Friday, June 12, 2009

Let’s think about carbon dioxide seriously

Can you remember when during the war against pollution it was considered great progress that catalytic converters were required in automobiles to change poisonous carbon monoxide to benign carbon dioxide? It’s more than ironic then that we now consider CO2 itself a pollutant.

Can you also remember when scientists told us global cooling was the problem? (Funny, no one said we should produce more CO2 to warm the atmosphere.)

As a result of an unscientific decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially designated carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant which enables congress and the EPA to regulate the carbon dioxide we exhale as a pollutant. By the logic of the Supreme Court and the EPA, the Creator seriously goofed.

Carbon dioxide, the newest designated pollutant, is a fundamentally important factor in our food chain because it nourishes plants, animals are nourished by plants, and humans are nourished by animals and plants. It can be realistically said that without carbon dioxide all living creatures would cease to exist and the planet Earth would look like Mars.

Aren’t pollutants supposed to be harmful?

Of course it is true that too much of even a good thing can be bad. For example, it is possible to die if fed large amounts of water and too much oxygen can also pose a danger to human life. So then the question is: “how much carbon dioxide is bad for you?” Is there an acceptable amount of CO2 for our atmosphere? There is likely no right answer to this question. Furthermore, the amount of CO2 in earth's atmosphere has fluctuated greatly over the history of the planet and long before humans appeared on earth; at various times being far greater than it is now.

Presently the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is about 385 parts per million. Some scientists say that 1,000 parts per million would provide an ideal atmosphere for plant life, would accelerate plant growth, would increase plant production and would be able to feed far more animal and human life than is currently possible. Clearly without a scientific answer, whatever CO2 standard Congress, Al Gore or the EPA selects will be purely arbitrary.

Of course we are told the problem is carbon dioxide is causing the planet to warm and this is somehow very bad for polar bears and sandy beaches. So how can we explain that for 7,000 of the last 10,000 years the earth was cooler than it is now and we find that living things prospered more when the climate is warm than when it is cold? We also learned that the Antarctic icecap was significantly larger during the warmer mid-Holocene period than it is today. Are we sure warmer is bad?

And what roll does the sun play in all this; is the temperature of the atmosphere only affected by carbon dioxide? We might also ask how does Congress, Obama and Al Gore propose to regulate the earth's temperature when as much as 3/4 of the variability is due to variations in solar activity, with the remaining 1/4 due to changes in the earth's orbit, axis, and reflectivity? A reasonable person might say mankind can no more regulate earth's temperature than the ocean tides.

A review of scientific journals and reports by world renowned climatologists has revealed several things which show the foolhardiness of attempts to affect climate change at all, let alone by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Consider the following:

1. Human activity (according to NASA data) accounts for less than 4 percent of global CO2 emissions.

2. CO2 itself accounts for only 10 or 20 percent of the greenhouse effect. (This shows the ignorance of the Supreme Court and EPA's decision to classify CO2 as a pollutant because if CO2 is a pollutant as a greenhouse gas, then the most common greenhouse gas of all - water vapor, which accounts for almost 75% of the atmosphere's greenhouse effect - should be regulated, too. The EPA isn't going after water vapor, of course, because then everyone would realize how absurd climate-control regulation really is.

3. Even if Americans were to eliminate their CO2 emissions completely, total human emissions of CO2 would still increase as billions of people around the world continue to develop economically and the world population increases (largely due to Muslims).

Clearly, it is beyond the ability of mere mortals to say what is the right concentration of CO2 is or the optimal global average temperature is or how to control CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Congress is hell bent on enacting a climate control bill and Obama is drooling over the prospect of increasing government control still more. However Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, an adjunct faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, has asked the following questions of Congress and the EPA:

“Who will be forced to drive and fly less often? (If we quit using every gasoline-powered vehicle in the country, we still wouldn't reduce CO2 emissions as much as Al Gore wants.)

How much economic pain should be imposed on Americans for heating and cooling their homes? (Your 75-percent-higher electric bill will fund President Obama's “green jobs” machine.)

Which businesses will need to move offshore to power their operations at a competitive cost? (This is nothing new. EPA regulations started causing off-shore oil-refinery jobs decades ago.)”

The impact of CO2 regulations will hurt us far more than CO2 itself ever could.

