Reader feedback at end
SAFE has consistently questioned the manmade global warming theory, despite supposedly authoritative endorsements by government officials, the media, etc. Not that we necessarily reject the MMGWT, but in our view it remains unproven. And even if the theory is ultimately vindicated, we believe the risks of continuing to use fossil fuels have been greatly exaggerated. US government report presents dire global warming outlook, 12/3/18.
Far from taking all views on this matter into account, global warming alarmists seem to have doubled down on their demands for immediate, drastic action. Several examples of their “our minds are made up, don’t confuse us with the facts” mindset will be provided shortly. We would invite readers to ponder who the zealots are in this debate, and why the views of global warming skeptics have been treated with disdain.
Given the current impasse there has been growing interest in a compromise solution – imposing carbon taxes to reduce the use of fossil fuels versus relying on complicated regulatory schemes and earmarking the proceeds for beneficial purposes so that all concerned could come out ahead. Wouldn’t that be a great idea?
In theory, maybe, but there are some major problems with the carbon tax proposal. We also believe that more promising options may be available. Discussion follows.
A. The end is nigh – There’s something in the human psyche that revels in imagining catastrophes. It’s a survival mechanism, in that dire threats sometimes turn out to be real, and it’s also a form of one-upmanship in that prophets of doom can make themselves seem all-knowing and important. Psychology reveals the comforts of the apocalypse, Daisy Yuhas, scientificamerican.com, 12/18/12.
The perceived threats change over time, but there’s always something to worry about. The Point of It All, Charles Krauthammer, p. 131-135 [Time, 1993], Charles Krauthammer, 2018.
With the end of the Cold War, nuclear apocalypticism has gone out of fashion. The vacuum is amply filled by the eco-catastrophists. The late ‘60s featured Paul Erhlich’s huge best-seller, “The Population Bomb,” an astonishingly wrongheaded prediction of the End brought on by overpopulation – by 1983. In the ‘70s, the Club of Rome predicted, with hilarious imprecision, a coming resource depletion (by 1992, for example, no oil). Today Al Gore writes a best seller [“Earth in the Balance,” 1992] warning that if environmentalism does not become “our new organizing principle,” then “the very survival of our civilization will be in doubt.”
And as though to make the point, consider these recent pronouncements about global warming (aka climate change):
#JOHN KERRY - While attending the annual globalist elite conference in Davos, Switzerland, a former secretary of state (who was serving in that capacity when the Paris climate agreement was adopted in 2015) saw fit to label the president a liar and hopelessly wrong for his 2017 decision to withdraw the US from said agreement. John Kerry: Trump should resign, Jason Devaney, video (2:09), newsmax.com, 1/22/19.
As the video shows, the “resign” advice was enthusiastically applauded by those present. But if the Davos crowd are so concerned about manmade global warming, one might wonder why they reportedly arrived at the venue in some 1,500 private jets. “Do as we say,” to paraphrase an old saying, “not as we do.”
#ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ - A recently elected House member and media darling has been talking about a “Green New Deal” to combat manmade global warming ever since she arrived in Washington. As we understand it, AOC’s idea is to achieve zero carbon emissions within a decade or so by eliminating the use of all fossil fuels – hiking taxes on the wealthy as necessary to pay for it. Ocasio-Cortez suggests 70% tax for wealthy to fund climate change plan, Veronica Stracqualursi, cnn.com, 1/4/19.
AOC has cited a UN report to support her position and likened the challenges involved to World War II. She mocks skeptics because they seem to think her proposal would cost too much! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warns “world is going to end in 12 years,” Christina Zhao, newsweek.com, 1/22/19.
#DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS - There have continuing efforts to prod the military establishment into expressing concerns about the manmade global warming threat, and this year it sounded as though these efforts had been pretty successful. Pentagon warns bases imperiled by climate change in dire report, Bloomberg, fortune.com, 1/18/19.
The 22-page assessment delivered to Congress on Thursday says about two-thirds of 79 mission-essential military installations in the U.S. that were reviewed are vulnerable to current or future flooding, with more than half vulnerable to current or future drought. About half also are at risk from wildfires, including the threat of mudslides and erosion from rains following the blazes.
The other side apparently wanted more, however, such as proposals to earmark defense funds for combatting global warming versus ensuring military readiness. Democrats say Pentagon puts troops at risk by downplaying global warming, Ledyard King, usatoday.com, 1/20/19.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the House Armed Service Committee, called the report "half baked." The report "demonstrates a continued unwillingness to seriously recognize and address the threat that climate change poses to our national security and military readiness," he said Friday. "It fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities."
#BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS – This group has taken on the task of announcing every year how close the human race is to self-destruction, and its latest Doomsday Clock assessment gave equal billing to nuclear war and global warming. Doomsday clock: It’s still 2 minutes to midnight because of nuclear weapons and climate change, Doyle Rice, usatoday.com, 1/24/19.
Former California Governor Jerry Brown (now the BAS head): “Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change. The longer world leaders and citizens thoughtlessly inhabit this abnormal reality, the more likely it is that we will experience the unthinkable. We’re playing Russian roulette with humanity.”
With all due respect, nuclear war is a far bigger threat. Such a conflict could be sparked by a miscalculation in the South China Sea, retaliation against Israeli air strikes in Syria, Russian reaction to US “interference” in Venezuela, or goodness knows what. And never mind how the Earth’s climate may change by 2100, whether due to human activity or otherwise, much of the Earth’s population could perish within a matter of days.
B. Carbon taxes – Assuming for purposes of discussion that it is desirable and/or important to curb carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuels, what would the most intelligent way to go about it? Regulatory schemes and “renewable energy” subsidies could accomplish the goal, but most economists would see taxes on carbon emissions as simpler and more effective.
After hefty carbon taxes were put in place, fossil fuel consumers would make trade-offs to reduce their usage. One could expect an accelerated switch from coal to natural gas for conventional electric power plants, faster adoption of wind and solar power, motorists buying more fuel efficient vehicles and car-pooling to work, etc. – all with minimal compliance and enforcement costs such as are inevitable with regulatory approaches. And everyone would be charged the same tax-enhanced price, rather than creating winners and losers.
The simplicity and transparency of carbon taxes, however, makes then politically toxic. Faced with the choice of paying substantially higher prices for energy now or risking higher global temperatures decades in the future, most people – even residents of liberal jurisdictions like Washington State, Canada, and France - aren’t inclined to agree. Economists love carbon taxes; Voters don’t, Howard Gleckman, forbes.com, 12/27/18.
While many US voters seem willing to pay higher taxes that are framed as user fees [e.g., for better roads, bridges, etc.], taxpayers here, and perhaps elsewhere in the world, are not so enthusiastic about levies that are promoted as an environmental initiative. And until that changes, or unless they can find another, more politically attractive use for the revenue, supporters of carbon taxes face a long uphill battle.
This dilemma has spawned a carbon dividend proposal, in which the carbon tax proceeds would be paid back to the population to eliminate the sting. Described as “the bipartisan climate solution,” this proposal was recently endorsed by 27 Nobel laureates, 4 former Fed Chairs, and 15 former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers. Economists’ statement on carbon dioxide, Wall Street Journal, 1/16/19.
To maximize the fairness and political viability of a rising carbon tax, all the revenue should be returned directly to U.S. citizens through equal lump-sum rebates. The majority of American families, including the most vulnerable, will benefit financially by receiving more in “carbon dividends” than they pay in increased energy prices.
Hmm, sounds like a “win-win” approach, but reader reactions were mixed. Debating the carbon tax dividend strategy, letters to the editor, Wall Street Journal, 1/24/19.
•Reader one, Cupertino, CA – What’s exciting is the approach they are proposing is one we can all agree to. *** This is our best hope to turn around the extreme-weather events, sea-level rise and raging fires we are increasingly seeing, while stimulating the economy, creating jobs and improving health.
•Reader two, Madison, CT - I would be impressed if there were a bipartisan consensus by the same learned group on how to reform our entitlement system, which is poised to swamp our national finances long before the Atlantic Ocean does the same to the island of Manhattan.
•Reader three, Savannah, GA - Economists who can’t predict depressions or recessions are predicting that a tax on an element in the periodic table will alter a computer-model prediction of possible global warming.
•Reader four, Memphis, TN - Advocates use the term “border carbon adjustment” to “protect U.S. competitiveness.” In layman’s terms this is known as a tariff, which I thought was a naughty word these days.
•Reader five, Mesa, AZ - The carbon-tax advocates need to read “The Hundred-Year Marathon” and have a sit down with President Xi Jinping and a heart-to-heart talk on planet pollution before they start roping in the American economy—which is already surpassing air-pollution standards because of natural gas, fracking and pollution technology.
•Reader six, Colorado Springs, CO - Geologic and historic evidence indicate that climate change has been happening repeatedly, long before humans were generating measurable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and soot. Incentives for power and profit on a massive scale motivate the most politically astute and cynical at the expense of the average citizen and a freer economy.
For additional details, see the carbon dividend bill being supported by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Andy Rooney (R-FL). The tax would basically be levied on energy producers, all Americans would get their dividends on a monthly basis, and the rate would be phased in to minimize economic disruption. Bipartisan House pair to revive carbon tax bill, Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, 1/24/19.
