Speaking to students at Georgetown University June 26, President Barack Obama announced sweeping measures to combat climate change by reducing U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide — which come mainly from burning fossil fuels to power vehicles and generate electricity.
The president said:
… the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. … The planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.
So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.
As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.
I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.
I believe the president is wrong — both scientifically and morally. Here, in four simple points, is why:
1. Whatever it costs, the plan is a complete waste. According to the alarmists’ own assumptions, it takes about 1.8 quadrillion metric tons of carbon dioxide to raise global temperature by 1°C. Obama’s plan would supposedly cut U.S. emissions by 9.4 billion metric tons; 9.4 billion divided by 1.8 quadrillion = about 53 ten-thousandths of a degree Celsius of warming averted — undetectable and with zero impact on humanity or the rest of life on the planet. Indeed, again applying the alarmists’ own assumptions, even if we eliminated all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, we’d only reduce global temperature in the year 2100 by an undetectable 0.17°C.
2. It will cost a lot — hundreds of billions of dollars every year for a forced transition to “Green” energy sources.
3. One of those costs will be higher energy prices, and consequently higher prices for everything else (since we make and transport everything with energy), because it costs 2 to 8 times as much to generate electricity from “Green” sources.
4. The higher energy prices will hit the poor hardest, because they spend the highest percentage of their income on energy.
That last point is particularly relevant in light of Zechariah 7:9–10: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
Right now poor Americans spend an average 19 percent of their income on energy, while the middle class spend only about 9 percent. States that have Green energy mandates have electricity rates that average 32 percent higher than states without. If you raise energy costs for everyone by 32 percent, that means the middle class will spend about 12 percent of their income on energy, which is bad enough, but the poor will spend about 25 percent — and that, they can’t afford.
Lots of European nations that have imposed renewable energy mandates have experienced the same problem: rising energy prices harming everyone. The United Kingdom is the poster child, with “energy poverty” afflicting tens of thousands of elderly and poor people who can’t afford their higher energy bills without going hungry. During the frigid 2011–2012 winter, 7,800 Britons died because they couldn’t afford the fuel to heat their homes adequately.
Even worse, however, would be the impact on the poor in the world’s developing countries. President Obama said he wants to orchestrate a new global agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions. That simply cannot be done without preventing developing nations from doing what we did — using abundant, affordable, reliable coal and natural gas to electrify their countries. But preventing that means condemning them to more generations of abject poverty, because energy is crucial to economic development. It also means condemning them to more generations of disease and premature death, because in the absence of electricity (among the other problems of poverty) their primary cooking fuels are wood and dried dung, smoke from which kills about 2 million people annually (mostly women and children) and afflicts hundreds of millions with illnesses that prevent their working to rise out of poverty.
Indeed, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s own documents, the world’s poor prosper most, are healthiest, and live longest in the warmest scenarios — because the energy use that drives the warming also drives such economic development that they rise out of poverty into the prosperity that enables them to adapt comfortably to any future climate.
Why, if cutting carbon dioxide emissions will have no significant effect on climate, do climate activists still pursue the policy? Perhaps the explanation comes best from one of them: Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist who as a co-chairman of the IPCC said shortly before the U.N. climate summit in Cancun in 2010:
The climate summit … is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War. … We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. … One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore …
Trying to prevent global warming by cutting carbon dioxide emissions is a fool’s errand. It will do nothing significant about temperature, but it will harm economies, especially the poor.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
Publication date: July 1, 2013