Assessing the Impacts from Climate Programs

Published June 19, 2015

Panelists Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow; Cornelis van Kooten, Ph.D. from the University of Victoria; and Wolfgang Mueller, general secretary with the European Institute for Climate and Energy, explored the various schemes developed by the United States, European Union, the United Nations, and other entities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Focusing on the economic and human consequences of the efforts to address climate change, the three panelists showed the price the world’s poor pay from failed efforts to micromanage the climate.

Driessen’s talk, “Perverse Environmental Justice,” acknowledged the reality of an ever-changing climate.

“As everyone knows, climate change has been ‘real’ throughout Earth’s and human history,” said Driessen. “For almost 20 years … average planetary temperatures have barely budged, even as carbon dioxide levels ‘soared.’ No category 3–5 hurricane has hit the United States for a record 9.5 years. Tornados, floods, droughts, polar bears, polar ice, sea levels, and wildfires are all in line with or better than historic patterns and trends. Meanwhile, the Sahel is green again thanks to that extra CO2.”

Driessen says that while natural climate changes will continue, modern housing, energy, and technology help us cope with climate and weather events better than ever before.

“Unfortunately, climate alarmists ignore this good news and [enact] policies severely impacting human health and welfare,” said Driessen. “True environmental justice is allowing people everywhere to have affordable, reliable energy and enjoy modern technologies and living standards. Denying people these basic human rights is perverse and immoral.”

Driessen says 1.3 billion people lack electricity and are impoverished and hungry.

“Every year, hundreds of millions get horribly sick and four million die—mostly women and children—from lung and intestinal diseases [that arise] due to breathing smoke from open cooking and heating fires and not having clean water, proper  sanitation, and refrigerators to keep food fresh and bacteria-free.” 

Imposing fossil fuel restrictions in the name of stabilizing Earth’s climate would perpetuate poverty, disease, and death.

Driessen says it is “an unconscionable crime against humanity [for the] the world to  implement policies ‘protecting’ energy-deprived masses from hypothetical manmade climate disasters decades from now by perpetuating poverty and disease killing them today.”

Examining the Economic Impacts of Fossil Fuel Restrictions

Van Kooten’s presentation, “Economic Consequences of Carbon Dioxide Regulation,” focused on the myriad problems associated with trying to determine “the social cost of carbon.”  The International Energy Agency, for example, put the cost of global fossil fuel subsidies at $548 billion in 2013.

The International Monetary Fund, by including “non-market valuations, calculated the cost at $4.3 trillion, a figure van Kooten described as “ridiculous.” 

“We do not know the value of the cost of carbon and probably never will,” van Kooten said.

Van Kooten is highly skeptical of plans to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by curtailing the use of fossil fuels.

“Efforts by rich countries to limit fossil fuel use will fall on the backs of the most vulnerable,” van Kooten said. “It doesn’t make any difference what the United States does. Global emissions will rise because of China, India, and other developing countries … Coal and natural gas are popular because they are cheap.” 

Van Kooten says carbon trading policies open the door for a “FIFA Effect”—the opportunity for the creation of corruption through companies selling counterfeit carbon credits and nonexistent carbon sink programs. He reported in Europe, the mafia was behind much of the European Union’s carbon-trading scams that led to the collapse of Europe’s trading exchange. 

How Climate Policies Have Impacted Europe

Wolfgang Mueller discussed the impact of climate policies on Europe.

“The EU has consistently been at the forefront of global action on climate change and reducing carbon emissions,” Mueller said.

As an interim step, the European Union has set a target of reducing its CO2 emissions to 20 percent below 1999 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1999 levels by 2050.

Mueller says the European Union has reduced its energy intensity, “but that is the result of the economic crisis.”

Deep divisions exist between the European Union’s richer countries, such as France and Germany, and smaller countries with more vulnerable economies. The environmental ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia issued a statement saying countries should do what they can do reduce emissions, instead of trying to reach a target set in advance.

Turning to his native Germany, Mueller provided the audience with some remarkable figures on the failure of renewable energy in that country. Germany is now spending $22 billion a year on renewable energy, but the discrepancy between installed capacity and output is striking, says Mueller.

“Ninety percent of the time, the output of Germany’s wind turbines is below 30 percent of capacity,” said Mueller. “With solar power, 55 percent of the time the output is below 10 percent of installed capacity, and 75 percent of the time we are below 20 percent of capacity for both wind and solar.”

After having installed nearly 25,000 wind turbines and thousands of solar panels, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions have remained fairly constant for years, Mueller says.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.