The legislation would impose a tax of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2019, a relatively low starting number. But the price would increase $10 each year, a rapid pace, rising to nearly $100 per ton by 2030, and potentially higher if the emissions targets set in the bill are not met. It [levies] the carbon tax primarily on producers of fossil fuels at the "upstream" level of the economy, meaning coal is taxed at the mine, natural gas at the processing plant, and petroleum at the refinery.
Leaving aside whether the MMGWT is valid in the first place, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute posits three major flaws in the carbon dividend proposal. A “revenue neutral” carbon tax is a costly myth, James Taylor, townhall.com, 1/20/19.
1. Taxes levied on the use of fossil fuels could be rebated, but these proceeds would decline as the transition to expensive “renewable energy” took place. There would be no compensation for the high cost of wind and solar power.
Comment: Some might argue that the cost of wind and solar power will become increasingly competitive, but remember that they must be backed up by more reliable power sources or costly batteries to keep the electric grid running 24/7 (as consumers want and expect). On an “apples to apples” basis, wind and solar power are and will remain very expensive. Renewable energy, SAFE newsletter, fall 2018.
2. Realistically, the left isn’t about to agree to the carbon dividend proposal because they would want to use carbon tax proceeds to subsidize wind and solar projects, etc.
Comment: It’s reported that vast spending initiatives would be featured in the Green New Deal that is being advocated by AOC and others. The trouble with the “Green New Deal,” Michael Grunwald, politico.com, 1/15/19.
3. The assumption that existing regulations and subsidies could be terminated as the carbon tax was imposed is unrealistic, because the left will want to maintain or expand all of the command and control programs that have been put in place. Thus, as climate alarmist Bill McKibben put it: “We need to do everything. Not just a price on carbon, but dramatic subsidies for renewables to speed their spread. Not just a price on carbon, but an end to producing coal and gas and oil on public land. Not just a price on carbon, but a ban on fracking, which is sending clouds of methane into the atmosphere. Not just a price on carbon, but a dozen other major regulatory changes.”
In sum, the hope that a carbon dividend program could be the basis for a bipartisan compromise in this area appears wildly unrealistic – no matter how many economists may think otherwise. Keep looking!
C. Other options – Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg gives credence to the MMGWT, predicting that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels will cause undesirable global warming in coming decades. He rejects attempts to blame current forest fires, droughts, and violent storms on global warming, however, and suggests that longer-term problems have been exaggerated. This leads to a search for dramatic solutions, such as the use of “chic renewables” like wind and solar, while diverting attention from simple, common sense actions that could be taken at relatively low cost. Is climate change our biggest problem? Bjorn Lomborg, prager.com, video (5:34) 11/30/15,
Instead of subsidizing wind and solar power to the tune of hundreds of billions per year, for example, why not spend a fraction of that amount on research aimed at driving down the costs of these facilities to the point that they could compete with fossil fuel power plants. If this could be done, China, India, etc. (which account for a growing share of global carbon emissions) would get with the program because it wouldn’t slow their economic development to do so.
Or perhaps more to the point, why not pay more attention to developing a new generation of nuclear power plants that could – unlike wind and solar power – take the place of fossil fuel power plants. The key would not be subsidies for nuclear power plants, but rather termination of subsidies for wind and solar power, new nuclear power plant designs, and relaxation of needlessly stringent regulatory restrictions. Only nuclear energy can save the planet, Joshua Goldstein & Staffan Qvist, Wall Street Journal, 1/11/19.
What the world needs is a carbon-free source of electricity that can be ramped up to massive scale very quickly and provide power reliably around the clock, regardless of weather conditions—all without expanding the total acreage devoted to electric generation. Nuclear power meets all of those requirements. *** So why isn’t everyone who is concerned about climate change getting behind nuclear power? Why isn’t the nuclear power industry in the U.S. and the world expanding to meet the rising demand for clean electricity? The key reason is that most countries’ policies are shaped not by hard facts but by long-standing and widely shared phobias about radiation.
For those who are deeply concerned about the MMGWT, as are Messrs. Goldstein & Qvist judging from their column, nuclear power might provide an answer.
# A very good summary. – SAFE member (DE)
# What the leftists really want is to control our lives; our incomes, our choices, our families, etc. A carbon tax, if enacted, would give them this power. Growing number of 2020 Democrats supporting “Green New Deal,” Brooke Singman, foxnews.com, 1/10/19. – SAFE member (TX)
#We are entering a cooling period, not a warming period. See this NASA video. Solar Minimum in 2019-2020 – SAFE member (DE)
Maybe so. For sure, Chicagoans are getting more frigid weather this winter than they’ve experienced in a while. However, we don’t think anyone knows whether global temperatures will be higher or lower by, say, 2100.
