Follow the money behind climate alarmism and carbon tax proposals
Media coverage of the recently released National Climate Assessment suggests that unless policymakers intervene to restrict the use of fossil fuels, catastrophic climate change could extract a hefty cost from the economy. That’s the central message the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major media outlets conveyed to readers over the past few days. But the report rests on several faulty assumptions that fail to account for technological innovations, the impact of robust natural gas development, and the costs associated with climate change policies.
The United States Global Research Project is responsible for producing the reports, which are submitted to Congress every four years. The release of this latest assessment coincides with the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now underway in Katowice, Poland. The U.N. meeting, widely known as COP24, accepts the premise of theories that link human activity with dangerous levels of global warming as does the USGRP. But updated scientific research demonstrates there is no firm consensus on the role human activity plays in climate change and that natural influences are largely responsible for warming and cooling trends.
The NCA relies on theoretical climate trajectories known as “representative concentration pathways” that are developed by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There are four different pathways numbered in terms of changes in radiative forcing in 2100 relative to preindustrial conditions. Without getting into the minutia, what matters here is that the NCA settled on the pathway that projects the highest level of warming. The NCA assumes that technology will remain static, while coal consumption increases and the world’s population doubles.
What’s wrong with this picture?
For starters, the NCA completely overlooks the natural gas revolution in the U.S., which has already had a transformative impact on the economy. After examining emerging trends in the energy sector, the International Energy Agency has determined that natural gas will continue to replace coal as a major energy source over the next several years. When this change is factored in, the projected level of warming goes down significantly.
While the NCA focuses on the potential cost of climate change, it sidesteps any serious analysis of the economic and financial fallout of mitigation efforts to the U.S. For that matter, the U.N. has also refrained from discussing the severe costs of climate change polices. The topic may be unavoidable now that the French government has been forced to back down from its plans to impose a carbon tax in response to the “Yellow Vests” movement, which has organized some of the largest and most dramatic protests that country has seen in decades.
Robert Murphy, an economist with the Institute for Energy Research, has taken a hard look at what the potential impact would be to U.S. consumption if proposals to limit global warming were implemented. There would be very little impact to the climate but substantial damage to the economy, he explains.
There’s another major takeaway from the NCA that Nick Loris, an energy and environmental policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, has seized upon. Apparently, the study was funded in part by Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager and environmental activist. It is also worth noting that a former Obama administration official had a hand in crafting the report.
Clearly, there is an agenda standing behind alarmist predictions that lack a scientific foundation. The NCA claims to be neutral on policy, but it is premised on the idea that the cost of climate change would be greater than the costs of mitigation proposals such as the carbon tax. That’s a dubious proposition that Loris dismantles in his recent commentary.