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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Putting Some Perspective On the Pernicious Danger of Environmental Alarmism

In today's edition of the liberal magazine the Nation, we have a perfect illustration of just how dangerous environmental alarmism is.

If human civilization is to have a realistic chance of surviving global climate change, President Barack Obama and mobilized citizens will have to lead a virtual revolution in America's approach to the issue. Because the hour is so late and America's role so central, Obama must lead, and be pressed to lead, on three fronts at once. First, the United States must commit itself to serious reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions and begin achieving them without delay. This will restore US credibility on the issue, paving the way for step two: encouraging the rest of the world, especially China, to cut its emissions dramatically. The United States and China together account for 40 percent of global emissions, making them climate superpowers: if they do not cut emissions, it won't matter how much other nations reduce. Finally, Obama must urge the United States and all nations to begin preparing for the sea-level rise, water shortages and other impacts of climate change that are inevitable, with special
emphasis on assisting the poor, who stand to suffer first and worst despite having done nothing to cause the problem. Share this article

America must step up and lead an international campaign to curb emissions. Done properly, it will green the planet and our wallets. They respect science. But will Obama's team show the necessary spine to cut greenhouse gases and resist "clean coal" and nuclear power propaganda? : The story of the plumber who helped deliver Indiana to Obama. It's a tall order, but America can achieve these triple imperatives if the Obama administration launches a Global Green Deal: a crash program to jump-start the transition to a global economy that is climate-friendly and climate-resilient--that is, an economy that emits relatively few greenhouse gases and is shielded against the impacts of climate change. Done properly, a deal of this sort will green not only our societies but our wallets. A massive program of green investment will reduce greenhouse gas emissions even as it stimulates jobs, profits and innovation worldwide and lifts millions of people out of poverty and economic distress.

The stimulus package is a good start. It contains $71 billion in direct green spending and $20 billion in green tax incentives, according to an analysis by the Center
for American Progress
. The World Resources Institute has calculated that every $1 billion in green spending generates approximately 30,000 jobs, so the green portions of the stimulus package should create about 2 million jobs, many in the construction sector, which has been hit especially hard. Retrofitting buildings, installing solar panels and constructing wind farms require skilled and semiskilled labor and create decent-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced. Investing in climate-friendly development in poor countries, where money buys more, should yield even more jobs and economic uplift--no small consideration, given the recent warning from the US director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, that the economic downturn could become the gravest threat to international stability if it triggers a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1930s.

In dealing with climate change and other environmental issues, there are two schools of thought. There is the Newt Gingrich school of thought. This believes that the free market is the best place to solve all these problems. The free market needs a push and so the solution is to encourage private investment and innovation by rewarding it all with significant tax cuts. There is another school of thought, one shared by the author of the piece linked, that says that we can't wait for the free market, and so, by hook or crook, we must significantly reduce our carbon footprint and other anti environmental activities. There is no government mandate or regulation too punitive or draconian. We simply can't wait for the free market and so government will have to spend, mandate, and regulate our way to a cleaner environment.

This alarmist mentality also means that all market principles will be ignored to achieve serious reductions in greenhouse gases and other environmentally friendly activities. It's the sort alarmism that brought us cap and trade.

a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level.

What this sort of alarmism will force is forced energy use even though it isn't cost effective or available on anything near a mass scale. For instance, solar power costs 40 cents per kilowatt hour currently while fossil fuel costs only 6 cents per kilowatt hour. Yet, the alarmists will ignore such market and economic reality and force solar and other energy sources onto the market even though the market is not ready for them to be cost effective or available on any mass scale.

Yet, regardless of the cost the alarmists are willing to move forward anyway because as they so aptly put it to not do so would mean we "wouldn't have a realistic chance to survive global climate change". Here is how the New York Times described the economic effect of such a scheme.

The budget will show the government beginning by 2012 to collect billions of dollars in revenues from selling permits to businesses that emit the polluting gases, assuming the president’s energy initiative becomes law as soon as this year, officials said.

Because utilities and other businesses would presumably pass on their costs to customers, Mr. Obama will propose to use most of the government’s revenues from the permits to finance an extension of the new “Making Work Pay” tax credit beyond the two years covered in the $787 billion economic recovery plan that was just enacted.

That tax relief, the administration will argue, will offset households’ higher costs for utilities and other products and services from businesses’ passing on their permit expenses.

So, the President readily admits that his draconian economic policies will increase energy costs, and he knows those costs will be passed onto the consumers. Yet, during a recession, he still has no problem doing it and that's the danger of environmental alarmism.

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