#"The lesson here is that nature doesn’t give us a safe climate that we make dangerous. It gives us a dangerous climate that we need to make safe. " Alex Epstein.
To paraphrase Alex Epstein, We don't need to save the Planet from Us, We need to save Us from the Planet. Also, we need to save ourselves from those who would foolishly waste untold fortunes in a Quixotic quest to supposedly save the Planet while lining their own pockets. – SAFE director
#Nuclear power is the way to go. – SAFE director
# From Richard Timberlake, SAFE member (GA):
Here is what I sent Janet Yellen when I got a solicitation from her to support a 10% (due to increase) tax on carbon products. She included all these "Nobel Laureates" who, by the way, are chosen each year by A COMMITTEE OF THE RIKSBANK, THE CENTRAL BANK OF SWEDEN. Do you think they will ever choose a "Free Banking Economist" for the prize?
Yes, the 'Global Warming' Committee's proposal that Yellen endorsed had a bunch of Nobel "Laureates" and many CEA advisors, but think of all the economists it did NOT have. I hope and think that some of my more learned colleagues will sponsor an opposing petition. To anyone who has studied the subject, anthropogenic global warming is nonsense.
I sent Yellen the following counter-argument. I do not expect a reply.
NOTES ON THE ANTI-SCIENCE OF ‘ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING’
By: Richard Timberlake
Here are some simple facts about the Earth’s environment, and references to books and journal articles that examine ‘Earth Climate’ scientifically. There are many more.
1. Earth’s temperature has warmed and cooled several degrees over the millennia. In the last 150 years it has warmed ONE degree Celsius. In between it has slightly warmed and cooled at different times.
2. Carbon Dioxide, a trace gas absolutely essential for human and all other living creatures’ existence, is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Currently, its magnitude is four one-hundredths of one percent of the atmosphere—that is, four pennies in 10,000 pennies. It has gained one “penny” in the last 60 years. That is, atmospheric CO2 has increased ONE ONE-HUNDREDTH of ONE PERCENT over the last 50-60 years. The global-warmers cite this magnitude as “400 parts per [hold on to your hat!] million.” No human being can interpret “parts per million” meaningfully. Four hundred parts per million is a tiny, tiny fraction. It is four one-hundredths of one percent. “400” sounds “BIG” but when it’s “per million,” it suddenly becomes almost nothing.
3. There is no “trend” in the Earth’s temperature. Over the last 21 years Earth’s average temperature has been flat constant.
4. The most scientific studies of Earth’s temperature have shown that solar activity—variations of radiation due to sun spots—are the most likely cause of temperature variations over the millennia.
5. 31,000+ scientists in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and other sciences have signed a petition stating that AGW is a myth. (To understand why, Google “Petition Project.” The Wall Street Journal carried this story about a decade ago.)
So let’s not be Chicken Littles, even though we might feel guilty for living such a good life. Let’s blame our good fortune on a free market system that has encouraged human enterprise to achieve miracles of production in the presence of a constitutionally constrained political system.
One more trap the Global Warmers use to make their emotional case for ‘warming’ is the use of ANECDOTAL EXTREMISM. The observer should recognize this tactic as ‘Gee Whiz’ science and scorn it.
Weather analysis requires the collection of very much data—day-after-day of temperatures, winds, precipitations, etc., etc. Inevitably in the nature of such data, occasional extremes will occur. The global-warmers have used these occasional extremes as if they were trends: One extremely hot day becomes a part of a “trend” even though it is just one datum in hundreds, and even though its counterpart, an extremely cool day, is occurring somewhere else. By emphasizing a few data without reporting compensatory data, the global warmers carry on a global-warming-by-extremes. Of course, these extreme temperatures are necessarily part of the averages for the period where they belong, and the averages reflect all the real global warming that is occurring.
The Anecdotal Extremes are just propaganda tricks to compromise the unwary observer’s judgment.
S. Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years. Rowan and Littlefield, Publishers, 2007. From the “Dedication” : “The public has remained virtually unaware that the 1,500-year cycle offers the only explanation for the modern warming that is supported by physical evidence.”
Howard Hayden, A Primer on CO2 and Climate, 2nd Edition. Vales Lake Publishing LLC, Pueblo Colorado, 2008.
Christopher C. Horner, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism. Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2007.
Steve Goreham, The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism. New Lenox Books, New Lenox, IL, 2013.
Incidentally, the “study” by Michael Mann at Penn State University, has been excoriated as pseudo-science. Mann has never answered his critics, and will not share his data and methods with others.