What if the climate change zealots are wrong?

So what if they’re wrong?

I’m talking about the climate change zealots pushing government policies that would tax, regulate and/or commoditize carbon emissions. These folks want any or all of these government strictures on the carbon emissions of American power producers, businesses and, ultimately consumers.

They’re not wrong about climate change. Since Genesis Chapter One, Earth’s climate has been changing. Ten thousand years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, Kentucky was buried under 5,000 feet of ice. And they’re probably not wrong about whether humans are contributing to the changes.

But what if they’re wrong about how much of an impact imposing an accelerated carbon clampdown on the U.S. economy would have on global climate change? What if we take U.S. carbon emissions back to the proposed pre-1990 levels – when the U.S. economy was half of current GDP – and then discover that, because China and India did nothing to cut their emissions, we still have “climate change”?

Of course, standing here in 2009 we don’t know if they will be wrong. But there is one thing that is knowable right now: Years before the climate change zealots are proven right or wrong we will know that their policies, if enacted, will have wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy and significantly diminished our global competitiveness, especially against those two emerging economic giants, China and India.

Speaking of China, its economy is one-fifth the size of the U.S. but currently has the same level of carbon emissions. It is becoming an economic giant but is already a carbon emissions behemoth. So it’s not unreasonable to project that the majority of units of production taken from the U.S. economy by cap-and-trade., et al, will be replaced with units from China. Since 1990, U.S. businesses have, mostly unheralded, done a great job of increasing production while decreasing energy consumption per dollar of GDP. Meanwhile, China’s carbon footprint is growing per unit of GDP. So by regulating carbon only in the U.S., it can be argued that global carbon emissions will actually increase.

The United States could dominate the global economy for the remainder of the 21st century by merely unleashing its entrepreneurial and scientific minds to create alternative, greener energy – multiple sources and thousands of related applications – to export and license around the world. But the unleashing needs to be done in an atmosphere of promoting innovation, not punishing consumption. Cap and trade, carbon tax and commoditizing CO2 not only punishes the marketplace, but simultaneously puts government in charge of regulating carbon. This is the same government that was supposed to regulate Bernie Maddoff, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. ’Nuff said.

I am absolutely in favor of taking action to diminish the negative impact humans have on the environment. But let’s remember that Americans aren’t the only humans with a carbon footprint. Let’s solve this problem with market solutions that create, not by government fiat that destroys.

Recently, in celebration of Earth Day, I talked about these ideas on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. In addition to my individual thoughts, I also interviewed an environmental expert, Dennis Dimick, Senior Editor for Environment for National Geographic magazine. Dennis is an honest debater and I think you’ll enjoy our conversation. Take a few minutes to listen to our thoughts and, as always, I welcome your comments, even if – especially if – you disagree with me.

For my individual comments, click here:
For my interview with Dennis Dimick, click here:

4 Responses to “What if the climate change zealots are wrong?”

  1. 4
    scott Says:

    Well since this was written we now know just how false man’s contribution to global warming really is, given the issues revealed in England and Russia. It’s time to put this crap and tax to bed for good and let us get back to doing business. I’m all for clean water and all that, but not at this level of expense. Bottom line, the government is a poor way to do much of anything.

  2. 3
    Richard DeKaser Says:

    If my neighbor doesn’t maintain his property and the community suffers as a consequence, does it make sense for me to follow suit? Should I neglect my property also? Of course not! I should persuade my neighbor to see how his actions are hurting others and influence his behavior accordingly. If that fails, I should ratchet up the pressure, perhaps by bringing together like-minded neighbors, or passing laws prohibiting display of trash in the public view. The worst course of actions is to simply give up.

    As for the benefit of market-based solutions, I couldn’t agree more, but that’s where the virtue of cap-and-trade comes in. As things now stand green house gas emissions carry no penalty even though their costs to society are undeniable. Hence, market-based decisions fail to reflect these costs, which are not embedded at the point of action. Economists call this “market failure”. What cap-and-trade does — albeit imperfectly — is internalize these costs. And only when these costs are internalized, and reflected in the price of goods and services, will genuine market-based solutions gain traction. Stated differently, “alternative” energy production will only truly become competitive when ALL costs of production are taken into consideration.

  3. 2
    Bob Foster Says:

    Jim,

    I believe very strongly that we are in an era of dramatic climate change, and that humans are accelerating it at an alarming rate. Having said that, I agree completely with you that passing laws in the U.S. to control carbon emissions is both wrong and ineffective. This is a world problem, and few countries have approached it as level-headed as American business people. It cannot be corrected overnight, and it cannot be corrected by governmental fiat.

    Love your newsletter–keep up the good work.

  4. 1
    limo hire midlands Says:

    This is a great article and small business owners will find it intriguing. It touches on a very sensitive area; that affects the entire business world.

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