Why Carafano Has it Right on Climate Change, Part II
Nicolas Loris /
In response to Heritage analyst James Carafano’s paper, “National Security Not a Good Argument for Global Warming Legislation”, the American Security Project responded to four “myths” in Carafano’s piece. But their retaliatory facts ignore Carafano’s central premise that the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill will do much more economic harm than environmental good and would undermine “the nation’s capacity to deal with natural disasters here and abroad.”
Part I is here.
ASP’s other two critiques are:
1.) Refuting Carafano’s notion that “U.S. action alone would not impact world CO2 levels.” Their response: “If we don’t take the lead in reducing CO2 levels, other countries will, and we will lose out on the resulting jobs and economic growth. Once, the United States led the world in the production of solar panels. Now China leads and the U.S. is only fourth and we are buying clean energy technology we used to export.”
Notice they don’t actually say U.S. action alone will impact world CO2 levels. That’s because it won’t. As mentioned in part one, Climatologists project the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill would only change global temperatures by two 10ths of a degree Celsius by century’s end.
The common battle cry among advocates of cap and trade is that once the United States paves the way for a carbon-reduction plan, other countries will follow suit. Yet, in a case of international cooperation, India, China and the rest of the developing world would likely have to revert to emission output levels that are pure fantasy. On a per-capita basis, China would backtrack to about one 10th of what the United States emitted in 2000. India and most of the developing world would have to drop to even lower levels. This is a de-developing strategy which no country will adopt.
Worse, carbon capping actually punishes the developing world for using cleaner technology. The developing world is doing just that: developing. For that reason, the technologies they use and the infrastructure they build are newer, cleaner and more efficient.
On an unrelated note, it shouldn’t matter whether the United States is first, fourth, or four-hundredth in the world in producing solar panels. The law of comparative advantage is one of the first lessons in economics: a business or company will produce a good if its opportunity cost is lower. George Mason University economist Russ Roberts says it bluntly, “We export so we can have money to buy the stuff that’s hard for us to make–or at least hard for us to make as cheaply. Self-sufficiency is the road to poverty.” And if solar and wind and any other source of energy can compete in the free market to provide consumers cheap electricity, all the better.
2.) Carafano’s last “myth” is that “The environment does not cause wars—it is how humans respond to their environment that causes conflict.” ASP says: “Countries have been going to war over land and resources for centuries, and there is every empirically proven reason to believe that as climate change effects food, water and other resources, it will force migration, destabilize governments, and cause nations to increasingly go to war. Again, we can already see this happening in parts of Africa. The challenge then is to act now to prevent the circumstances from developing that will make conflict more likely in the future thereby minimizing future impacts and direct costs to the United States.”
Carafano responds to this: “There was significant climate change in the 17th century and by some accounts that contributed to the 30 Years War and related conflicts such as the English Revolution. But climate during the 18th century was very stable by comparison and, in fact, on the eve of the French Revolution harvests improved… it all depends on how humans chose to react to their environment.”
ASP is right in arguing that natural disasters can lead to competition for scarce resources, which can lead to conflict. We even saw that, on a much smaller scale than Africa, in Katrina when resources became scarce and prices were driven up. This will become more prominent if we enact a cap and trade system that cripples our economy. Production will dwindle, resources will become scarcer and innovation and entrepreneurial activity will fall, which will be more detrimental to regions like Darfur because many adaptations are driven by markets. Seed companies develop drought and heat resistant strains that have increased agricultural productivity in the face of global warming. Low tech, but efficient, dams create reservoirs in the Himalayas to provide water supplies and irrigation during dry months. These simple, cost-effective technologies will help developing countries adapt as well rather than forcing them into costly international carbon reduction treaties.
Capping CO2 only hinders the overall economic development of poorer countries and thus puts them in a worse position to adapt to climate change, if necessary.