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Ben Lieberman

Ben Lieberman

Ben Lieberman, a specialist in energy and environmental issues, is a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation's Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. ALL POSTS

Congress should do the right thing -- nothing

Q: If the Senate moves away from a climate bill that includes cap-and-trade -- a strategy, which allows companies and organizations to buy and sell pollution credits to meet a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions -- what alternatives should be included in the bill instead?

The same ethical advice for doctors also makes sense for Congress as it considers several pending global warming bills -- first do no harm. Given serious questions about global warming science as well as the efficacy of costly proposals to address it, the best choice for Washington is none of the above.

With economy-wide cap and trade stalled in the Senate, a number of slightly scaled back variants have been proposed, including measures targeting selected industries or a carbon tax. All threaten to do more harm than good.

Before considering these measures, Congress should first get to the bottom of climategate, glaciergate, hurricanegate, Amazongate, and other scandals that raise troubling questions about scientific credibility. Virtually every scary claim used to justify precipitous action -- unprecedented temperatures, rapidly melting glaciers, increasing hurricanes, plummeting crop yields, disappearing rainforests -- is under genuine suspicion.The fact that temperatures have been statistically flat since 1995 is another reason not to treat global warming as a dire crisis.

Haste in light of these scientific doubts is all the more troublesome given the cost of cracking down on fossil fuels, no matter how imposed. All of the legislative proposals have one thing in common -- they reduce carbon dioxide emissions by driving up the cost of energy so that individuals and businesses are forced to use less. Inflicting significant economic pain (likely trillions of dollars and millions of jobs for cap and trade, somewhat less for watered down measures) is how this all works.

These measures have another thing in common -- their uselessness. Even if one still believes the worst case scenarios of global warming, unilateral action against the American people and American economy would hardly dent the upward trajectory of emissions. China alone out emits the U.S. and its emissions growth is projected to be nine times higher than ours. And it is hard to ignore Chinese government officials' frequent and unambiguous statements that they will never impose similar restrictions on themselves, though some global warming activists still try.

Washington cracking down on fossil fuels in the name of addressing global warming would result in much economic pain for little if any environmental gain. First do no harm.

By Ben Lieberman  |  March 5, 2010; 10:32 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Recycle taxes with a carbon-based tax system | Next: The proof is in the pudding


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It would seem that, if that huge majority of climate change scientist and true believers would all immediately demolish their cars, ride bicycles, turn off their lights and furnaces, stop motor or air traveling on vacations or for business and eat only organic veggies (no beans, please), climate change would be a thing of the past.

Posted by: faudel | March 7, 2010 10:44 PM
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No more "panels", "foundations", "think tanks" nothing .. they're rigged with totally irresponsible individuals who've never run a business and managed a payroll. I want those responsible for killing America's Nuclear energy program drawn & quartered in public. Get the parasitic "lawyers' our of this discussion! 3 mile island hippies - get over it. Nuclear energy is the solution.. ignore the rest. America can't afford Cap & Tax and compete with India & China.

Posted by: genbarlow | March 7, 2010 9:52 PM
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No PROOF exists that humans are causing climate change.

All we have are "Climate Models." Which are what?

The "Climate Models" are really Climate-Video-Games. They are complex and flashy, but have about the same connection to reality as any other video game.

Should we take drastic action based on a Video Game?

What should we do? Critically examine the "Climate Models."

And by the way, any critical examination must be done by those who do heat and mass transfer simulations as part of their professional activities.

Posted by: RobertAJonesJr | March 7, 2010 6:07 PM
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What another selfish Republican in denial - there's no harm being done to him, so why upset the apple cart? If it's a problem, let others deal with it in 50 or 100 years.

What an idiot.

Posted by: eztommyd1 | March 7, 2010 3:49 PM
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Just another Al Gore means to transfer taxpayer monies into his huge "Cap & Tax" Corporations that do no good for the economy as a whole. This is Pheudo-Science at its' worst.

Posted by: ssmorehouse | March 7, 2010 12:18 PM
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I love hearing about allegations of scandal and lack of proof on human caused climate change.

If its safe to increase CO2 to 450ppm and beyond where are the 2000 peer reviewed studies proving beyond any doubt this is safe?

Any form of scientific study is open to question, or error. Thousands of scientists paint the same picture, and unless they are all somehow alleged to be on the payroll of broke environmentalists, the warnings and work must be taken seriously.

Would anyone here allow their fundamental blood chemistry to be changed so others could have quicker economic growth?

The burden of proof is on those that want to continue changing our climate by altering its natural state.

