More than enforcement of tribal treaty rights was gained in blocking a proposed coal port. It was a significant small step in pushing back costly climate change.

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Soon after the Treasury announced it would remove the most egregious tribal-treaty-breaker in American history, Andrew Jackson, from the 20-dollar bill comes more salutary news. As my colleague Lynda V. Mapes reported, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to grant a permit for a massive coal-export terminal at Cherry Point to SSA Marine. Doing so, the Corps said, would violate the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation.

The story correctly noted that demand for coal has fallen anyway. But more is at stake, namely the rising costs of climate change and the need to keep as much carbon in the ground as possible. Coal is one of the worst contributors to greenhouse gases and the notion of “clean coal” is, at least for now, another example of techno-narcissism.

Some would have you believe it’s too late, so party on. It doesn’t work that way. Much damage has been done, but the longer it takes the world to reduce carbon, the greater will be the consequences. In my print Seattle Times this morning, the coal-terminal story “jumped” inside to a page carrying a story about the monster wildfire in Fort McMurray, Canada, heart of the oil sands. Mother Nature is turning to two-by-fours to get our attention.

And we’re not just talking sentimentality for trees or polar bears (and trees are money — ask Weyerhaeuser).

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A new study featured in the Harvard Business Review said the consequences of climate change could cost investors trillions of dollars in the coming decades. Another study by researchers at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley showed that the costs will be much higher than expected and affect advanced economies — a permanent slump. The Northwest’s fishing industry faces a mortal threat. (And this is without getting into the costs of geopolitical destabilization, war and mass migration, as well as disease).

Meanwhile, Citi produced a widely read report on the economic benefits of switching to a low-carbon future. You can read it here.

The Paris Agreement on mitigating greenhouse gases is promising. A carbon tax is necessary. In the meantime, people assembled in government as small as a Pacific Northwest tribe will do what they can. It’s a good start.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

 

Hey, millennials

All the marketing wants you

Oh, about that debt