A few years ago, Congress narrowly defeated passage of legislation to implement a “cap and trade” program that would have made fossil fuels more expensive. Cap and trade would have been the mother of all excise taxes, transferring large sums of money from users of electricity (i.e., all of us) to Uncle Sam. Penalizing consumption of CO2 would have been a body blow to America’s energy-based economy.
The EPA now proposes to do what Congress didn’t do. It has proposed mandating a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2050. In doing so, it is supported by a Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gases are to be defined as “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. Given President Obama’s stated desire to bypass Congress with unilateral executive action, it is no surprise that the EPA has acted at this time.
What terrible timing! The economy’s growth rate is negative; furthermore, the case for taking costly action to address the alleged threat of anthropogenic global warming is even weaker now than it was five years ago.
The supposed scientific case for the AGW theory has collapsed. Attorney Francis J. Menton, Jr., in a brilliant letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, wrote, “… the most recent IPCC report completely undermines any basis for determining climate sensitivity with the following statement: ‘No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.’ This means that the IPCC admits that it does not have a credible mean, mode or median value of the equilibrium climate sensitivity parameter. In the mathematics of Decision Theory, this situation is called Complete Ignorance Uncertainty.”
Menton then states that the EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” of 2009 (which purports to demonstrate the dangers of CO2) “has been invalidated by the failure of real-world data to support each of the three ‘lines of evidence’ on which EPA purported to rely in reaching its Finding.” Indeed, the data completely demolish and refute the finding.
Yet, some of the more zealous proponents of carbon regulation have taken to manipulating numbers (shades of “Climategate). It turns out that the claim that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity is likely responsible for the earth getting warmer is fiction. Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer, writing in The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, found the actual figure to be closer to 1 percent of the papers used to conjure up the 97 percent claim.
What is particularly ironic about the EPA continuing to press on with its anti-carbon jihad is that even some of the scientists who have advocated stringent anti-carbon rules essentially exploded their own case several years ago when they began to tell us that the earth is likely to cool for a few decades before entering a prolonged period of rapid warming. For years, alarmists insisted that CO2 warms the planet. Then they began to assert that rising levels of CO2 won’t warm the earth for 30 or 40 years, but will do so later on. Come again? Does CO2 warm the earth or doesn’t it? Alarmists are finally conceding the main argument of global warming skeptics: Other forces—particularly solar variations—overwhelm the greenhouse effect.
The unfathomable irrationality of the EPA’s new edict is seen in this: The IPCC’s own figures—problematical as they are—project a reduction of a minuscule 0.08°C by the year 2050 if the U.S. were to eliminate all CO2 emissions. Presumably, reducing such emissions by the proposed smaller amount—30 percent—would make even less of a difference. It shouldn’t be too hard to frame the issue to the public in terms of whether, if they believe that humans are responsible for global warming, they are willing to pay much higher prices for electricity and suffer a more sluggish economy in exchange for temperatures several decades hence being a few hundredths of a degree lower.
Why do President Obama and the progressives pursue their anti-carbon jihad so relentlessly? It certainly isn’t for the well-being of the American people. I can only surmise that it has something to do with the usual preoccupations of politicians, i.e., money and power (and, in the case of President Obama, ideology).
Money? Perhaps people like Sen. Reid see how Al Gore became a very rich man by investing in the very global warming alarmism that he helped to spawn while working in government.
Power? Perhaps the jihad against CO2 has something to do with keeping those campaign contributions from wealthy green groups flowing. Or maybe the “Curley effect” (make Americans poorer and more dependent on government) is a factor. And since progressives, like socialists, prefer to control “the commanding heights” of the economy, it’s only natural that, after doing much to increase government control of health care, finance, and education, Team TISI +0.28% Obama now craves increased control over energy.
So, what is to be done to free us from the counterproductive war against carbon-based energy? Alas, as long as Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and Barack Obama is in the White House, we’re stuck, but here is what I propose:
First, Congress should undo the damage done by the Supreme Court and curb the EPA’s bureaucratic overreach by passing legislation that states simply: For purposes of U.S. law, greenhouse gases are not to be defined or categorized as “pollutants.”
Second, no member of Congress, his or her staff, or any of their relations may ever invest in any enterprise pertaining to green energy or climate change.
Some day we will look back at global warming alarmism and be amazed that so many people were enthralled by such phantasmagoria. At present, though, the threat is painfully real.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Mark Hendrickson, is Adjunct Professor of Economics at Grove City College, where he has taught since 2004. He is also a Fellow for Economic and Social Policy with The Center for Vision & Values, for which he writes regular commentaries. He is a contributing editor of The St. Croix Review, sits on the Council of Scholars of the Commonwealth Foundation, and writes the weekly “No Panaceas” column in the Op/Ed section of Forbes.com. Mark’s published books include: America’s March Toward Communism (1987); The Morality of Capitalism (editor, 1992); Famous But Nameless: Inspiration and Lessons from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011); and God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism (with Craig Columbus, 2012). Mark Hendrickson’s Archives at The Moral Liberal.