Congress needs to step up and act!

Posted by: JamesJoyce2 | March 7, 2010 11:39 AM
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Anthropological Global Warming theory appears to be another in a long line of hysterias used to promote an artificial investment opportunities and wealth transferring tax schemes without any unbiased scientific evidence. This approach was proving to be highly effective. By using the guise of "science" to promote the concept that a) man is the biggest impact factor on climate and b) politicians deploying expensive tax schemes and draconian regulations were the only solution, they were able to stampede an easily led, poorly educated public into accepting great transfer of freedoms and income to politicians and bureaucrats. This hysteria was produced using what now appears to be highly biased, exaggerated and outright falsified "data". Not unlike the "science" that for years claimed smoking produced no harmful effects, these climate change science charlatans were funded if, and only if, they produced a particular result. True scientific practices be damned.

Even the a middle school science student could ascertain that the single greatest correlation to temperature change is solar activity - what a surprise. Since none of the cap and trade or carbon tax schemes purports to have a solution to variance in solar activity, I for one encourage voters to communicate their distrust of yet another government run investment bubble and regulatory burden by voting out politicians who support such idiocy.

Instead, focus on improving emissions from existing sources, promote short term energy independence in the USA by tapping into our vast Natural Gas, Coal and Oil resources. Expand the use of Nuclear and invest in the development of economically viable alternative fuel sources so that when scarcity ultimately drives the cost of fossil fuels up above that of alternative technologies we are in the position to switch.

Frankly, after the winter we had on the east coast this year, I could use a little more global warming.

Posted by: CarbonScam | March 7, 2010 11:25 AM
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No one really knows what the global temperatures were before the late 19th century. So proxy solutions are used: ice core samples and tree sections.

Trees grow according to the amounts of water,fertile soil, atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature.

Ice cores taken from Antarctica are test for the amount of CO2 they contain. There are 14 volcanoes that have last erupted in the past 20,000 in the Antarctic. Volcanoes are nature's polluters. They emit sulphur, chorine and other gases. They also emit or cause evaporation of water to produce carbon dioxide. So a local presence of CO2 is not to be applied to the Globe.

Tree rings and ice samples are too prone to sample adjusting and letting the researcher come to a pre-determined conclusion when ascertaining global temperatures of hundreds of years ago.

Posted by: sperrico | March 7, 2010 10:13 AM
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This is typical of the nonesense put out by the Heritage foundation. As we've seen time and time again from the extreme right. "If I don't believe something, it's not true". Mr Lieberman didn't use logic and reason to make his argument but instead just announces that he has decided that global climate change is a left wing conspiracy. Let's be clear, there is almost universal agreement by Scientists (not pundits from the Heritage foundation who are trying confuse people) that climate change is real. The fact that oil and gas are finite resources that we will exhaust in the next two hundred years is enough for us to make this issue a top prority. The rest of the world gets it, why can't we?

The other benefit of taking this issue seriously is that we have an opportunity to get off middle east oil. If we could make some basic sacrifices like driving smaller vehicles and not living in palacial homes, we could easily get off foreign oil. The question is do we have the guts to raise taxes on gasoline to push the market to face reality. The Europeans are way ahead of us in this regard. They actually respect the fact that carbon based energy is a precious resource and not something to be pissed against the wall. Wakey wakey America!

Posted by: andrew254 | March 7, 2010 8:51 AM
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Just adding "gate" to a word doesn't make it a scandal. A look at changes in global mean temperature ( shows a long-term upward trend punctuated by big ups and downs from year to year and smaller ups and downs over longer periods. The best science all points to this trend being consistent with a roughly 3C warming from doubling CO2, which will leads to all sorts of changes in local water availability, hurricane strength, etc., that are still not known with much certainty. You don't need to be certain of these effects to know that changing climate in the next century by an amount similar to the climate change at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago is potentially dangerous.

Like other "skeptics" on global warming, Lieberman is an Alarmists about the costs of action. Legislation that will cost people even as much as 2% of their income is politically impossible in this country, so why worry about it? The modest changes that are politically possible will spur some efficiency and technology improvements that may even help our wallets.

Unless the US does something about global warming, China and the rest won't either, so its up to us to take action.

Parker1227: The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on CLIMATE CHANGE (my caps), was named around 20 years ago. "Global warming" and "climate change" have both been used for decades.

Posted by: klinger1 | March 7, 2010 6:36 AM
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Even if there are many persuasive theories based on "sound science" favoring the idea of man-caused warming, the fact remains that our understanding of most of the major elements of climate are rudimentary and weak.