When Obama and his sycophant congress penalize carbon, the good question to ask is what the cost will be to Americans. By reducing the amount of carbon dioxide by producers of products used by us, the output of such goods will be lower than it otherwise would be. So if we legislatively require a smaller volume of CO2 output, we should also consider what the trade off will be.

A cap-and-trade system like in the Waxman-Hardy bill (regardless what they call it) would raise the price of anything that, directly or indirectly, depends on the burning of fossil fuels. Electricity especially would become very much more expensive because much of our electricity production is from coal-fired power plants. There is no doubt the cost to Americans will be greater than it would have been without a climate-change policy.

It may not be easy to calculate the extent but the latest UN's IPCC report (AR4) says that action against greenhouse gas emissions (like the of cutbacks required in Waxman-Markey bill) is very aggressive in the range of models studied by the IPCC and could cost up to 5.5 percent of global GDP by the year 2050, relative to the baseline trajectory of GDP if no carbon caps are imposed. If you doubt this, take a look at the Heritage Foundation report on the subject; here is the example they give (for efficient use of revenues).

"For simplicity sake, if your household income is $100,000, then the carbon legislation could raise the prices of goods and services which you might use could make you spend more than $5,500 annually in time."

However, the Heritage foundation says these numbers rely on efficient use of revenues and the real cost gets worse. These MIT and IPCC estimates assume an optimal enforcement of the climate policies, for all major governments and for one century. The actual IPCC report has the following caveat:

“It is important to note that for the following reported cost estimates, the vast majority of the models assume transparent markets, no transaction costs, and thus perfect implementation of policy measures throughout the 21st century, leading to the universal adoption of cost-effective mitigations measures, such as carbon taxes or universal cap and trade programmes…. Relaxation of these modeling assumptions, alone or in combination (e.g. mitigation-only in Annex I countries, no emissions trading, or CO2-only mitigation), will lead to an appreciable increase in all cost categories. (Working Group III, p. 204, emphasis added)”

If history is a guide, the government will spend more money than estimated. The cost is likely to reach much more than it otherwise would if it has hundreds of billions in cap and trade revenues at its disposal every year.

The government income from cap and trade will not be used to reduce the deficit, or be used to reduce taxes. Costs will be far greater and the government will end up squandering far more than 5.5 percent of total output of the GNP in the year 2050, even if all of the other modeling assumptions are taken at face value.

With such higher cost to Americans from the Waxman-Hardy bill, it’s interesting to see to what extent the planet would “benefit” from the public's sacrifices.

According to this estimate by climate scientist Chip Knappenberger, Waxman-Markey would lead to a planet that warmed 9/100ths of a degree Fahrenheit less than would otherwise be the case, by the year 2050. As the Mises Daily Report by Robert P. Murphy says “In case you think Knappenberger's figure is bogus, look at the reaction by NASA scientists and others at a leading pro-intervention blog. They don't dispute the figure; they instead say that the United States must show leadership by capping its own emissions.”

Obama sympathizer Paul Krugman has tried to support the concept of restricting carbon dioxide emissions but it is noteworthy that at the time of the urgency to pass the Stimulus Bill, Krugman argued that an inadequate measure could be worse than nothing, because it would squander President Obama's political capital. So if there is a showdown on the subject in congress, and the result is a law that does very little to change global temperatures, it would be actually be worse than if nothing were achieved legislatively.

It should be obvious to everyone that the idea of global warming has now been completely politicized and the effect will be another huge seizure of property rights not only without compensation required by the Constitution, but with severe costs to all of us – all because we did not think about carbon dioxide seriously.

1 comment:

way2ski said...

I agree with you. I'm not sure CO2 is such a bad thing.
I believe that on a global basis, we may be better off with a warmer planet. China, Russia, Europe, and North America would require less energy to heat in the winter and would increase agriculture production- we could feed more people. Over time people would have to be relocated from low lying coastal areas, but this would happen over a 100 year period. It would actually be an economic engine. Tree growth and forests in general would increase because they soak up CO2. So the planet may become greener as it warms up. In the extreme, the oil we burn today was the result of a super warm planet that produced heavy vegetation over most of the land mass. The CO2 was stored in the plants and we burn it today.

One thing we know for sure- the planet is always changing temperature- it always has- whether we are part of the cause or not- I guess if I had a choice between a warmer planet and a colder planet, I’d go for the warmer planet.