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The Global Warming Challenge

Posted By Nicolas Loris On November 5, 2008 @ 5:25 pm In Economics | Comments Disabled

Some of the most egregious policies implemented by Congress have been when Members failed to fully understand the costs and the benefits of that policy. Sometimes it’s haste and other times it’s failing to take into account the seen and the unseen [1]. The question is: If Congress implements a stringent global warming policy or the Environmental Protection Agency restricts greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, is it going to be one of the costliest mistakes ever for the least amount of gain?

It might be too early to tell if man-made global warming is a serious threat. Granted, there’s the we-must-act-now-if-we-want-to-save-our-planet crowd but scientists and scholars are still collecting valuable evidence. Whether new evidence argues that man-made global warming is a serious threat or dissents this idea, neither view should be suppressed. More information will allow Congress to make better informed decisions.

Telling new evidence by some of the world’s brightest minds is saying that it’s not humans that are at the core of climate change but Mother Nature. For instance, in a recently released study [2],

Scientists at MIT have recorded a nearly simultaneous world-wide increase in methane levels. This is the first increase in ten years, and what baffles science is that this data contradicts theories stating man is the primary source of increase for this greenhouse gas. It takes about one full year for gases generated in the highly industrial northern hemisphere to cycle through and reach the southern hemisphere. However, since all worldwide levels rose simultaneously throughout the same year, it is now believed this may be part of a natural cycle in mother nature – and not the direct result of man’s contributions.”

What does this mean? Well for one, even though there is far less methane released than carbon dioxide methane has an effect on the atmosphere 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. More importantly [2],

[S]cience is only beginning to get a handle on the big picture of global warming. Findings like these tell us it’s too early to know for sure if man’s impact is affecting things at the political cry of “alarming rates.” We may simply be going through another natural cycle [3]of warmer and colder times – one that’s been observed through a scientific analysis of the Earth to be naturally occurring for hundreds of thousands of years.”

Environmentalists have been making wild predictions [4]for decades. The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill introduced in July was the first real attempt to cut carbon dioxide restrictions in the United States. The U.S. wisely rejected [5]the multilateral approach, the Kyoto Protocol. Now, the EPA wants to take matters into their own hands You can stop them, however, by submitting a comment at and telling them why it’s a bad idea – we made it easy for you at StopEPA.com [6].

Politicians may not take into account costs and benefits when making a decision but economists certainly do. Two of my colleagues, Dr. David Kreutzer and Dr. Karen Campbell, found that restrictions are carbon dioxide will significantly reduce energy, income and employment. Green jobs may be created but more jobs are destroyed. In their report, annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years – and the green jobs “created” are incorporated in this number. The full report can be found here [7]. It’s safe to say these costs would be even higher without a massive expansion of nuclear energy [8].

And the benefits? Even according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a U.S. cap-and-trade system would have negligible effects on global temperature [9]:

Analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that a 60 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 will reduce CO2 concentrations by only 25 ppm in 2095. This reduction would affect world temperatures by 0.1 to 0.2 degrees C. In other words it makes virtually no difference.”

Would a multilateral approach do any better? It’s unlikely. Senior Policy Analyst for Energy & Environment Ben Lieberman writes that [10]

The Kyoto Protocol, assuming full global compliance (which has not been the case), was estimated to reduce the Earth’s temperature by a scant 0.07 degrees Celsius by 2050. This is an amount too small even to verify and one for which any resulting benefits would be inconsequential.”

It’s going to be a challenge to convince Congress that the insanely high costs aren’t worth the negligible benefits of a CO2 restriction policy and, moreover, that the debate on global warming is not over. But with more evidence surfacing such as the MIT study; maybe it will persuade policymakers to take a second look.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2008/11/05/the-global-warming-challenge/

URLs in this post:

[1] the seen and the unseen: http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles/01/freelunch.html

[2] recently released study: http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/39973/113/

[3] natural cycle : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_ice_age

[4] wild predictions : http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3432

[5] wisely rejected : http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/ed072808d.cfm

[6] StopEPA.com: http://www.stopepa.com/

[7] here: http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/cda08-10.cfm

[8] massive expansion of nuclear energy: http://www.heritage.org/research/energyandenvironment/wm1944.cfm

[9] U.S. cap-and-trade system would have negligible effects on global temperature: http://www.heritage.org/cda/upload/KreutzerTestimonyTrade.pdf

[10] writes that: http://www.heritage.org/Research/energyandenvironment/bg2140.cfm

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