In his speech at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, President Obama told leaders from around the world that “the time for talk is over.” Obama pushed for all major economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but admitted some doubt as to whether a collective agreement would be reached. He could offer no concrete plans and nothing more than confidence that cap and trade legislation would be signed into law next year in the United States. While the focus of his speech was primarily on what actions the United States government was undertaking, he stressed that climate change should be addressed using
“Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula – one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord – one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community.”
This is a formula for nothing more than economic disaster and wealth distribution.
Mitigation is a costly, ineffective way to address climate change. Using a cap and trade system in an attempt to change the earth’s temperature would cause gasoline prices to rise by 58 percent ($1.38 more per gallon) and average household electric rates to increase by 90 percent. Net job losses approach 1.9 million as immediate as 2012 and could approach 2.5 million by 2035. Cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) losses are $9.4 trillion between 2012 and 2035. Climatologist Paul Knappenberger projects that cap and trade will only change global temperatures a fraction of a degree and admission from Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson that U.S. action alone won’t have any noticeable effect, yet President Obama urged that “America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen.”
But even collective action wouldn’t fare any better. One study of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that called for 5 percent emissions cuts below 1990 baseline levels by 2012 found that even if each country reached its targeted emissions reductions, it would reduce the earth’s temperature 0.07 degree Celsius by 2050.
Transparency is a term that has been stressed repeatedly even before the President took office; it was one of the lynchpins of his campaign. The Climategate emails and other documents that revealed collusion in exaggerating data, ostensible illegal destruction of information, manipulation of data, and attempts to freeze out dissenting scientists from publishing their work in reputable journals show that the scientific debate is anything but transparent.
We’re unlikely to see any transparency in commitments to reducing carbon dioxide emissions either. China, for instance, prefers to measure carbon emissions relative to its size of the economy mostly because it is less verifiable than a pure emissions target. Since carbon intensity is measured in relation to gross domestic product and Chinese statistics are often altered or censored, it will be easier for China to “meet” its goals.
Financing for developing countries would merely be a historic transfer of wealth. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said America would be a part of a massive foreign aid package, $100 billion annually, in the name of helping developing countries combat global warming. Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Ben Lieberman writes, “How much she expects the U.S. taxpayer to contribute to the $100 billion annual fund was not clear, but it could well be more than the $26 billion America spends on foreign aid each year. There are plenty of issues with past foreign aid programs. In many cases only a fraction of the funds were well spent, and aid can encourage the perpetuation of the very reasons (and regimes) that gave rise to the need for assistance in the first place. Foreign aid doled out to fight global warming has another big drawback – the problem it addresses is an overstated one.”
Action may be louder than words, but with Americans strongly opposed to an exorbitant national energy tax, the only thing Obama can offer are words of hope.