We don't understand well, nor can we accurately predict long term ocean current cycles, sun cycles nor even cloud formation.

There are way too many unknowns in this massive open climate system for scientists to have any credibility with long term predictions at this point.

What predictions have they made so far that have come true? None.

And changing the name of the movement from global warming to "climate change" has got to be the biggest case of anti-scientific, rape of language and meaning in history.

It attempts to sell the claim that climate never varied at the current rate until man started driving SUVs, etc. And therefore, any change in climate (not just warming) is proof of warming.

But we simply do not know enough about the history of climate to make that claim. And what we do know is enough to raise large questions about it.

What we do know is that climate always has and always will - change.

Posted by: Parker1227 | March 7, 2010 4:40 AM
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I think it would be extremely foolish to take action before it is too late!

Posted by: homesellaustralia | March 6, 2010 9:16 PM
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Lieberman's claim that the science is doubtful is not true. Anyone who's read the last 10 years' worth of papers on this topic in "Nature" and "Science", two of the world's leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, will disagree strongly with Lieberman's statement.

Deniers are advised and invited to learn the science behind climate change. It's all available at your local library, university, or community college.

Posted by: apn3206 | March 6, 2010 8:37 PM
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Posted by: randomsample | March 6, 2010 6:36 PM
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For anybody to believe in this junk science anymore is foolishness. GLOBAL WARMING IS A SCAM People!!! Environmentalist will never admit they are wrong. They have made Global Warming their religion and the Earth has become their god. Ridiculous.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | March 6, 2010 6:29 PM
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As a point of clarification. The "statistically flat" climate trend Mr. Lieberman writes about is referring to an interview in which Mr. Jones writes that the trend from 1995 to 2009 just missed the commonly, though not exclusively, 5% level of significance. At the 10% level there is a statistically significant trend. Additionally, with such a small sample a severe outlier, even if that outlier is an spike upward in temperature such as was observed in late 1990s, would lead to a less significant trend estimate, though it would not necessarily be evidence of no increase in temperature over the period examined. This claim of no temperature rise over the last 15 years is used often by climate change skeptics, but unfortunately it just shows either their lack of understanding about statistics or their intentional efforts to mislead the public.

Posted by: stat_check | March 6, 2010 6:18 PM
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Actually the climate faithful calling for raising taxes and giving the money to the 3rd world in sort of bizarre wealth transfer strikes me very much as falling into the same category as going to the chiropractor to have your spine "aligned".

Your argument boils down to this: the chiropractors have proven that spines go out of alignment, and the consequences would be devastating if we don't get it fixed, so let's spend 1/3 of our salary a week to get it aligned. What's the downside.

Well, the downside is that spines don't go out of alignment and if I give 1/3 of my salary to the chiropractor, then my kids can't afford to go to college, and I have to take a day off from work each week to get the treatments.

You're effectively getting your spine aligned "just in case" knowing full well that it will put people out of work, and it really will force people to pay a lot more for their energy.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | March 6, 2010 2:14 PM
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Now that's a solution we can all endorse. Let's all stick our collective head in the sand. It's pretty much there already, anyway. We like the expansive view. So peaceful. No problems down here.

But please go easy on our sensibilities. Most of us are quite willing to put our heads down in the sand, but because we don't like trouble and bad news. We are not all conspiracy nuts. Most of us have not "lost" our country lately. We don't all enjoy being whipped into a mindless frothing frenzy of fear, anger and resentment.

So, please try to remember that simply tacking "gate" onto the end of a word does not a scandal make.

It's tired. It's old. It annoys most of us ostriches, almost enough to pull our heads up out of the sand. It makes you sound like a lazy third-rate journalist or, worse, a professional flack-for-hire churning out "reports," "studies," and "press releases" for lazy third-rate journalists.

Posted by: washpost29 | March 6, 2010 1:57 PM
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Imagine Lieberman arguing the same way about a cancer patient:

"Given serious questions about cancer, we must ignore the problem. And funding cancer treatments before we know absolutely everything there's to know about cancer is ludicrous."

"Scientists are not even perfect. Let's put this off indefinitely by burying them in politicized reviews. Phew!"

"The patient should never be inconvenienced by the treatment. And even if you believe it's malign, treatments are useless anyways (patients are not disciplined enough to follow any of them.)"

"Cancer is too expensive to be considered a problem."

He’s arguing from desperation.

Posted by: hence3150 | March 6, 2010 5:54 AM
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