Obama’s Climate Plan: A Costly Solution Looking for a Problem

Published June 26, 2013

President Barack Obama yesterday announced a new effort to impose harsh restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. President Obama claimed the restrictions are necessary to address global warming. President Obama’s planned restrictions, however, are completely unnecessary, would be futile in addressing global warming, and will severely punish the U.S. economy.

The proposed restrictions are unnecessary because there is no global warming crisis. For most of the past 10,000 years, since the last ice age glaciation ended, temperatures have been significantly warmer than today. Current temperatures appear warm only when compared to the depths of the Little Ice Age, which brought the coldest temperatures of the past 10,000 years and ended a little over 100 years ago. Global temperatures have risen only modestly during the past century and are still below the long-term average. Moreover, warming temperatures are benefiting human welfare and the environment, as has always been the case with warmer temperatures. Growing seasons are longer, crop production is setting new records almost every year, tornadoes are less frequent and severe, hurricanes are less frequent and severe, droughts are less frequent and severe, etc.

Not only are global warming restrictions unnecessary, but they will be ineffective and futile. The U.S. is already reducing carbon dioxide emissions faster than any nation in the world, yet global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rapidly increase. Since 2007, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined by more than 10 percent, yet global emissions are up by more than 10 percent. China alone emits more carbon dioxide than the entire Western Hemisphere and Chinese emissions are growing by approximately 10 percent per year. Even if the entire Western Hemisphere immediately cut is emissions in half, new growth in Chinese emissions would render those cuts moot in less than five years.

U.S. emissions cuts would be futile even without corresponding increases in Chinese and global emissions. A 50-percent cut in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would avert less than 0.1 degree Celsius of warming during the next century. This is an amount that is too small to be accurately measured or observed in the earth’s climate system.

Despite a lack of any significant benefit, the President’s global warming proposal will severely punish the U.S. economy. Banning coal power, which is our least expensive source of readily available electricity, means American consumers will shoulder steep increases in energy bills. Businesses will also suffer under higher energy costs and will pass those higher costs on to consumers. Money that we currently spend on nutrition, housing, health care, clothing, education, and durable consumer goods will now be diverted to pay for higher energy bills. Living costs will rise, jobs will disappear, and human welfare will decline – all for no good reason.

President Obama’s proposals are by no means set in stone. Congress can remove EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Congress can also stipulate that no federal funds be spent to implement or enforce the President Obama’s proposal. Also, a future president can reverse course with his or her own carbon dioxide policies.