Cap And Trade’s Creators: Cap And Trade Can’t Solve Global Warming

Conn Carroll /

The Wall Street Journal tracks down three of the economists who originally helped come up with the idea of cap and trade and finds that all three do not believe the system can be used to stop global warming. Then University of Wisconsin graduate student and now University of Wyoming professor outlines two problems with carbon cap and trade:

The first is that carbon emissions are a global problem with myriad sources. Cap-and-trade, he says, is better suited for discrete, local pollution problems. “It is not clear to me how you would enforce a permit system internationally,” he says. “There are no institutions right now that have that power.”

Europe has embraced cap-and-trade rules. Emissions initially rose there because industries were given more permits than they needed, and regulators have since tightened the caps. Meanwhile China, India and other developing markets are reluctant to go along, fearing limits would curb their growth. If they don’t participate, there is little assurance that global carbon emissions will slow much even if the U.S. goes forward with its own plan. And even if everyone signs up, Mr. Crocker says, it isn’t clear the limits will be properly enforced across nations and industries.

The other problem, Mr. Crocker says, is that quantifying the economic damage of climate change — from floods to failing crops — is fraught with uncertainty. One estimate puts it at anywhere between 5% and 20% of global gross domestic product. Without knowing how costly climate change is, nobody knows how tight a grip to put on emissions.

The WSJ continues:

Another economist, David Montgomery, advanced their ideas in the 1970s, converting their theories into the complex mathematical formulas to demonstrate that they weren’t merely an idea but were also economically feasible. Mr. Montgomery, too, is a skeptic of cap-and-trade for greenhouse gases. … “You get huge swings in carbon prices with a cap, which creates more volatility and uncertainty for business,” he says.

Volatility and uncertainty for business are just the beginning of the costs of cap and trade. The Center for Data Analysis studied the affect the current Waxman-Markey energy tax bill would have on our nations economy and found: