governments can be a transformative win-win for everyone involved. Paul Krugman, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, gave the clearest explanation of this view in “Salvation Gets Cheap,” on April 17. He discusses the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. He writes: “Even as the report calls for drastic action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, it asserts that the economic impact of such drastic action would be surprisingly small. In fact, even under the most ambitious goals the assessment considers, the estimated reduction in economic growth would basically amount to a rounding error, around 0.06 percent per year.” Technology, Krugman says, has allowed for vast advances in renewable energy production and at a much lower cost than was anticipated. The result is that the expense of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which was once thought to be prohibitive, is in fact affordable and, in that way, extremely desirable. We agree and will continue to say so. Still, the