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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.

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No global warming bill likely in 2010

The global warming debate has finally succumbed to reality. Scientific reality (bolstered by the climategate revelations), economic reality (bolstered by the lingering economic downturn) and political reality (bolstered by growing public skepticism heading into the November elections) all strongly suggest no major climate legislation in 2010.

The scientific argument that global warming is a crisis is falling apart. Perhaps the most powerful piece of evidence to emerge in recent years is the too-robust-to-deny non-warming trend that now stretches for eight years or longer, depending on which dataset one uses. The flattening out of temperatures is significant in itself, but is also significant in that none of the climate models that make up the so-called scientific consensus (such as the models in the 2007 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report) had predicted it. Policymakers are right to balk at risking our economic future based on predictions of future warming that come from the same models that are getting the present wrong. The recent scandals revealing scientific misconduct, data manipulation, and gross exaggeration of global warming impacts has further weakened an already-problematic case.

Also hitting home is the economic reality that there is no way to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions cheaply. A Heritage Foundation analysis of the cost of the House-passed Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill projects a cumulative reduction in gross domestic product of $9.4 trillion by 2035, net jobs losses of over one million in most years, and energy cost increases exceeding $1,200 per household of four. The price tag would make this policy a tough sell even if we were in the midst of an economic boom and even if the science confirmed that a crisis is at hand. And all for an impact on future temperatures (even if one assumes continued man-made warming), that would be no more than 0.2 degrees C by 2100, an amount too small to make any difference.

That global warming legislation is all economic pain for little if any environmental gain is well understood by the American public. Polls show that its ranks it 20th out of 20 issues in terms of importance, and perhaps more surprisingly, eighth out of eight environmental issues. The number one priority is the economy, exactly what would be jeopardized in an attempt to address number 20.

Given where the public stands, enacting climate legislation in an election year is going to be difficult, and for very good reason since the public is right.

By Ben Lieberman  |  April 29, 2010; 2:58 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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