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.